E-Commerce, Mobile Remain Key to Holiday Sales Strategies

There’s still plenty of room for growth online. That’s what retail executives told us in our sixth annual BDO Retail Compass Survey of CFOs. Retailers predict a 5.9% increase in total 2012 online sales – an impressive number when compared with CFO expectations of 4.1% growth in comparable store sales and 4.5% growth in total sales. As retailers continue to adjust to omni-channel platforms, online shopping now plays an increasingly important role in holiday sales strategies. Consumers are primed for free shipping, exclusive online deals, and streamlined websites—and retailers are answering the call. This year, retailers expect an increase of 4.6% in holiday-specific online sales.

The 2011 holiday season witnessed a banner year for mobile traffic and sales. This year, consumers can expect another year of high engagement with apps, mobile coupons, and texts. According to our survey, the majority of CFOs (77%) report that they plan to maintain their investment in mobile commerce this holiday season. Another 19% say that they are increasing their mobile investment as they build momentum for the holidays.
Increasing mobile phone usage has created a relatively new retail concern: showrooming. Consumers who engage in the practice visit stores to browse merchandise, then purchase the product elsewhere (online or via mobile) later on. While the supposed menace of showrooming has made headlines in recent months, retailers are undaunted by the practice of showrooming. In fact, when asked if they view showrooming as a threat to their business, the overwhelming majority (88%) of CFOs say no.

Showrooming may be here to stay, but retailers are confident that their customer service strategies are up to the challenge. When asked about their primary strategy for countering showrooming, one quarter of CFOs say they are improving their customer service model, while another 25% reports expanded options for in-store pickups and returns for online purchases. Other methods include product exclusivity (17%) and price matching with online retailers (17%). Either way, retailers are gaining a new understanding of the delicate balance between customer experience and bottom line price.