The 2023 holiday season appears poised to be the year’s biggest e-commerce event to date, and it has designs on putting a giant exclamation point on a memorable year to forget in brick-and-mortar retail. As the biggest consumer spending season approaches, merchants are going to need to get creative and innovative to maximize their profits.
For most merchants, the holiday season of November and December has accounted for a significant proportion of their annual sales. Many stores report that more than 30% of their annual revenue comes from the holiday season. It’s the fuel that propels them into the New Year.
According to the National Retail Federation, total holiday retail spending has been on the uptick for several years, topping $936 billion last year. Retail has also helped to bolster the economy by adding over half a million temporary jobs the last few holiday seasons as in-store foot traffic and online order fulfillment soared.
COVID has impacted every area of retail and this holiday season will be no different, meaning it will be very different. Crowded malls, long lines to sit on Santa’s lap, children’s choirs singing carols, it’s all going to look and feel like an alternate universe.
All that said, it’s not as if parents are going to stop buying gifts for their children or spouses won’t be getting each other presents. In fact, odds are that once the dust settles total consumer spending will not be that far off pace from normal years — if at all. It’s just going to continue to shift channels, offline to online, as we’ve been witnessing the last few months.
While no one knows exactly what things will look like several weeks down the road, the one bankable trend will be the continued boom of ecommerce and thus the need to ensure that the tools are in place for merchants to maximize their success. Merchants need to have their organizations, from retail to ecommerce, pulling in the same direction and using tools to maximize customer engagement and sales to reach consumers where they’ll be shopping from this holiday season — their couches.
Over the last few years, new technologies have made remote customer service and online sales fairly seamless. Chat, SMS messaging, photo sharing, live shoppable video — those tools are all now available for merchants to engage with and better service their online customers.
Obviously, there isn’t a one size fits all for these online engagement tools. Each merchant must look at their own DNA to launch and utilize the tools that fit their specific needs.
If you’re an online shop with basic products and average order values less than $100, then a basic live chat plug-in on your site is probably sufficient to help your customers. These chat apps and automated bots are inexpensive and great for handling simple customer service questions, facilitating returns, or checking on order status. The effort required for the merchant to launch and manage chat on their site is equal to the features it provides…minimal, but for many merchants that is enough.
If you’re a merchant with a physical location, then perhaps inserting your in-store associates into the sales equation makes sense. There are tools out there focused on SMS messaging and product image sharing between in-store associates and the online shopper to help the customer over the purchase finish line. In the case of larger retailers with a national store footprint, these tools can also help drive customers into the closest store.
For merchants with brick-and-mortar stores or showrooms looking for an elevated online experience, bypassing chat and messaging altogether and connecting your online customers with one of your sales experts via live shoppable video could make sense. This type of engagement is ideal for merchants with average order values on the higher end of the spectrum and those that believe their online customers could benefit from consultative selling.
Immerss, a Refersion partner, connects a merchant’s online customers with one of their in-store sales associates via live shoppable video through a customized app. Immerss integrates with each merchant’s key systems like product inventory, sales history, and CRM to provide the sales associates with helpful information and the necessary tools to provide a virtual in-store experience.
Immerss is seeing strong performance for merchants utilizing the platform in several key areas. When the connection between the online customer and sales associate is made, sales conversion rates are north of 30%. Merchants are also seeing average order values lifted by over 60% and return rates being reduced by one third on orders utilizing the platform.
If you’re already using Refersion then you understand the power of enabling affiliates, brand ambassadors, and influencers to promote your brand message. Refersion merchants in particular have a unique opportunity to amplify their efforts through outside affiliates to better their chances for success during the upcoming holiday online onslaught. Pairing your Refersion account with a live commerce platform like Immerss can allow you to plug-in influencers and brand ambassadors into your live video sales efforts.
You can equip your network of influencers and affiliates to connect directly with your customers to promote your product via live shoppable video. These trusted affiliates can help to service your online shoppers from your website and have all sales activity tracked through Refersion.
Additionally, they can host live online trunk shows from either the merchant or affiliate’s website or influencers’ blog page. When promoted via social channels, these live streaming events can reach a large audience at one time. It acts as a merchant’s own QVC or Home Shopping network hosted by your sales associates or affiliates. These events are fully shoppable and also tracked through
As the holidays approach, and with COVID still lingering and affecting both retail operations and consumer behavior, the time is now to position your shop for success. Regardless of which tools make the most sense for your individual situation, the message is clear: merchants who provide a personal connection or experiential online engagement are going to be the winners this holiday season and beyond.
This is a guest post from our friends at Immerss, which connects your online shoppers with sales associates to humanize eCommerce and change the game.