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This year’s holiday retail trends

BY Dan Berthiaume

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, so of course everyone is thinking about the latest trends in… retail IT. Okay, nobody outside of the industry has visions of technology solutions dancing in their heads, but retailers do need to know what is developing on the IT front as their busiest season arrives.

Fortunately, Verizon Enterprise Solutions has identified five key IT trends that will impact retail during the 2015 holiday season. Michele Dupre, group VP for Verizon Enterprise Solutions’ retail, hospitality & distribution vertical practices, recently shared some insight with Chain Store Age.

Black Friday moves down
During 2014, consumer traffic spiked less on Black Friday and Cyber Monday than in years past, and Dupre sees that trend intensifying this year.

“The season is not tied to any one day,” said Dupre. “It now starts in early November and continues to a couple of days before Christmas.”

In addition to major retailers like Walmart starting their “Black Friday” events at the beginning of November, Dupre said the growth of always-accessible mobile commerce is also lessening the impact of any one specific day on holiday performance.

“There is a larger adoption of mobile engagement, creating different customer traffic peaks,” said Dupre. “Last year, there was a big surge in mobile traffic on Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving that lasted all through the weekend. Mobile traffic slows down during the week and picks up during the weekend.”

In addition, Dupre said the ease of procrastinating holiday purchases provided by mobile phones has pushed traffic peaks later in the season. Last year, there was a major spike in holiday traffic and demand Dec. 20-21, a pattern she expects to be even more prominent this year.

E-commerce – Everyone is doing it
Dupre also identified a continuing shift to e-commerce, including both desktop and mobile customers. Retailers need to follow steps to take advantage of the increased customer intimacy provided by e-commerce.

“Last-minute shopping, more aggressive promotions, and extended shipping deadlines pushed more consumers online in 2014,” said Dupre. “Increased online engagement with customers means loyalty is important. Retailers engaged in an intimate relationship with their customers, based on behavior patterns, can be specific with promotions and have more interaction across channels.”

Who wants home delivery?
The migration of customer traffic online does not necessarily mean in-store traffic will wane. One growing trend that will keep customers coming into stores is the rising popularity of buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) transactions.

“BOPIS will pick up traction from last year,” said Dupre. “There will be a steady increase this holiday season. An increasing number of retailers have the ability and consumer demand for it will keep growing. It’s necessary for retailers to be convenient in general. In particular, customers now expect BOPIS and same-day delivery.”

The holiday data blend
Big Data is just as, if not more crucial, during the holiday season than it is during the rest of the year. Dupre sees retailers using a new Big Data holiday tactic, however. 

“Retailers are performing data blending,” she said. “They take data from multiple sources and fine-tune it to make real-time personalization across channels easier. Real-time engagement drives more conversion. The customer wants gratification in the moment.”

Tis the season for IT knowledge
The final IT trend Dupre identified applies to personnel management. As retail operations on both the back and front ends become more technology-oriented, even seasonal holiday workers will have to come on board with more IT capabilities than they had in the past.

“The makeup of the seasonal employee has changed,” said Dupre. “It’s not just about putting people on shop floor anymore. The entire retail ecosystem supports an omnichannel strategy, whether in the store or in the distribution center.”

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