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It’s the most important time of the year. Holiday retailing is in full swing and given apparel and footwear is one of the most desired items for gifts, this season is expected to prove considerably fruitful for the industry. High traffic provides prime opportunities to capture consumer attention and garner brand loyalty; however, as purchase behaviours shift, new consumerism alters priorities and value conscious consumption dictates decisions, what can apparel retailers expect and how can they entice shoppers in the crucial last hour of the holiday season?
Tellingly, leading brands and retailers such as Macy’s and Target have allocated the majority of their seasonal workers to their e-commerce distribution hubs with the expectation that growth is going to stem from online shopping. It should come as no surprise that the overarching trend within retail is seeing consumers across all regions shift to digital shopping, and Christmas purchases are set to only intensify this as consumers seek convenience, access to product reviews and price comparisons in a bid to secure the best deals available. Notably, mobile is set to lead the way this season and beyond with a global CAGR of 21% to 2020, overtaking desktop purchases by 2019. Empowering consumers to shop anywhere and at any time is proving extremely popular, particularly during high profile sales events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday that produce a sense of urgency and require savvy shopping tactics to keep up with the latest offers and catch the best deal.
Nevertheless, while growth may stem from online, stores continue to account for 87% of apparel and footwear sales globally. Furthermore, according to Euromonitor International Survey data, almost 57% of respondents prefer to purchase apparel in store, in comparison to 40% that would be happy to purchase using a mobile. Although many apparel purchases are digitally-influenced, the role of physical stores is evolving instead of declining in significance. Gift shopping is often performed from an emotive state, increasing the willingness for consumers to visit stores to gain inspiration while testing and trying on products. Retailers and brands can maximise the in-store experience by leveraging the physical store as a place of transactions, brand engagement and even as fulfilment centres.
In reality, one channel does not surpass the other; instead consumers have become accustomed to channel hopping. The path to purchase now takes place across multiple devices and channels from tablets to social media to stores. Developing a seamless transaction process across all areas is now considered the holy grail of retailing. In the words of Google, mobile is “the door to the store”, as smartphones become an extension of our everyday lives, companies/brands have the ability to directly engage with consumers, personalising their service based on search history, preferences and locations. Brand apps can be utilised to better cater to consumers’ needs during the holiday season, used not only as a transactional platform but by providing advice and attracting consumers into stores with promotional activities and convenient functionalities such as reserve in-store or click and collect.
Those that place service at the forefront of their strategy, aiming to make the process as easy and frictionless as possible for consumers during the hectic shopping period, will come out on top. Implementing digital features and aids online such as ‘stocking fillers’ or ‘gift guide’ sections will go a long way in simplifying the process and prove lucrative as it has done for retailers such as ASOS. Unfortunately the festive season often brings with it intense pressure and scrutiny for apparel brands and retailers. A poor performance in the last quarter of the calendar year can often spell the end for a business, with a flurry of bankruptcy filings and store closure announcements in January.
In the midst of peak-season trading retailers frequently resort to a discounting frenzy to entice consumers, damaging their image, reputation and profit margins. Those that create an enjoyable and truly memorable shopping experience, prioritising service and convenience, will find themselves better equipped to reap the benefits available to them at this vital time and will likely continue to flourish way into the New Year.