‘Tis The Season To Be Omni – How Do Retailers Approach Omnichannel at Christmas?
It’s vital for brands to consider their omnichannel approach during the Christmas period, so which brands do it best in-store and online during peak?
December 3, 2019
Author: Shane Orchard
The convenience of online shopping means eCommerce will continue to nibble away at physical retail sales. This is particularly apparent at Christmas, when consumers often now choose to do their bargain-hunting online, daunted by facing jam-packed shops, longer queues and empty shelves.
But retailers are correct to promote the value of physical stores as more than merely spaces for sales and inventory. With digital advertising costs increasing and the mushrooming of online content, cutting through the noise and rising above an increasingly saturated market during peak periods has become harder and more expensive.
- Cross-channel promotion
- Promote early
- In-store merchandising
- Consistent customer experience
- Who’s doing it best?
And, despite advancements in digital shopping channels, consumers still appreciate the merits of a physical experience. This is key. Brands need to see their stores as a tool in a wider Christmas retail toolkit. The store is an opportunity to scale multi-channel marketing efforts by engaging with consumers in a different way, even more so at Christmas time, where brands can engage consumers with festive products, in-store events and freebies.
So, it’s vital for brands to consider their omnichannel approach throughout the Christmas period. People are still hungry to spend – retailers just need to accept the journey to spending isn’t as rigid as it was before. Consumers may find products and offers in-store, but buy online, or vice-versa.
To facilitate this, it’s vital silos between departments are broken down. That means in-store, content, merchandising, social media, email marketing, paid media teams – whether internal or external – should be regularly checking in, reporting, and ensuring they are delivering a coherent message.
Key offers and promotions in-store should be joined up and reflected across other channels. Consumers discover products on TV ads or social media, research them on eCommerce sites and blogs, and try products in-store, perhaps seeking advice from a sales advisor. These touchpoints need to be coherent, engaging, and on-brand.
In-store displays can be used to highlight promotions and extra buying incentives that might be that final hook to convert window-shoppers to buyers. Retailers should make sure the mechanics behind these promotions don’t drastically affect the bottom line, whilst increasing order values. Incentives like free home shipping for larger items, free gift-wrapping, or free coupons upon purchase can work well in-store.
Particularly around Christmas time, which retailers rely on so heavily for revenue, the route to purchase needs to be clear and frictionless. This is most powerful when in-store initiatives are linked to other channels. Social media or email campaigns can drive traffic to an in-store Christmas launch event, whilst coupons found in-store can qualify for discounts via the mobile app. The connection between store window displays, TV, print, blogs, YouTube channels, mobile apps, and Instagram posts is crucial.
Don’t be afraid to go early
Once Halloween products and promotions disappear from stores and digital channels, it’s full-steam ahead for the peak retail season – Black Friday (which is now essentially the full month of November) through to Christmas and New Year sales. Marketing around in-store and online offers seems to creep earlier and earlier each year.
Brands can increase excitement and drive interest and traffic by promoting product launches and promotions before they drop. Publicize a core, consistent message across social media, online, in-store with banners and verbally, as well as through email.
Promotional products, offers and bundles should be clearly signposted in store, often in window, standalone or end-of-aisle displays. It’s often a good idea to spread out these between departments. That way customers will see also walk past full-price merchandise that they may be tempted into buying also. Likewise online, sidebars, banners, footers and pop-ups can be used to upsell related or recommended products from product and category pages.
Businesses that are aiming to drive in-store sales can offer exclusive deals for physical purchases only. However, brands should be careful how they market these, as shoppers are savvy at this time of year in shopping around, and may complain if offers online and in-store are dramatically different. A smart way of curating this and promoting loyalty is by delivering VIP offers to core customer groups via email or mail coupons.
Quality, consistent customer experience
It’s vital the in-store and online experiences are as good as any other time of the year, if not better. Free gifts, refreshments, or in-store events are popular this time of year. But it’s not just about freebies and perks. This is when retailers are exposing their brand, staff, and customer experiences to greater volumes and new customers, so in-store and online processes, technology, and staff should be prepared for the added weight.
Hiring more staff isn’t just about filling shelves, it’s about meeting customer experience expectations, too. That’s everything from knowing where a product can be found in-store, checking available stock online or at other stores, and having knowledge of online offers and promotional campaigns. With such an influx of customers at this time of year, quick sales are key and brands need to avoid wasting valuable customer service time with complaints or confusion.
Who’s doing it best this year?
Boots is an excellent example of a comprehensive multi-channel campaign this Christmas. The health and beauty retail giant, part of the Walgreens Boots Alliance, is positioning itself in the UK as the answer to modern gifting dilemmas, with its ‘Bootique’ campaign. Similar to Argos, the campaign is launched through its feature Christmas TV advertisement, reflected by online and in-store promotions to drive awareness and footfall.
The ‘Bootiques’ – gift edits, or bundles, curated by data from Boots’ 15 million Advantage Card member base. Boots claims these personalised bundles will appear in prime positions in-store and online, as well as across out-of-home, on social media and experiential channels, targeting individual people on a mass scale. Customers will also be able to build their own bespoke ‘Bootiques’.
Argos is also a great example of a joined-up omnichannel approach this Christmas. We’d expect the items that feature heavily in its 2019 Christmas TV ad – the drum set and ‘Cubby’ the bear – to be front and centre of in-store and online promotions leading up to Christmas. From window displays and in-store banners and prominence in the 2019 catalogue, to being headline products on the Christmas section of the web store and mobile app, this is a joined-up approach that retailers should heed.
Then there’s Hamleys in London. As is tradition in the lead-up to Christmas, Hamleys held a celebratory launch event for its much-anticipated window display. The display features a winter wonderland scene and partners with Ty, the Beanie Boos brand, and saw a large social media campaign, featuring cross-promotion with the Matilda London musical to extend reach. Ty products feature prominently on Hamley’s web store, and expect lots of social and email campaigns centered around these toys as Christmas approaches.
In the U.S., Best Buy is excelling at omnichannel retailing – a turnaround for a brand that was practically on life support not too long ago. The consumer electronics giant has built out its omnichannel capabilities in a big way. In response to Amazon challenges, the company has held down prices, boosted customer service, and teamed with Apple on repair services. One equity analyst who tracks the brand says Best Buy is on the leading edge when it comes to omnichannel retailing. Similarly, Internet Retailer researchers gave Best Buy high marks for the excellent quality of its buy online pickup in store experience.
Luxury department store Neiman Marcus is doing omnichannel well, too. The Dallas, Texas-based chain has 42 stores in 19 U.S. states, plus a website, an app, and a toll-free number for telephone orders. Consider its approach to omnichannel personalization. If shoppers search the Neiman Marcus website for a certain type or size of shoes more than once, the website remembers their actions and the next time they search for those items, the shopper is presented with the particular styles or sizes in stock at the nearest Neiman Marcus store. Ever the innovator, the brand turned to technology and provided in-store visitors with a “Memory Mirror.” This 360-degree mirror allows shoppers to capture and share images of outfits they try on. Then shoppers can save it in the Neiman Marcus mobile app and look at it or buy it later.