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Holiday retail planning in May? 5 things for retailers to think about right now

It’s that time of the year…the time when those in retail marketing really need to start critically thinking about what you want to get done before the 2014 holiday season.

Holiday retail planning…in May? Yes.

The retail landscape continues to change at rapid pace. Competition continues to get more aggressive and more diverse, with new entrants in the market every day, but more importantly, consumer expectations about the retail shopping experience are constantly increasing, and retailers need to understand these expectations and have a plan to address them well in-advance of this year’s mad, gift-buying rush.

Mobile is influencing every aspect of the shopping experience. This year mobile is projected to surpass 25% share of total ecommerce revenue. With 1 in 4 transactions projected to be happening on a mobile device, mobile needs to be a key focus of your holiday efforts and especially your communication plan to engage and convert.

Here are 5 things for retailers to think about right now:

1. Responsive Email Design

With well over 50% of retail industry emails opened on a mobile device (some retailers are even at 60%-70%), if you haven’t yet converted from a standard desktop email design to a responsive designed email template, you need to start now. Imagine well-designed, dynamic, responsive templates presenting your content and messaging much more effectively, improving both readability and click-ability of the email.

And don’t forget…with responsive design you can actually target some content specifically for mobile users, like putting a banner at the top of an email opened on an iPhone to download your iOS app. Download the Oracle Responsys Mobile Email Guide to walk through where to begin and how to evolve to a mobile-first design approach.

2. Push Notifications

Imagine if someone abandoned a cart on your desktop site. They are one of your most valuable customers, they are subscribed to email communications, and they also have your mobile app installed on their smartphone. Now imagine you being able to send that valuable customer a Push notification reminding them about the items they abandoned. With the Oracle Responsys acquisition of Push.IO, New School Marketers will be able to use Push as a new channel where they can extend the reach of triggered communications directly to their shopper’s devices.

Push Notification - Abandoned Cart - Office Depot

3. SMS Alerts

Do you remember December 26, 2013? Were they good memories or did I just make you relive the nightmare millions of packages that were delivered late because major shipping backlogs due to all of the unanticipated last-minute online shopping? How about your call center? I’m sure they remember being inundated with hundreds or even thousands of phone calls from customers asking where there package was.

Now imagine your customers being able to sign up for shipping and delivery SMS alerts, and getting those notifications when their package ships letting your customers know when it will be delivered, and once it is delivered, letting them know that, too. Leading online retailers like Amazon are doing just that, and creating an experience from the time they checkout to the time they finally receive the item that makes shoppers frequent the online retailing giant time and time again.

4. Increase Your Reach

With display relationship retargeting, you can increase the reach of your traditional, single-channel email communications. Retailers, on average, only get 1 out of every 5 email recipients to open an email. Imagine taking all of the hard work that you’ve done to create the right message for the right customer in the email channel and delivering that same personalized message in the display channel. New School Marketers using the Oracle Responsys Interact Program are doing just that and getting double-digit lifts in conversion rates by orchestrating targeted email with display.

5. Look to the Store for Scale

We all know that changes to store operations, processes and technology take significant time, but the scale that physical stores can bring to digital communications is more than significant.  Imagine shoppers engaging with a store associate in your physical store reviewing 3 items that they are considering for gifts this holiday.  The customer is considering each item, but not quite ready to buy, so the store associate offers to send the shopper an email personalized with the products they reviewed in the store.

Digital communications triggered by physical interactions such as eReceipts or these in-store browse communications powered by store associates (or even iBeacon sensors) are a huge opportunity for retailers this holiday season to drive ongoing digital engagement, revenue and loyalty at considerable scale.

Timeline Realities

Moving towards a responsive designed template requires a mind-shift from current creative processes to a mobile-first approach where considerations for screensizes, font sizes, touch and context become paramount. It may take 3 months or longer to effect this kind of change within your retail organization. To provision and setup a dedicated SMS short code can also take 3 months or more to be approved through all of the network operators.

Because mobile app development is such a time consuming process, incorporating Push into your relationship marketing communications can take 3 to 6 months or longer depending on your app team’s existing priority list. Display relationship retargeting on the other hand can typically be done rather quickly within Oracle Responsys Interact Program. You could be up and running an orchestrated email and display program within a few weeks.

Making changes to physical store operations and processes and technology can be even more daunting, so, when it comes to in-store interactions, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to tackle a successful beta test at a handful of stores before rolling out anything company-wide.

Stop Imagining…Start Now

Make your customer’s expectations a reality this holiday season. If you want to get mobile and display integrated into your relationship marketing program this year, you should get them off your wishlist and put them on your priority list starting now.

With the proper planning, you can take your holiday shopping experience to the next level with an orchestrated, cross-channel communications experience that engages your subscribers, converts your shoppers and drives loyalty and greater long-term customer value.

PS - Be on the lookout for a series of video blog posts where I break down each of the above 5 items in further detail.

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