Online shopping booms during the holiday season. Simultaneously, digital-shopping innovations are thriving. Technologies are bringing new convenience to online shopping this holiday season.
Shoppers are prompted to buy online by a mix of push-and-pull factors. A big push factor is the perceived inconvenience of shopping in physical stores over the holiday period. In a February 2015 survey of UK consumers, between 39% and 43% of shoppers identified unhelpful staff, waiting in lines for long durations, shop crowds, expensive prices and poor shopping experience as the top problems of shopping at a physical store.
The pull factors for e-commerce were primarily ease of shopping, low prices and breadth of choice.
Online shopping is viewed as more efficient when shoppers do not wish to turn most of their shopping trips into “experiences”: they simply want to tick items off their list.
In this blog, we look at 6 digital retail tools that are helping to boost e-commerce sales this holiday season:
- Amazon’s Voice Shopping and Dash buttons
In the run-up to its Prime Day shopping event earlier this year, Amazon launched voice-command shopping via its host of AI-powered smart home devices, including Echo. Amazon Prime customers who have an Echo device could shop exclusive deals merely by telling the device, “Alexa, order xyz”, as long as the “xyz” product was part of the e-tailer’s Prime offering.
This year, Amazon kicked off its holiday deals on November 1, and announced that it will run 52 days of Black Friday deals until December 22. Amazon Prime members can use the Echo, Echo Dot, Tap, Fire TV or Fire Tablet to ask, “Alexa, what are your deals?” and gain exclusive access to shop hundreds of these deals on the website.
Amazon’s product-specific Dash Buttons help replenish fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) products once they are depleted. Customers can place orders for cat food, detergent, coffee and a multitude of other products without having to go online each time.
- Mobile Payments and the Apple Pay Thumb Scanner in the New Range of MacBooks
The surge in mobile-payment options and retailers releasing their own mobile-payment apps will give consumers greater choice in completing purchases online. In October 2016, Apple unveiled a new set of MacBook Pros that come with a Touch Bar over the keyboard area. The Touch Bar is enabled with a fingerprint scanner that supports authentication and the tech company’s mobile wallet, Apple Pay.
Customers that shop on Apple Pay-supported retail websites can make payments at checkout simply by scanning their finger, without having to go through the sometimes lengthy security check that banks have in place. This feature could provide a lift in conversion rates, as it reduces some friction in the checkout process. However, as this is not exclusive to a single retailer, it may not help improve one retailer’s proposition against another if they both support Apple Pay.
- Retail Channels on the IFTTT Platform
IFTTT (“If This, Then That”) is a task-management service that is being utilized by Best Buy, Home Depot and, more recently in the UK, Tesco. Shoppers can set up rules to be notified about specific products or add products to their shopping carts automatically.
- Rapid Delivery
Amazon’s Prime same-day or next-day delivery in certain postal codes in the US and the UK, British grocer Sainsbury’s Chop Chop one-hour delivery service in the UK and similar services by other retailers that help the customer receive quick delivery of their products, can help boost online sales.
- Smarter Click and Collect
Smart click-and-collect solutions being offered by retailers provide a further push to the convenience of online shopping, and help make it more efficient. Collection lockers at strategic points such as Amazon’s, convenient collection points facilitated by parcel-collection service Doddle and other such secondary services, and automated pickup kiosks such as those that Walmart is trialing, are becoming more commonplace, as shoppers make the most of the ease that click-and-collect provides over shopping at a store.
- Customer Service Through Chatbots
Many websites and apps tend to have a customer service representative available through a chat pop-up window. Having questions answered instantly through chatbots outdoes having to search for staff at a store to help with a query. Store-specific mobile chatbots, such as Macy’s On Call, which provides an option to page store staff, are reportedly still in development, but many retailers such as H&M and Sephora are interacting with customers through messaging-app Kik.
As such technology develops and new tools emerge to make shopping online increasingly easier, we will see e-commerce continue to gain further share over physical-store retail. In the next section, we catalog some of the leading US and UK retailers and their digital-channel features and holiday retail policies that make holiday shopping with them convenient and efficient.
Other pieces you might find interesting: Merry and Bright Holiday Season for Retailers, DEEP DIVE: Holiday Shopping Themes 2016: the US and the UK, DEEP DIVE: Us Holiday Outlook 2016: Prospects For A Better Season
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