Looking back to look ahead - five 2020 resolutions for brands and retailers

Profile picture for user Michael Green By Michael Green January 13, 2020
Summary:
It's time to power 2020 planning with 2019 holiday shopping insights from over half a billion global shoppers, says Salesforce's Michael Green.

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A wise person once said that hindsight is 20/20. In most aspects of our life and business, this statement holds true. But when it comes to predicting future shopping trends, we have a trick up our sleeve: data. Based on the shopping activity of over half a billion shoppers from around the world, and many years of experience analyzing holiday trends, we can predict what consumer trends will dominate the following year.

Undoubtedly, this past shopping season was one for the record books. With six fewer days to attract and convert shoppers, brands and retailers worked hard to drum up early demand and guide shoppers through a quick holiday season. But shoppers operated on their own terms this year. Digital traffic to brands’ and retailers’ sites grew 13% the week before the start of Cyber Week (November 19th - November 25th), almost doubling last year’s growth over the same period.

But they weren’t just browsing, they were buying too.

Digital orders grew 11% year over year. However, the real star of the show was Cyber Week. Cyber Week continued to gain more share of the season’s overall spend, growing 15% globally year-over-year to $143 billion. Yet as the season progressed, consumer behavior changed and digital spend fell 27% year-over-year the week leading up to Christmas. If digital dominated early season headlines, the physical store stole the show in the latter half as shoppers headed to their local stores after missing the shipping cutoff.

So as the National Retail Federation show kicks off today in New York, how can you apply the lessons of 2019 to your 2020 planning? As well as pointing to some top tips, I’ve taken the liberty of beginning your 2020 resolutions lists using our proprietary data-driven insights.

Resolve to be where your shoppers are

Nearly one in 10 online purchases are now made on emerging digital purchase points like voice and social media. We call these emerging digital touchpoints "shopping at the edge." With GenZ-ers 3.5x more likely than Baby Boomers to purchase on emerging digital purchase points, shopping at the edge is poised to become the norm over time.

In 2019, we saw the peak of commerce extending beyond brands’ and retailers’ properties. On peak days during the 2019 holiday shopping season.up to 80% of digital traffic and 65% of digital orders came through a mobile device. In terms of traffic, UK shoppers are on the leading edge of social commerce as over 12% of mobile traffic and 6% of mobile orders in the UK came from a social referring channel.

Today, brands and retailers have far less control over the experiences their shoppers are having. But it’s not just the commerce experience that brands and retailers have to worry about. Every single touchpoint from marketing to service has the potential to happen off your own property. Messages sent to mobile phones grew by 134% during Cyber Week, becoming the fastest growing marketing channel. The message from 2019 was clear: shoppers want to engage on their own terms. In the next decade, it will be critical to take yourself to your shoppers.

Resolve to be physical

While digital clearly dominated the beginning of the shopping season, the latter half of the season was dramatically different. Late season softening in digital revenue growth was likely fueled by shoppers’ need to fulfill orders quickly after the shipping cutoff. The answer? The brick and mortar store. In fact, this holiday season proved that the in-store experience is more relevant than ever. Global brands and retailers offering click and collect (or Buy Online,Pick-up In Store - BOPIS) saw 56% more active shoppers in the last five days leading up to Christmas compared to those with stores not offering the perk. And the benefits didn’t end there, sites offering BOPIS captured 18% more revenue after the retail ground shipping cutoff. While the end of the store has been forecast for years, shoppers are telling us something much different.

Eighty-one percent of shoppers report that they prefer the physical store to make their purchases. So what’s the real story behind the store? Well, the answer lies beyond the products it sells. Shoppers crave experiences. Consumers, even those in younger generations, seek out stores that offer unique experiences. Brands and retailers offering a great in-store experience (or perk, like BOPIS) are reaping the rewards in customer loyalty. Shopping today is no longer transactional, it’s experiential. Getting this wrong has its consequences: 25% of shoppers have taken their business elsewhere as a direct result of a poor in-store experience.

Resolve to be mobile

The 2019 holiday shopping season proved that shoppers are more confident than ever shopping on the small screen. The year 2019 ended with mobile being the number one device driving both digital traffic and orders. To put that into context, at the start of the decade back in 2010, mobile devices were driving virtually no digital activity for brands and retailers. As we head into 2020 one thing is clear, mobile devices are the device of choice for the modern shopper. Peaks, like Christmas Day in the UK, saw up to 82% of digital traffic and a whopping 74% of digital orders come through a mobile device, far above the global averages. A mobile-first world is already here, and shoppers are well ahead of the mobile-curve. A mobile-first strategy is likely already an integral part of your digital strategy. In 2020, find ways to integrate the mobile experience into the physical for a true omni-channel shopping journey.

Resolve to go green

While consumer confidence and retail performance were strong this holiday season, the rising trend on consumer minds is sustainability. More people than ever value their role in preserving the environment. According to our global survey of 10,000 shoppers, 65% of shoppers say that they care more about sustainability than they did a year ago.

What does this mean for retail? The new year will usher in a new era of sustainable retailing. Think innovative and clever recycling like Madewell’s Denim Recycling program in the US, where consumers donate a pair of used jeans (any brand will do) for a $20 credit. Or, thredUP’s charter to reduce the 26 billion pounds of clothing sent to landfills each year by providing a fashion resale marketplace. And, others are focusing on efforts to reduce packaging waste and decrease carbon footprints. Take L’Oreal as an example. This iconic health and beauty brand has committed a core mission of their brand to environmental sustainability. Trailblazers are already leading the way for a more sustainable future. In 2020, shoppers will be paying attention to brands and retailers who get serious about the environment.

Resolve to be nimble

If the last decade taught us anything, it’s that legacy retailing is over. Consumers choose how they are going to engage and they are increasingly on apps, social media, messaging platforms, voice, gaming consoles, and more. They’re not only browsing, but also buying on digital intermediaries. In fact, our research shows that 9% of all digital transactions will take place on these emerging touchpoints in 2020. Social media has empowered niche and digitally native players to gain audience share over some of the largest and well-known brands and retailers that have been mainstays in malls for decades. The democratization of retail over the last 10 years has put shoppers in the driver's seat. Don’t be afraid to experiment and get creative with how you engage your shoppers in the new decade. Think experience over product. Think sustainability over value. And be prepared to push yourself beyond the confines of your four walls.