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Walker Sands’ 2018 Future of Retail Report – How to Win During the Holiday Season

We’re still dizzy from Amazon’s record-breaking Prime Day, but now it’s time to turn our attention to the next retail frenzy: the holidays. And this season may be the biggest yet — last year we saw a 5 percent increase in holiday retail sales, the largest lift since 2011.

However, this year’s holiday shopping landscape is likely to look different than the last. Although online shopping is still alive and well, Walker Sands’ 2018 Future of Retail report, found there has been a renewed preference for in-store buying. Additionally, emerging channels like voice ordering are increasingly gaining consumer adoption.

Our annual report suggests the following strategies will drive sales and offer a customer experience that builds loyalty for years to come:

Tap into the Connected Consumer Lifestyle

I don’t need to tell you that traditional channels are dying. Consumers are now more focused on owning connected devices and less focused on traditional elements of the home like cable, and shopping is changing as a result. With this in mind, retailers need to understand how consumers are using each channel and align their holiday plans accordingly.

  • Fine tune your e-commerce strategy. A quarter of consumers report they did the majority of their holiday shopping online in 2017. With events like Amazon Prime Day driving more consumers online, we can expect this trend to continue into the holidays.
  • Optimize mobile for research. One in five (21 percent) consumers report they use mobile devices during theresearch stage, highlighting the need for retailers to prioritize improving product content and boosting the UI for easynavigation.
  • Invest in voice capabilities: Of the consumers who own a voice-controlled device, 50 percent have made a voice-controlled purchase in the past year. Although voice ordering was slow to take off last year, it has the potential to be a key driver of sales for current users.
  • Engage with consumers on their feed: More than half of consumers (54 percent) report using social media as part of their path to purchase in some capacity, whether it’s to browse, research, gain inspiration or purchase. Social shopping, like Instagram ads, may be a key tool for grabbing consumer attention and dollars this season.

Capitalize on the Brick-and-Mortar Opportunity

Although consumers have grown more comfortable shopping across channels, there are some in-store experiences that online stores have yet to replicate or replace. In fact, 24 percent of consumers believe the online experience will never surpass the in-store experience, and the majority of consumers still prefer to shop in store for all product categories except books. Ultimately, brick-and-mortar isn’t dead, retailers just have to change it.

To capitalize on the resurgence of brick-and-mortar preference this holiday season, retailers need to think about what’s important to convey online and what’s important to offer as part of a unique, in-

store experience. For example, many stores are experimenting with creative concepts, like Nordstrom’s merchandise-free stores, or Nike’s digital-meets-physical “Nike Live” store. Look to these market leaders as examples for how to leverage brick-and-mortar in new and innovative ways.

Although the holidays seem far off, the time is now for retailers to refine their in-store and e-commerce strategies to win this year’s season. To learn more about the consumer trends shaping the holiday retail landscape, download the full Walker Sands 2018 Future of Retail here.