Guest Column | November 13, 2020

Online And In-Store: 4 Ways Retailers Can Have The Best Of Both This Holiday Season

By Deanna Traa, CMO, Bold Commerce

Holiday Shopping Patterns

Convenience, selection, service, deals--and now, safety--are top of mind for shoppers this holiday season. As many assess whether to head to the mall for their holiday shopping, they’re looking to retailers to make it worth their while to embrace in-store experiences and continue shopping with them online. No pressure.

Since brick-and-mortar retailers saw their shoppers last, consumers have adopted new ways of shopping that they were previously unaccustomed to. They’ve expanded the types of products and categories they’re willing to buy online. They now consider curbside and in-store pickup standard ways to shop. And those that have already ventured back into brick-and-mortar shopping have adapted to new in-store protocols, such as reduced occupancy and self-serve shopping in place of always-there store staff.

This holiday season, some consumers will inevitably be expecting their in-store experiences to match up with the convenience of digital experiences, while others will be looking for in-person levels of engagement online.

Here are four ways retailers can cater to and shape the challenges of 2020 into a successful holiday shopping season.

  1. Account For Last-Mile Delivery Delays By Letting Stores Double As Shopping Destinations And Fulfillment Centers

Shipping carriers have been operating at near capacity for several months in response to the fact that the nearly 90% of shopping that used to happen in physical stores moved online, and all at once. Add to that a holiday surge, and it’s no wonder retailers are bracing for potential obstacles to last-mile delivery, including carriers not willing to commit to regular delivery schedules.

Retailers need to navigate accordingly to make sure shoppers get their purchases on time. One way to bypass delays is to treat stores as both shopping destinations and fulfillment centers.

Introducing a Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS) option not only offers shoppers convenience and ideally contactless pickup at local store locations; it allows retailers to move inventory and localize their fulfillment operations. For many shoppers, a local pickup option is an incentive to buy from one retailer versus another. For retailers, it’s a chance to engage and upsell shoppers in person, in an attempt to offset lower volumes of holiday foot-traffic traffic.

If redistributing warehoused inventory into store locations isn’t an option, retailers might consider using shipping carriers to deliver all online orders to a central location (their store), where local customers can pick up their orders. Doing so can ease the burden on last mile delivery to homes and help ensure shoppers get their orders on time.

  1. Create Enhanced Buying Opportunities

With foot-traffic down this year, retailers can expect a decrease in the type of impulse buys and organic product discovery that often happen in stores. While retailers have come to rely on this incremental revenue, this year they’ll need to create new opportunities to encourage shoppers to come into their stores. One way to do this is to reserve certain in-store shopping hours for VIPs, or to offer shoppers the option to “shop by appointment.”

Giving your best customers the benefit of exclusive access and a wide selection of merchandise, while avoiding the crowds, can deepen customer loyalty and create opportunities for the type of discovery that many retailers achieve through their in-store merchandising, but haven’t yet mastered online.

That said, online there are proven techniques to enhance opportunities for discovery and increase average order values. Namely, cross-selling products that are relevant to the items shoppers are browsing or have already added to their carts. Ideally, the cross-sell experience should go beyond your basic “Product You Might Also Like” carousel and be integrated directly into the shopping flow.

For instance, if a shopper is browsing running shoes, the retailer might suggest a pair of running leggings or a water bottle. As a rule of thumb, aim for cross sells that are approximately 25% of the original item’s price, so that shoppers are likely to buy both items, rather than simply replace the original item with the recommended one. This approach can help maximize overall cart value.

  1. Don’t Forget Subscriptions: The Gifts That Keep On Giving

As shoppers ramp up virtual gift-giving this holiday season, subscription gifts are poised for a leap in popularity. Subscription boxes and monthly club memberships might immediately come to mind, as they can provide an ongoing, shared connection between friends and family long past the holidays. But now that virtually every type of retailer is introducing subscription options--and we know that shoppers are considering product categories that they traditionally haven’t explored for the holidays--retailers can capitalize on people willing to buy subscriptions to practical items that simply make the recipient’s life easier.

But is a monthly ream of paper for a writer friend the gift consumers will want to give this holiday season? While the rules around which items make sense as subscription gifts are open for interpretation, one rule of thumb remains in customer acquisition and long-term customer retention: Make subscriptions flexible for the recipient to manage.

Allowing subscribers to modify their subscription after receiving their first delivery –  for example allowing our writer to upgrade her ream of 24 lb. paper to a more luxurious 28 lb. weight – allows subscribers to get the products they want and helps to establish loyalty. The more flexibility a subscriber has, the more likely they will continue to subscribe once their gift subscription runs out.

  1. Drive Sales And Move Inventory With Spend-And-Save Offers

Two things consumers are always looking for during the holidays? Deals and stocking stuffers. This is where traditional upselling combines with volume discounts to give shoppers what they want while increasing cart values and optimizing inventory.

The concept of upselling is, of course, not new. In stores, upselling takes the form of the ‘power of suggestion’ by store staff. “Perhaps you’d like that in black, too? If you would like to buy both, you’ll get 10% off.” Considering that shoppers this year are likely to be more selective about where they shop, volume incentives will have the added value of creating a one-stop shopping solution for them.

When it comes to incentivizing online shoppers to add a couple more items to their cart, retailers can introduce upsell recommendations directly onto product pages or during checkout (“Buy one for yourself too for an additional 15% off”). They also can incentivize volume purchases through tiered pricing, such as “Buy 4 candles, Get the 5th Free” or “Buy 5 or more candles and take 40% off.”

Holiday predictions are calling for unprecedented levels of online shopping while retailers are challenged to predict demand and shift strategies in response. But these challenges also bring opportunities to enhance the shopping experience across both in-store and online channels – matching consumer expectations with new programs, offers, and services that can drive sales and build loyalty this holiday season.

About The Author

Deanna Traa is the Chief Marketing Officer of Bold Commerce. Bold Commerce provides eCommerce technology solutions to over 90,000 brands worldwide.