In Markets

Expert Opinion: Kick-start your holiday readiness planning now

As we enter the fourth quarter of 2015, the shopping season will be in full bloom once again. Though Hong Kong is known as a "shopping paradise", one cannot deny that the crowded streets have implicated Hong Kong people’s intention to shop at the brick and mortar stores.

The reality is not as gloomy for retailers though. According to Euromonitor International, the sales value of internet retailing (excluding tax) in Asia is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2014 to 2019, reaching USD 646 billion by 2019. An Akamai report on online holiday shopping trends and traffic also revealed that during holiday seasons, consumers browse online more often, search for deals earlier, and use mobile devices more frequently. So what does it mean for retailers? It’s time to prepare for a busy holiday season. Here are four trends retailers need to consider when planning for the holidays:

1. Consumer confidence is rising

Consumers are increasingly willing to shop. The Chinese Consumer Confidence Index compiled by five universities has overall consumer confidence in Hong Kong rising to 85.3, the highest level since the launch of the survey in 2009. Hongkongers’ confidence toward economic development, employment and investment also improved during the second quarter of 2015. All signs are pointing to a strong holiday selling period.

2. Mobile’s shopping impact increasing

According to Goldman Sachs, mobile commerce will contribute 33 percent of all digital commerce sales this year (and a staggering 49 percent by 2018). Equally impressive is the fact that digital interactions will influence over half of all retail sales in 2015, according to Forrester.

In Hong Kong, it is estimated that mobile commerce will contribute around HKD17.8 billion by 2015. As one of the top 10 countries/regions for the highest average mobile speeds at 6.5Mbps, according to Akamai’s Q1 2015 State of the Internet report, Hong Kong has provided an ideal network and environment for retailers to take full advantage of the mobile commerce trend to grow their businesses.

In short, you need to make sure your mobile experience delivers on any device, anywhere – whether it’s delivered via responsive design or an app.

3. Content needs to differentiate

Customers want interesting, fun, and unique content that provides information about products but also, increasingly, that entertains or brings value in other ways. Successful retailers are able to create content and find ways to deliver it in interesting ways to build stronger customer relationships. Whether it’s a custom video featuring a celebrity or a "what’s trending" blog series, content that is engaging, distinctive and branded will help retailers standout in a selling season traditionally defined by price, not quality or loyalty. Technology can help with this, as can a content-focused team, such as the team deployed by Marriott – Inside Marriott’s Thriving 65-Person Content Studio. Either way, the message is clear – content is king.

4. Stores still matter, especially if they’re digitally connected

For most verticals, brick and mortar stores still matter because customers like to see and touch a product. Whether you call it omni-channel, cross-channel, customer-centric or anything else, the key is to create a consistent customer experience regardless of how or where a customer engages with you – desktop, mobile, tablet, or in-store mobile kiosk. Ensure they (and your associates) have access to any and all content to help them make a satisfying decision, and conclude the purchase as quickly, seamlessly, and simply as possible.

Some innovative retailers are going beyond the basics and providing truly immersive experiences. For example, a regional online fashion store has launched a pop-up store recently in Hong Kong, allowing customers to feel, touch and try on the clothes in-store, and then buy online with the devices available, enhancing the overall shopping experience, while being able to collect their preference data for further strategy planning.

With all that said, positive user experience is the key to success. When 50 percent of consumers experienced problems accessing websites during peak traffic, retailers should pay more attention to the web performance and scalability of their websites on any device, anywhere, especially when the next holiday season is just around the corner. After all, unhappy shoppers abandon websites, and they won’t return.

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