Perusing the Hamley’s top ten toys for Christmas 2015 it appears as if many of the toys might have come from outer space, with artificial intelligence and interactivity absorbed into almost every type of product you could imagine. A case in point is the My Friend Freddy Bear, whose actions can be personalised via the smartphone app. However, brands need to realise it’s not just toys that are rapidly evolving, but also the way people shop is constantly changing as technology and habits evolve.
In terms of Christmas shopping behaviour this year, an important tipping point has been reached. For the first time more UK consumers will shop online than in store this Christmas, with the margin 77% versus 76%, according to our recent Customer Pulse Survey, which looks at Christmas shopping habits. This includes over Black Friday and Cyber Monday where online, and increasingly offline retailers, run price-led promotions.
Yet the survey also suggests that price promotions, driven around the likes of Black Friday, shouldn’t be the main focus for brands, because consumers rate convenience as their highest priority when shopping and cost as their lowest. In other words, this trend is not just about global ecommerce providers undercutting the competition. Instead, what we can infer from this is that shopping online is having a big, positive impact on peoples’ lives. Not only is it helping free up time, allowing consumers to do other things they enjoy, it provides a huge range of choice that can be quickly and efficiently purchased.
It’s why digitally-oriented retailers who recognise the importance of convenience ranked highly amongst consumers in our report, and why specific retailers, such as eBay, that personalise and simplify the whole shopping experience, were ranked as a top three shopping destination for the first time. eBay UK’s Retail Director Rhian Bartlett put a large part of their popularity down to “creating easier, more personalised ways to browse and buy online.”
Mobile continues to grow in importance as a mechanic for brands and retailers to sell their wares, with our survey highlighting that almost 40 per cent of shoppers are set to buy Christmas presents this year via their tablets and phones. Research from IBM gives a higher figure, with around 47 per cent of online sales for Black Friday alone expected to come from mobile devices. Mobile, too, benefits from being a highly convenient way for consumers to purchase and, as a result, brands need to focus increased spend on mobile advertising, and on ensuring their mobile sites are easy to navigate.
And with three-quarters of consumers planning to spend the same or more money this year than last - an average of £725 per family – there’s a huge opportunity for brands to embrace digital and grab some of this budget.
To gain a cut of consumer spend this Christmas season, it’s clear that brands and retailers must ensure they are aligned with the in-control and on-demand consumer who wants convenience, and is just as comfortable buying online or on their mobile devices as they are in-store.
James Brown is UK managing director at the Rubicon Project