By Brecken Branstrator
brecken.branstrator@nationaljeweler.com
New York--According to a few early predictions, this holiday season could turn out to be a happy one for retailers.

Market research company Emarketer has predicted that retail sales in November and December could reach $885.7 billion, a nearly 6 percent year-over-year increase.

In his latest sales update, industry analyst Ken Gassman also said that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the fourth quarter for a few reasons: consumers have “loosened their purse strings” and the mood of the U.S. shopper is more positive than it has been in years; jewelers have enough, and the right mix of, inventory; and most economic data is positive.

But, retailers that want to enjoy the spoils of consumers spending more money will have to offer a seamless, easy omnichannel experience and use multiple layers of advertising to attract them.

According to a recent study by advertising and customer engagement platform SessionM, people were holiday shopping before the summer was even officially over. 

More than one-fourth of shoppers indicated that they would start their holiday shopping by the end of September, while more than 60 percent will have started by Black Friday. Only 9 percent actually start on Black Friday, with another 6 percent beginning on Cyber Monday.

Since people are starting their shopping earlier than ever, stores need to consider a multi-tier marketing approach to appeal to the early shoppers while also catering to the traditional shoppers, SessionM said.

One example that the firm gave was when Walmart kicked off the season by launching a holiday layaway program at the end of August followed by the debut of the “Toy Week,” which shows the hottest trends and toys for the upcoming holiday season, in September.

Consumers also are finding new ways to shop, searching for the best deals in store, online and on their smartphones, requiring retailers to adjust their approach if they want to increase foot traffic and offer shoppers unique omnichannel experiences.

This year, consumers will shop across many channels to find the best deals. Approximately 78 percent will do some shopping in store, 58 percent indicated they will shop online, and 43 percent said they will shop via mobile devices or smartphones.  

“Retailers need to make multichannel shopping easy with mobile-optimized sites and multi-media, large product views,” SessionM said in the survey results, noting that mobile shopping experiences need to equal the in-store shopping experience in order to be successful.

Even while they’re shopping in store, consumers will be searching for products on their phones to help make buying decisions. In 2014, Think with Google estimated that nearly $1 trillion, or 28 percent, of all retail sales were influenced by mobile searches done while shopping.

SessionM’s survey found that 54 percent of shoppers said they would do the same in 2015.

Retailers can reach shoppers before they do this using beacon technology. This technology alerts apps or websites--which user has opted into--when someone comes or goes from a certain location. Using this, they can offer relevant and personalized deals as shoppers move through stores.

This is expected to be a big area this year, with Business Insider predicting that beacon will directly influence more than $4 billion worth of sales this year at U.S. retailers.

And since 74 percent of consumers will shop around at various retailers during the holidays rather than sticking to just their regular, consumers are up for grabs. Where they go will depend on sales and promotions (71 percent), quality of products (51 percent), familiarity with the retailer (40 percent), and whether or not they can earn loyalty or reward points for their purchases (39 percent).





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