Retail Embraces Omnichannel for the Holidays

Foot traffic at retail stores has been down substantially this holiday season, even while e-commerce sales are showing upward momentum. Brands are looking at new omni-channel strategies to cut through the noise and give shoppers the experiences they’re looking for.

Rather than focusing on one platform or tool, retail brands are embracing everything necessary to engage with customers across multiple touchpoints. That could have a major impact on the way shoppers interact with their favorite brands in the coming weeks, and depending on the results, it could lead to changes in the way retail marketing is handled in 2021.

“We’ve seen record omnichannel growth throughout this year as customers have relied more on online shopping and home delivery,” says Greg Wolny, executive vice president of commerce at Code3.

Wolny says many retailers chose not to participate in Black Friday this year as they have in the past. Limited-time deals were more toned down, and discounts were extended to give shoppers more time to browse stores with limited capacities. The results of this approach won’t be fully realized until retailers can look at fourth-quarter sales volumes in their entirety. However, it’s already becoming clear that more consumers are turning to online shopping for all of their gifts this year.

For this reason, Wolny says it’s even more critical that brands reevaluate their marketing spend and allocate budgets to align with the changing behavior of their customers. He says shifting dynamics have resulted in increased spend across Amazon, Walmart.com, Target.com, and other e-commerce platforms. Due to the increase in spend, brands should implement heightened monitoring and organization across these accounts.

“Due to the circumstances brought on by the pandemic, brands have shifted their brick-and-mortar focus to dominating online. With an omnichannel strategy, Amazon being at the forefront, brands now have limitless shelf space, which can be a major differentiator if taken advantage of,” Wolny says. “Looking ahead, it will remain critical for brands to prioritize their sales channels against these new trends and ultimately will result in traditional budgets shifting more toward e-commerce in 2021 and beyond.”

Already, retailers like Target and Williams-Sonoma have come out with creative omnichannel approaches that rely less on a single platform and more on willingness to take a risk. Target launched its first mass event, Deals Days, well ahead of the traditional Black Friday marker. Walmart took a different approach this year, as well, with Black Friday Deals for Days, which involved three separate events spread over the entire month of November.

Retail giants like the Williams Sonoma family of brands, which includes Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and West Elm, have also gotten creative with their approaches. Williams Sonoma launched a “Find your Holiday Style!” quiz for members of its loyalty program that pulled together products across brands. This sort of approach heightens the impact of cross-promotion and omni-channel experiences. According to AJ Stocker, vice president of strategic consulting at Kobie, it also showcases the flexibility that retailers are going to need to continue engaging their customers in digital environments, should pandemic-related local or statewide restrictions be imposed.

“This year, it’s all about how the retailer goes above and beyond to provide a personalized experience to its customers,” Stocker says. “This is about creating engagement throughout the year and in between the transactions, not just at the point of sale.”

Rather than focusing strictly on fourth-quarter sales volumes to measure success, Stocker says brands should look more closely at their performance in the first quarter of 2021.

“Retailers’ performance early next year will reveal which ones successfully navigated this uncertain shopping season to build meaningful connections with customers beyond a one-time purchase,” he says. “The real ‘winners’ of this year’s Black Friday will be the retailers that can turn these one-off purchases into repeat and loyal customers heading into 2021.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

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