Thursday, September 26, 2013 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||5 Ways Retailers Are Trying to Snag Holiday Shopping Dollars Extra Early This Year
Most people like Thanksgiving to have passed before setting up Christmas decorations and jumping into winter holiday mode.
For marketers, however, it's now become standard to embrace the winter holiday mentality long before Thanksgiving -- in fact, before Halloween even.
According to a new survey from Experian Marketing Services, 49% of marketers said that they will launch holiday campaigns before October 31. "Retailers have been extending the shopping seasons with promotions, post-recession, so it's not surprising to see that nearly half of all marketers stated they would launch a holiday campaign before Halloween," Experian general manager of global research Bill Tancer explained in a statement.
By some account, though, the latest efforts among retailers and marketers to extend the shopping season stand out even from prior years, when consumers have been subjected to Santa Claus and snowman displays around Labor Day. A recent study from ShopperTrak forecast that holiday spending will rise a mere 2.4% during the 2013 season, and explained that, beyond the usual "Christmas creep," there are legitimate reasons why retailers are feeling extra pressure to woo shoppers early:
Retailers have a reduced window of time to capture peak holiday spending as only 25 days lie between Black Friday (Nov. 29) and Christmas this year, compared to 32 days in 2012. Typically, weekends are busy times for customers to visit stores and, unlike last year, consumers have only four (not five) full weekends to shop.
What's more, for 2013, Hanukkah starts 11 days earlier than it did a year earlier. "Nobody can afford to procrastinate," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said via press release. "Retailers must have their holiday marketing and operations ready to go when November begins, as consumers will be ready to take advantage of those deals."
And what kinds of deals and promotions are being used as magnets to draw in shoppers even earlier than usual? Here's a selection:
For years, layaway was written off by the vast majority of retailers as unnecessary for shoppers and a costly waste of administrative resources. But last year, layaway became a major shopping battleground among competitors such as Kmart, Walmart, and Toys R Us, with retailers one-upping each other by eliminating fees and otherwise making layaway program terms more enticing.
For the 2013 season, layaway is again being embraced by retailers -- specifically, as a means to snag shopper dollars super early. The subject of Kmart's earliest-ever holiday commercial, first shown on TV during the same week some kids started school, was the terms of the special, no-fee layaway program it introduced in early September. After receiving grief from some consumers annoyed by the extraordinarily early appearance of holiday promotions, Kmart released a statement attempting to justify Christmas promotions during barbecue season:
"Kmart is offering no service fees for new layaway purchases online or in-store between Sept. 8 and Nov. 23. Kmart offers both eight and 12 week layaway contracts, so our Shop Your Way members and customers can plan in advance in order to take advantage of layaway for holiday purchases. The advertising schedule is a reflection of this longer lead time."
Meanwhile, Walmart announced its layaway program in late August, with no opening fees for goods put on layaway starting September 13.
"Hot Toy" Lists -- and Deals
To help out confused gift-givers -- and boost sales -- retailers have traditionally released lists of the toys that are most likely to put smiles on kids' faces during the holiday season. At least that's the theory.
Considering how early "hot" toy lists are published, and how unpredictable and quickly shifting kids' preferences can be, it's easy to imagine a gift that's deemed hot in September would seem like a dud under the tree on Christmas.
Nonetheless, the proliferation of hot toy lists from Toys R Us and others continues. This year, the early season toy promotions from Toys R Us include an extended return policy and cash back rewards for gift purchases made by October 31.
A year ago, Target and Best Buy launched guarantees to match the online prices of competitors -- including Amazon -- through the winter holiday shopping period. Both companies have since made price-matching policies permanent, and they were joined by Toys R Us recently.
While retailers hope that such policies convince shoppers that it's safe to purchase without worrying that better prices will pop up elsewhere, the fine print typically stipulates that the customer must show proof of a lower price within seven days of the original purchase. In other words, if you purchase a holiday gift in September and it goes on sale in early November, you probably can't expect the original retailer to match the discounted price.
Brick-and-mortar stores have an obvious leg up on web-only retailers thanks to their physical locations, which provide shoppers a setting to inspect merchandise in person -- and an outlet for buying stuff quickly, without the need to wait even for a day or two for shipping.
For many shoppers, the buy-online, pickup-in-store option combines the best of both worlds, meshing the speed and efficiency of online shopping with the ability to have items in hand within hours of ordering them on the web.
Stores have been ramping up pickup options for years, and this year some retailers are kicking efforts into a higher gear. Toys R Us has begun promising that online purchases will be ready for pickup in less than one hour, compared to three hours in the past. Target, which relies on impulse purchases made by browsing shoppers more so than some of its competitors, has been late to embrace the buy-online, pickup-in-store option. But as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported, Target is in the process of making the option available at all of its 1,800 U.S. stores by Black Friday.
Actually Offering Web Shopping
Online shopping hardly seems like an innovative retail strategy. But for discount retailers like T.J. Maxx and H&M, which specialize in smaller quantities of off-price goods and/or "fast fashion" items that come and go quickly, selling via the web is pretty complicated.
Nonetheless, because online sales have been deemed so important, both retailers recently launched e-retail channels, which they hope will hit their strides by the time peak holiday shopping kicks in.
