Holiday Retail Kickoff

Holiday retail
Rockettes kickoff Saks' flagship window display
Courtesy photo

Web shopping will be huge for the holiday season again this year — and both brick-and-mortar and online retailers are stepping up their omni-channel connections to capture consumer dollars during the peak shopping weeks, from elaborate in-store technology initiatives to new features online.

Zappos Inc. made a foray into brick and mortar with a holiday popup shop in downtown Las Vegas. The store features several sections highlighting apparel, accessories and footwear, which can be purchased by mobile phone. Instead of grabbing a shopping bag, customers scan a product with their phone to add it to a digital shopping cart. The store keeps very limited inventory but offers free overnight shipping to shoppers if the product isn’t on site.

“The key thing with the store is about discovering new product that Zappos has [that customers might not know about],” said Jonathan Jenkins, CEO of retail technology company Order with Me, which partnered with Zappos on the store. “Holiday is the biggest time for retailers, and it’s not just about new product but also new ways to shop. It was a great time for us to launch this project.”

The store also allows browsers to add to their digital wish lists and share the lists on social media with friends and family.

This in-store and online synchronization has become an increasingly important part of providing a complete shopping experience for customers. About 67 percent of holiday shoppers head to stores armed with mobile phones, ready to find products, reviews and browse online, according to Deloitte’s holiday survey.

As shopping become increasingly digital, other stores are amping up tech, too.
Indianapolis-based The Finish Line debuted a newly redesigned concept shop in Orlando on Nov. 21, in time for Black Friday. The store has more integrated mobile and technology touch points, including sales associates who have mobile registers with them on the floor to help clients check out, and to process some orders through the distribution center directly.

In addition to the heightened in-store technology in Orlando, the company introduced its own app, Winner’s Circle, this fall.

For the holidays, the app features shopper-selected wish lists and a Finish Line Gift Guide, which the store created in collaboration with several tastemakers.

“We are constantly evolving our customer experience to ensure that it’s relevant to the customer no matter which channel they choose to engage with our brand,” said Danielle Quatrochi, VP of digital for the retailer.

Finish Line also partnered with Google to deliver local ads to consumers searching for product that Finish Line carries.

“Once the customer searches for that product online, we serve them a local Finish Line store ad with directions and information letting them know if it’s in stock,” Quatrochi said.

Nordstrom Inc. is using social media to highlight specific Black Friday products and discounts and also is encouraging local store engagement by rewarding customers who like their area stores on social media.

Independent retailers generally still rely more on traditional advertising — ads in local newspapers and direct mail, for example — but they, too, are stepping up their digital efforts.

Indianapolis-based Athletic Annex Running Centre recently held a contest on its web page inviting customers to submit photos of themselves in their favorite winter running outfit.

“Not only did this create a favorable response, but it was fun for everyone to see the different images that were submitted, and it emphasized the importance of appropriate gear for winter running,” said Thom Burleson, co-owner of the store.

No matter what type of promotions they’re doing, retailers are closely monitoring weather patterns. Cold weather has hit many parts of the country earlier than usual, driving demand for boots.

Both brick-and-mortar and online retailers are stepping up their 
omnichannel initiatives to capture consumer dollars during the peak holiday shopping weeks, from elaborate in-store technology to new features online.

Zappos.com made a foray into brick-and-mortar with a holiday pop-up shop in downtown Las Vegas. The store features 16 sections highlighting apparel, accessories and footwear, which can be purchased by mobile phone or scanned at one of the in-store kiosks.

Instead of grabbing a shopping bag, customers scan a product with their phone to add it to a digital shopping cart. The store keeps limited inventory but offers free overnight shipping to shoppers if the product isn’t on-site.

“The key thing with the store is discovering new product that Zappos has [that customers might not know about],” said Jonathan Jenkins, founder and CEO of retail technology company Order With Me, which partnered with Zappos on the store. “Holiday is the biggest time for retailers, and it’s not just about new product but also new ways to shop. It was a great time for us to launch this project.”

The store also allows browsers to add to their digital wish lists and share the lists on social media with friends and family.

This in-store and online synchronization has become an increasingly important part of providing a complete shopping experience for customers. About 67 percent of holiday shoppers head to stores armed with mobile phones, ready to find products, reviews and browse online, according to a survey from Deloitte.

As shopping becomes increasingly digital, other stores are amping up tech, too.

Indianapolis-based Finish Line debuted a redesigned concept shop in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 21, in time for this past Black Friday. The store has more integrated mobile and technology touch points, including sales associates who have mobile registers with them on the floor to help clients check out. In addition to the heightened in-store technology in Orlando, the company introduced its own app, Winner’s Circle, this fall.

For the holidays, the app features shopper-selected wish lists and a Finish Line Gift Guide, which the store created in collaboration with several tastemakers.

“We are constantly evolving our customer experience to ensure that it’s relevant to the customer no matter which channel they choose to engage with our brand,” said Danielle Quatrochi, VP of digital for the retailer. Finish Line also partnered with Google to deliver local ads to consumers searching for product that the chain carries.

“Once the customer searches for that product online, we serve them a local Finish Line store ad with directions and information letting them know if it’s in stock,” Quatrochi said.

Nordstrom Inc. used social media to highlight specific Black Friday products and discounts and is also encouraging local store engagement by rewarding customers who “like” their area stores on social media.

Saks Fifth Avenue is combining online and in-store engagement by offering an uber-luxury gift guide supported by more accessible gift suggestions online.

Independent retailers generally still rely more on traditional advertising — ads in local newspapers and direct mail, for example — but they, too, are stepping up their digital efforts.

Indianapolis-based Athletic Annex Running Centre recently held a contest on its website inviting customers to submit photos of themselves in their favorite winter running outfit.

“Not only did this create a favorable response, but it was fun for everyone to see the different images that were submitted, and it emphasized the importance of appropriate gear for winter running,” said Thom Burleson, co-owner of the store.

No matter what type of promotions they’re doing, retailers are closely monitoring weather patterns. Frigid temperatures have hit many parts of the country earlier this year, driving demand.

“It’s gotten colder sooner than usual, and our winter boots have been flying out the door,” said Jody Figura, co-owner of Tria Boutique in Deerfield, Ill. She cited Aquatalia, Penelope Chilvers and Australia Luxe Collective as major sellers. “Anything that’s waterproof has been selling like crazy.”

Gary Weiner, president and owner of Saxon Shoes in Richmond, Va., said that while the warmer September and October impacted 
demand, the store has seen a pickup in booties and put people in gift-giving mode as well. “When it’s cold, you think of the holidays,” he said.

Weiner added that Hunter, Frye and Ugg are all experiencing sales increases amid colder conditions.