What to prep now for 2021 holiday season
Kristina: What kind of season will the 2021 holiday season be, in your opinion? Last year, with many physical locations closed, shoppers turned to e-commerce for holiday lists. Do you expect this trend to continue into 2021?
Jeff Bradbury, Senior Marketing Director in Enterprise, Hughes Network Systems: Consumers have a lot of pent-up desire to return to pre-pandemic activities, including in-person shopping. We believe consumers are eager to return to stores this holiday season, and retailers will see higher foot traffic as customers look to recapture that immersive holiday experience. However, consumers will be more intentional about where and how they spend their time in stores. Some shoppers will arrive in stores with clear plans of action in hopes of emulating the efficiency they’ve grown to expect from their online experiences. These shoppers may browse online, but decide to pick up their orders in stores or opt to see the online item in person before making a final purchasing decision. Other shoppers may go specifically for the immersive holiday experience – choosing to discover and explore new products in person without a specific purchasing goal. For example, a shopper who wants to sample a beauty product, try out a piece of technology or learn about the history and tradition of an artisan-crafted leather good.
Kristina: How important will it be for brands to be omnichannel?
Jeff: For both types of shoppers, a seamless, omnichannel experience that effortlessly allows shoppers to interact with a brand online and in stores is essential. Technologies driving that experience in shops include AR/VR capabilities, QR codes, radio frequency identification (RFID), interactive digital signage and kiosks or loyalty mobile apps that push out promotions tailored to your purchase history. We also expect some consumer behaviors spurred on by the events of this past year to endure, like an increasing preference for convenience that online shopping and third-party delivery offer. Consumers have come to expect a certain level of convenience that retailers are integrating into their in-store experiences by implementing contactless payments, the ability to buy in-store but have the purchase delivered, BOPIS and curbside pickup.
Kristina: What about customer experience – how can merchants ensure their website is ready?
Jeff: Customer experience is at the core of how retailers attract and retain customers – so much so, that the top priority for most IT teams today is to discover and implement the best mix of technologies that deliver seamless, high-quality interactions on retailers’ websites and in stores. Generally, websites tend to be well developed for online shopping- so the “readiness” factor of a site is more centered around how well it is integrated into a retailer’s overall omnichannel experience.
Customers want cross-channel shopping experiences that are seamless across online, offline and partner interactions – which rely on the essential integration of associated network systems among all three environments. Successful omnichannel system collaboration enables retailers to use their online capabilities to encourage people to visit stores, where the overall customer experience continues and customer loyalty deepens based on the more immersive and positive in-store brand experience.