Earlier this month, the National Retail Federation forecasted an optimistic 4.1 percent increase in holiday sales this year. If this bullish forecast (fueled by lower unemployment and strong consumer confidence, retail, and home sales) becomes a reality, 2014 will mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales surpassed 4 percent. At the same time, forecasts and predictions from Shop.org and eMarketer point to even stronger growth rates for online sales (between 8 and 11 percent) and m-commerce – which is expected to account for more than 19 percent (up from 16 percent in 2013) of all online sales.
The numbers here are telling and reveal the growing importance retailers will need to place on creating seamless physical and digital shopping experiences in a mobile world. While consumers continue to increasingly purchase on their smartphones and tablets, mobile’s growing role in supporting shopping decisions in-store will require retailers to invest more aggressively in their mobile/digital strategy. It will also require significant investments in building out their mobile app functionality, data and signal capture and infrastructure solutions, real-time decisioning and data processing capabilities, marketing execution, and mobile payment platforms. So with that in mind, these are my must-have investments to juice retail sales in 2015 and beyond.
iBeacons and Apps:
While 50 percent of the top 100 retailers in the U.S. are testing beacons this year, less than 3 percent of retailers are equipped to identify customers walking into a retail location and ultimately message them. To do so, beacons must be tied to apps via the software development kit (SDK). App functionality and messaging capabilities will be expanding as beacon installs expand rapidly from 30,000 to a projected 3,500,000 active by 2018. As a result, 72 percent of retailers expect to be able to identify and message customers upon entering store locations. Look for major retailers to follow Macy’s, which announced its iBeacon expansion and technological improvements across its retail stores, apps, and point-of-sale (POS) devices given the acceleration of mobile’s influence. With Macy’s announced support for Apple pay, they have firmly cemented themselves as the leading mobile-friendly retailer in the U.S.
Apple Pay and POS:
Announced with the new iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch, Apple’s mobile payment system Apple Pay will enable consumers to pay securely for good and services using their phone and/or watch. The system is expected to grow rapidly as the point-of-sale process gets simplified further and retailers gain a better understanding of a user’s path to purchase. Point-of-sale systems upgrades to support Apple Pay and other mobile payment systems will be required.
Mobile-Enabled Salespeople and Systems:
Arming salespeople with mobile devices and intelligence to improve the shopping experience, expedite and simplify the checkout process, and drive sales will rise in importance as data from the “cloud” and the required supporting technology infrastructure used to identify customers entering the store makes it way down to the individual salesperson to support the sales process.
Mobile platforms will mature. First generation, siloed platforms that provide analytics or push messaging will evolve or be replaced by comprehensive mobile data, decisioning, and delivery platforms allowing retailers to take in signals, normalize first-party/third-party data and create hyper-relevant, real-time messaging throughout the purchase process.
Attribution and Analytics:
The combination of data/signals, more sophisticated programs, and the increased popularity of mobile payment services like Apple Pay will require better analytics and attribution analysis as retailers look to better understand the path to purchase.
It is an exciting time for retailers. While forecasts look promising due to improving economic conditions, technology advancements and the growing influence of mobile everything offer retailers new and amazing opportunities to increase engagement and sales like never before. Happy holidays.
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