Christmas in July? Natalie Kotlyar Weighs in on the 2014 Holiday Shopping Season

It may still be July, but retailers have been hard at work for months in an effort to prepare for the 2014 holiday shopping blitz. Last season, digital trends significantly impacted sales, pushing retailers to reconsider and reshape their strategies in order to maintain their competitive advantage during the busiest time of the year. As our own Natalie Kotlyar recently discussed in Retail TouchPoints’ 2014 Holiday Outlook Guide, retailers are now focused on leveraging last year’s digital success stories and lessons learned to stay ahead of the pack and distinguish themselves in today’s extremely competitive market.

Want more of Natalie’s insights around this year’s holiday shopping season? Make sure to download the Outlook Guide, and check out several of her responses to the questionnaire below:

1. How are retailers gearing up for the holidays?

Retailers now understand that holiday season success depends on their ability to build and execute fully-integrated, seamless and secure omnichannel offerings. They should also be building off last year’s success stories, particularly around mobile and social media. According to eMarketer, m-commerce sales will increase 37.2 percent from 2013 to 2014, reaching $57.8 billion, and will account for a fifth of total U.S. retail e-commerce sales. While those estimates may seem to indicate that mobile commerce is somewhat established, there is still enormous, untapped potential to engage consumers via interactive and personalized social media campaigns and in-store experiences.

2. How do you expect this year’s strategies to differ from last year’s?

We expect to see more retailers trying to differentiate themselves through experimenting with new types of campaigns. Target, for instance, will be revamping its omnichannel offerings in its attempt to bolster its online presence and boost its appeal among Millennials. When it comes to e-commerce, last year’s focus on free online shipping and convenient return policies contributed to increased sales, but they also resulted in higher returns and processing costs.  Retailers will be revisiting these tactics as they determine how to reduce their exposure to these costly issues while at the same time enticing consumers with easy and attractive offerings. Enhanced ship-from-store and buy online pick-up-in-store programs may be a key component of this year’s strategy, and some e-commerce retailers are looking to their customers to help offset the cost of “free” shipping.

3. How will mobile technology impact retailer implementations and customer engagement in general and for the holiday season?

Staying competitive, especially during the peak holiday season, relies on being able to engage customers at all times, and mobile technology offers retailers an exciting opportunity to do so. Consequently, we expect that this year’s holiday season will see retailers heavily increasing their commitment to mobile application and platform development so that they do not miss out on its impressive growth potential. Additionally, social media will continue to improve its offered services to retailers as they develop ways to monetize their members.  We expect retailers to rely heavily on social media to build their brands and enhance their customer relationships.