Now weeks into the high-street shopping season, shop windows still bedecked with promotional materials and social media flooded with sale notifications and pop-up commercials, the stakes are high for the global retail sector.
30% of total annual sales are done in the holiday season which extends from Black Friday and “singles day" in China and ends with Christmas and New Year's Eve.
Capitalizing on the holiday shopping mania is a 'make or break' type of situation for retailers around the world, as revenue made during this period of the year is likely to be one of the biggest determinants for yearly financial performance.
To make the most of it, firms need to keep on top of ever-changing trends.
Here are the three holiday retail trends of 2019.
1. Social media determines retail success
Social media has become one of the primary tools for retailers aiming to build brand loyalty as a result of evolution in customer behavior.
People tend to share 'social currency' on social media channels, and this has had a massive influence on the decision-making of consumers who are now less likely to rely on advertisements than word-of-mouth and community opinion online.
Consequently, marketers are turning to social media to reach very specific groups based on a wide range of different demographics and interests.
With Facebook and Instagram still the primary platforms, there are currently more than 10 million advertisers using social media ads, and spending in this area has been rising by 20 percent annually.
Social media is the new shop window: the place where consumers get ideas, inspiration, and make their final decisions.
According to Satish Kanwar, GM and VP of Product at Shopify: ''Today, users can discover, research, and complete a purchase without ever leaving their social feed.''
It has been reported that an estimated USD6.5 billion was earned by the top 500 retailers from transactions made solely on social media platforms in 2017, according to Business Insider.
2. Physical stores with better customer experience (CX) are still relevant
With the rise of e-commerce, traditional brick-and-mortar stores are either reducing in size or closing completely, however physical stores are still relevant.
According to Deloitte's 2019 survey conducted in seven EU countries with more than 6,000 participants, 68% of shoppers said that they plan to buy directly from the stores in this holiday season. The drivers of physical store preference are purely CX related, with 86% of people saying that they buy from stores because of competent and professional advice and 78% stating that they simply enjoy shopping in person.
It is clear that CX and “customer journey" are key factors in generating the motivation for consumers to leave their houses and go shopping instead of relying on online options.
The new trend is 'concept stores' where retailers invest in stores. Instead of having many branches around every corner, certain brands are creating new-age stores in carefully-chosen locations with better technology, better customer service, and experience.
There are still considerable revenue opportunities for traditional retail, yet what is going to make a difference, particularly in the holiday season, is the in-person shopping experience.
3. Sustainability can make a difference
There is no doubt that today's consumers are well-informed and able to see through clever advertising tactics that companies use to present themselves as socially responsible.
They need to build consistent, well-planned, and meaningful social responsibility campaigns to make a difference. In short, companies' commitment to sustainability should align with core values to create a competitive edge.
According to Unilever's research, with the “green generation" making sustainable shopping a priority, a third of consumers now choose to buy brands based on their social and environmental impact. Moreover, 45% of consumers said that supporting local businesses is important to them, and another 41% stated that minimizing plastic packaging is crucial according to Deloitte's survey.
Unilever estimates that the market for sustainable goods creates opportunities worth as much as USD1 trillion for brands who can effectively communicate their products' sustainable attributes.
This ability to communicate may be a very effective selling tool especially in the holiday season.