Last year around this time, RetailNet Group looked at a host of new e-commerce strategies that had some traction and could have significant impact on purchase behavior during the holiday season. Some of those strategies, such as behavioral re-targeting, trade-ins, and social promotion permeated throughout retailer strategies. Here is our 2012 watch list of strategies that will be employed by leading retailers we’ll be watching carefully:
1. Same-Day Delivery (Urban Delivery Networks)
There are a number of services popping up that are looking to disrupt the traditional supply chain and change how quickly consumer receive online orders or deliveries from physical stores.
With the recent announcement of eBay Now, select retail partners like Macy’s, Toys “R” Us and Best Buy, offer inventory through the eBay Now app that will be delivered same day. Users can track when exactly the product will be delivered to their home and can pay on the spot using PayPal Here. This service is currently only in San Francisco but we won’t be surprised to see it rolled out to other cities by the end of 2012.
2. Social Gifting
This has been a big year from companies looking to disrupt the social gifting space.
One of the bigger moves for social gifting in 2012 was Facebook’s acquisition of Karma, a mobile gifting service. As the social network closes in on a billion users (hundreds of millions on mobile), an integrated Karma solution will allow users to send gifts to friends through personalized recommendations.
Wrapp is another social gifting service leveraging the power of Facebook’s network. Wrapp allows users to send free or paid gift cards to friends through Facebook, creating a seamless gifting experience on the site. Friends can chip in together to buy a bigger gift card or use Facebook in order to discuss what might be the best card to give.
TheGiftsProject was one service that helped bring social gifting to retailers (eBay was one of the earliest adopters of the service, creating eBay GroupGifts and have since purchased the company). Don’t be surprised to see other retailers roll out similar programs in the coming months.
3. Curated Gifting
Not all gifting is meant to be crowd-sourced across a social network. Others are taking a different approach to filtering the options for the best gift idea: curation.
Wantful, for example, is a curation model of gifting that creates a printed booklet of 16 gifts, based on a short quiz on the taste and style of the person you are shopping for. After receiving the booklet, the recipient gets to choose one of the products, which is then shipped to their home.
4. Couch Commerce
According to eBay and PayPal, more than 8 out of 10 mobile web users will access their phone or tablet while sitting down in front of the TV. This creates an ideal opportunity for retailers to reach their customer base in an idle setting. Last November, eBay launched “Watch with eBay“, a tablet app to search for items to purchase based on your favorite TV shows.
More recently, Microsoft announced a new technology called SmartGlass, which links PCs, select smartphones & tablets (based on operating systems), TVs and a Xbox 360 console for an integrated content consumption experience. Soon users can access additional content (from retailer websites, for example) based on what they are currently watching.
5. Local inventory transparency
For the season’s hottest gifts, early adopters won’t blindly go into a retail store, hoping their product is in stock. Services like Goodzer and eBay’s Local Shopping (Milo) are helping major retailers make their in-store inventory transparent online, saving shoppers time and effort.
It should even be possible to set alerts, so shoppers will be notified when gifts on their lists arrive in-stock. This one will be a tie-breaker this Holiday season. That way they can avoid lines like this one you see to your right.
6. Flexible fulfillment
Some retailers will go one step further and let online shoppers reserve or pre-pay for in-store pick-up. Site-to-store models aren’t new, but fulfilling those orders from in-store inventory is less common. Walmart’s Pick-Up Today is a good example of this. We’ve also seen a recent expansion of Amazon lockers throughout select areas, giving customers more flexibility about when and where to pick up purchases.
Creative options like letting shoppers pick up orders at warehouses and 3rd party locations like FedEx Office may also be adopted by more retailers as another way to leverage existing supply chains to get product to shoppers faster.
7. Targeted Flash Sales
Putting aside the demise of Groupon’s stock price, targeted flash deals have been morphing into various retail-centric strategies that bring more targeted offers to the end consumer. With the recent launch of LivingSocial Shops, retailers can deliver a targeted bundle of goods that fit a particular season or demographic. Select retailers will also aim to launch flash deals around particular items during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other high shopper volume days.
8. Recommendation Engines
As the holiday season approaches and consumers aim to figure out gifts to get family and friends, services like Decide.com allow those consumers to check where and when exactly certain products should be purchases. These types of recommendation engines come in varying levels through independent services and through retailer’s own sites. Amazon derives a portion of their sales (by some estimates 20-30%) through their own recommendation engine. While Amazon’s engine is structured differently from Decides’ (Amazon bases it off click-stream and purchase history while Decide uses algorithms to figure out the best time and best product to purchase), both types of engines allow significant up-sell opportunity especially during the holiday season.
One of @WalmartLab’s initiatives, Shopycat, launched late last year that allows Facebook users to discover appropriate gifts based on friends tastes and interests on Facebook. In the era of big data, services like Shopycat help streamline what’s important in order for customers to make actionable purchase decisions.
9. Mobile Pop Up Stores:
At the very end of 2011, Walmart tested a small pop-up store format (1000 sq. feet & 3000 sq. feet) designed to drive sales through Walmart.com. The product line consisted of toys, electronics, and entertainment products where consumers could test products and find them on Walmart.com after. Groupon has done something similar with their test store in Singapore.
We may see more online pure-players launch seasonal pop-up stores this year, which may follow Bonobos‘ experiential store in Boston.
10. List Management:
It’s not solely about mailing wishlists to the North Pole anymore. Late last year, Amazon created an Amazon Santa app for the Kindle Fire and iPad that allows users to share lists with friends and it’s rumored that Android’s Play Store (Google’s marketplace for downloading apps etc.) will have a wishlist built into it in the near future. Look for other retailers, brands, or third party services to come up with clever wishlist generating applications and services for the holiday season.
As the season progresses, we will cover specific retail strategies around the holiday season.
What do you think will be different this holiday season? Let us know in the comments.