THE BLOG
11/12/2013 06:46 GMT | Updated 09/02/2014 05:59 GMT

Are Retailers Giving Shoppers That Season's Greeting This Year?

This year, retailers have taken big steps towards digital. And they need to be, especially during the festive season when people are reaching a peak in their shopping capacity and appetite. Christmas trading has got off to a strong start online and via mobile and retailers must be at the ready to offer a truly exceptional omnichannel shopping experience with no seams. Retailers can no longer rely on a website these days. Digital technologies are advancing at an exponential rate and digital needs to be at the heart of retail businesses to ensure they meet the needs of tomorrow's consumer. It's not just about being ready for today, but thinking about the next technology that is going to capture consumers' imagination and taking the necessary action to gain a presence in this space.

The volume of shopping online and through mobile is growing and growing and retailers need to ensure that capability is in place to offer easy and fast shopping, especially at this busy time. A recent PayPal survey found that 88 per cent of us will do our Christmas shopping online this year. Black Friday was a mega day of activity for retailers like John Lewis, which saw sales on johnlewis.com more than double any previous single day's trading. Ecommerce sales were 19.4 per cent higher than the company's previous biggest week. John Lewis also started to see signs of the mobile Christmas it has predicted. Sales through mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers on Black Friday were three times the record previously set on one day's trading.

Furthermore, the statistics out for shopping activity during Cyber Monday indicate that people are still using the in-store visits to inform their shopping decisions before they purchase online. Visa Europe estimated that over £450m was spent online in 7.7m transactions on Cyber Monday, the day in which shoppers have just been paid for November and, having supposedly spent the weekend browsing, they then splash out online - allowing plenty of time for deliveries in time for Christmas.

Consumers are no longer passive recipients of branded communications; they are far more discerning and seek meaningful experiences that truly connect to their daily lives. As more devices become connected, consumers are finding new ways to interact with brands. These channels need to be optimised and used to engage with consumers in the most relevant way. This Christmas and indeed during the January sales consumers are going to want a seamless omnichannel experience that gets them their purchases in the most fuss free but still enjoyable way.

Central to this move is bridging the digital and physical experiences. Argos' boss recently said that the retailer intends to be the "most digital savvy workforce in the country". It has already started a trial in 10 stores giving store staff navigators to help customers in-store. He also said he believed that the store could also become the call centre of the future, adding a local element to customer queries.

This Yule, there are a handful that are making the omnichannel experience a pleasant one. Nordstrom uses mobile POS devices in its stores to enable staff to check out customers anywhere in its stores, and cut the queues down, while the New Balance iPad app is designed to help customers and sales assistants in store, allowing them to access the product catalogue, check stock, and help with sizing issues. House of Fraser has launched a series of House of Fraser.com stores in smaller retail units to support its Buy and Collect service. The stores, similar in concept to John Lewis' 'At Home' outlets, uses touch screens and kiosks to allow customers to order for delivery to shop or home. These stores allow House of Fraser to provide access to its whole product range without the need for the shop floor space of its usual stores. We need to see more of this across the high streets and online.

If retailers don't look to the future with digital embedded across all facets of the organisation then let the lengthy game of playing catch-up begin. And winning may not be an option unless retailers put digital change on Santa's list.