I remember when I was young and would wait by the mailbox during the month of November for the Sears Wishbook to arrive. My brother and I would grab it and promptly run inside, racing through the pages to see the gifts to select from. We'd even go as far as earmarking pages in the Wishbook for our Santa letters to guide the big man to the toys were at the top of our lists. The Sears Wishbook was, after all, the source of truth for all holiday gifts.
Fast forward 35 years, and it's incredible to see how much has changed. We have entered the age of digital transformation for commerce, where the old Wishbook has been replaced by online catalogues, augmented reality on social media platforms, and personalized experience-based shopping in many stores today. What hasn't changed, however, is that the customer is still the King (or Queen), and companies are using new technologies to engage and entice the inner child in all of us.
As a partner in a leading consulting company (www.ascenterpsolutions.com) in the commerce industry, I am constantly engaging with our partners, customers, and other industry specialists to stay connected to key trends and changes in technology each year, and I wanted to share some of the things we've seen at Ascent that are making a difference for commerce companies in their holiday strategies.
1. Companies are leaning into holiday shopping with earlier sales. 2019 has been an interesting year to see the growth of shopping holidays like 'Singles Day' and more major brands offering 'Pre-Black Friday Specials'. We've seen industry giants, like Walmart, Amazon, and Best Buy sending out daily specials throughout the month of November. In fact, the industry is showing larger percentages of consumers (even up to 40%) starting their holiday shopping even before November, and while it's (admittedly) difficult to see holiday sales starting before Halloween, consumers are willing to spend earlier and earlier to get that best price on those gifts that their loved ones are hoping for.
2. Companies are building out their technology infrastructure (and we don't mean on-premise hardware). The legacy days of the ERP are winding down, as omni-channel microservices and more agile cloud based and hosted platforms are being offered with open integrations allowing for better real (or near) time connectivity between systems. One common framework that we're seeing implemented at many B2B and B2C companies is the distributed OMS (order management system), which offer a consolidated view of inventory across channels, routing and fulfillment optimization rules for quicker and more cost-effective distribution, and a single view of customer purchases, regardless of where (and how) they're spending with the brand. This is enabling brands to easily perform activities like buy online pick up in store (click and collect), drop ship from a supplier, and provide return methods, and elevated customer service to the consumer through chats and order tracking.
3. Companies are also focusing on digital marketing strategies to drive new opportunities to connect with customers, and the business (not IT) is driving the sleigh! Consumers love social platforms, and are constantly engaging with family and friends on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and even TikTok (which is quickly gaining momentum among Gen Y and Gen Z shoppers). Companies are spending money to advertise on these platforms and are offering incentives for reviews, feedback, and other types of engagements. Click through and conversion rates are being measured to help customers understand the effectiveness of campaigns for these platforms as well as ancillary sites. This, paired with more advanced CRM and loyalty capabilities, are enabling companies to not only better understand their customer, but create personalized experiences to connect with them in a more tailored and meaningful way.
It's certainly an exciting time to be in the industry. While there are other strategies out there helping companies find success and growth during the holidays, promotional focus (and event timing), enhanced and efficient technologies (like OMS and CRM), and targeted digital marketing and content strategies are leading customers to sites and stores in new and innovative ways, and creating exciting experiences and building rapport that will last long after the season. At Ascent, we hope you have the best of holidays, whether a commerce-driven company, a shopper, or one benefitting from the generosity of a friend or colleague. And just like that kid rushing through thethe Sears Wishbook, we hope that your hopes and dreams are recognized not only through 'getting' those things you dream about, but through sharing and kindness shown to others this Holiday season.