Retailers Revamp Holiday Marketing Strategies

With the holiday season approaching (yes, 29% of gift buyers started their shopping before Halloween this year), it’s an ideal time to explore the latest retail marketing trends. The degree to which these trends will resonate with consumers, or generate sales for marketers is unknown. However, testing performance on a small scale now could reveal larger insights for getting ahead of the competition. Here are the top three holiday retail marketing trends we’re most excited about:

Beacons are small, low-cost, low-energy devices that can be placed anywhere in retail stores (so energy efficient, in fact, they can be powered for up to 2 years). Beacons allow marketers to detect a shopper’s precise location in a store through Bluetooth 4.0 signals, which don’t require tethering. When used indoors, these signals are far more accurate than GPS technology.

Imagine having the capability to target specific shoppers with relevant offers the moment they approach products on a store shelf. It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. In fact, according to eMarketer, more than half of the top 100 retailers are actively working with wireless beacon technology. These marketers understand that more than 90% of retail sales still take place at brick-and-mortar locations, and that 65% of consumers use mobile devices as they shop.

While beacons are becoming more popular with marketers and shoppers alike, they face a major barrier to widespread adoption due to limited exposure through retailer-branded apps. Many retailers have struggled to capture a large share of branded app users. In order to overcome the limited reach, retailers are partnering with shopping apps like SnipSnap, which have a broader customer base.

Visual Search Apps
Visual search apps use image recognition technology to help shoppers locate product information in retail stores. The apps work by identifying products through a smartphone camera. This sidesteps the hassle of having to scan barcodes, look up links, or manually search through store shelves. With shoppers constantly looking for ways to get the most out of their time in a store, visual search initiatives are expected to increase in 2014. Since shoppers have just one extra day to buy gifts this year, compared to the very short 2013 season, efficiency is key.

America’s second largest discount retailer, Target, debuted a visual search app called “In a Snap” this past summer. Shoppers use the app to view product information and access special offers. All they have to do is snap a picture of Target’s product catalogue or in-store signage, and the “In a Snap” app allows shoppers to purchase products on their smartphone, or save them to a favorites list to access later.  

It’s speculated that Target’s “In a Snap” app was developed to compete with the Amazon Fire Phone, which has a visual search feature called “Firefly.” Shoppers who use “Firefly” can scan products with their smartphone camera and retrieve a hyperlink to make a direct purchase on Amazon.com. Firefly allows shoppers to order most retail products, including books, movie posters, music, and more.

Local Inventory Ads
Local inventory ads (LIAs) were introduced by Google in 2013. These ads show a product feed from local retailers on search engine results pages, along with links to brick-and-mortar store locations. Last-minute holiday shoppers who don’t want to pay extra shipping fees for online purchases can use these ads to find local businesses that carry specific products on their shelves.

Retail advertiser information is displayed differently on LIAs, depending on whether the shopper uses a mobile device, or a desktop PC. Shoppers who are smartphone users see a mix of local retailer ads and traditional product listing ads. Meanwhile, shoppers on desktop PCs can choose to see either a retailer’s eCommerce website, or local storefront.

Retailers without real time product feeds risk upsetting customers through LIAs potentially showing out-of-stock products. Syncing up inventory with online advertising is a challenge that many retailers will attempt to overcome in the coming years.

Image courtesy of Inside AdWords.

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