"With the holiday season coming, this is about as late as they could launch and not risk the site 'falling over' as a result of heavy traffic," Paula Rosenblum, managing partner of research and advisory firm Retail Systems Research LLC, said to InternetRetailer.com of T.J. Maxx's entrance into online sales. "Launching now gives them some time between back-to-school and the holiday season to shake out the bugs."
(Source: Time, 09/24/13)
||The Knot's 2013 Bridal Survey Focuses on the Jewelry-Buying Process
This year, The Knot fielded its third annual Engagement & Jewelry Study, canvasing 14,000 brides and 1,750 grooms on The Knot Wedding Network to assess their thoughts on the bridal jewelry buying process, from how they conducted research to choosing gifts for their wedding party.
Here are the highlights, broken down into four distinct categories focused on the research, the retailer, the engagement ring, and after the engagement.
- 9 of 10 brides have smartphones, 59% have an iPhone, and 31% are Android users. And more than half have tablets.
- Brides are more comfortable shopping with their fiancé: 83% say they are very/somewhat comfortable looking at different ring styles when visiting retailers with their fiancé (compared with 74% who visit without).
- 20% use mobile devices to give ring ideas/hints to fiancés.
- Grooms are more comfortable evaluating, discussing, and shopping for diamonds than brides (59% versus 42%).
- 63% of brides use their mobile devices to visit wedding planning sites or to look for rings.
- Before the engagement, the groom researches for roughly 4.4 months; he visits about 4 retailers and sees an average of 24 rings.
The Engagement Ring
- 42% buy the ring at a local or independent jewelry retailer.
- 9% buy from an online retailer.
- The top three national chains are Kay Jewelers (27%), Zales (20%), and Jared (13%).
- The top three websites are Blue Nile (21%), Amazon (7%), and eBay (5%).
- About 3 in 10 who didn't buy online (27%) considered buying at least part of the ring online.
- 69% who didn't buy online wanted to see the ring/stone in person; 35% were concerned about customer service if something went wrong; 33% felt they needed more personal attention.
After the Engagement
- 85% of rings are purchased new; 11% are heirloom; 4% are vintage.
- 61% of rings feature colorless diamond centers with side stones/accents; 23% feature a colorless diamond solitaire. Only 5% of grooms receive a man-gagement ring.
- 1.6 carats: average total weight of all stones in ring.
- White gold represents 72% of the engagement ring market, followed by platinum (15%) and yellow gold (6%).
- More than 4 in 10 (42%) customize the ring: 27% took an existing ring style/design and made custom changes, while 15% completely custom-designed it.
- The top four design elements are: prong setting (32%), halo/shared prong setting (16%), pavé setting/diamonds (15%), and channel setting/diamonds (10%) -- but nearly one-third of brides are not familiar with these terms.
- 1.1 carats: size of average center stone.
- The most popular stone shapes: round (55%), princess (28%), cushion (5%), and Asscher (3%).
(Source: Jewelers' Circular Keystone Online, 09/06/13)
- 45% of grooms say they would "definitely" return to the retailer in the future, compared with 30% of brides.
- The average cost of a groom's band rose from $491 in 2011 to $558 in 2013.
- Grooms prefer tungsten/tungsten carbide (32%), white gold (27%), and titanium (15%).
- Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) decided on wedding bands together; 15% say they each made their own selections; 11% let their partners pick; 5% of brides chose the bands for both of them.
- More than half (55%) purchased their wedding bands from the same jeweler who sold them the engagement ring.
- For brides, the top design element for a band is diamonds (55%); grooms, meanwhile, prefer a comfort fit (27%), followed by a satin/brush finish (22%).
- A bride's top three metal choices for the band are white gold (70%), platinum (13%), and yellow gold (7%).
- About one-third (35%) of couples buy their bands at separate retailers.
- The average cost of a bride's band rose from $1,126 in 2011 to $1,369 in 2013.
- Only 50% of the brides have heard from their retailer since the ring purchase.
||Study Shows That Appliance Retailers Need to Provide an Outstanding End-to-End Experience
Appliance retailers need more than just a large selection of appliances or the best prices to satisfy their customers, according to the J.D. Power 2013 Appliance Retailer Satisfaction Study.
The study, now in its sixth year, measures customer satisfaction with the largest appliance retailers based on performance in six factors: sales staff and service; store facility; merchandise; price; delivery service; and installation service.
The study finds that in a very competitive market, appliance retailers not only need to price match and carry a wide variety of appliance brands and models.
"They also must differentiate themselves through their staff greeting and assisting customers quickly; helping them find the right appliance for their needs, and ensuring the appliance is delivered on time, in good condition and is installed properly," said Christina Cooley, director of the home improvement practice at J.D. Power.
First impressions of the sales staff are lasting impressions, and they begin when customers walk through the retailer's door. Slightly more than three-fourths (76%) of customers indicate that they were greeted promptly when entering the store. This is supported by the ongoing Appliance Mystery Shopping Program that J.D. Power conducts at the same retailers included in the study, in which staff across all retailers greeted appliance shoppers in less than two minutes, on average, as they entered the store.
Once salespersons make contact with a customer, it is important that they assess the customer's needs by asking specific questions in order to narrow their recommendations down to a specific product. On average, 85 percent of customers indicate that the sales staff listened carefully to their questions or concerns. The Mystery Shopping Program's second quarter findings show that the needs assessment process is usually conducted through an average of six questions.
The study finds that 42 percent of customers who purchased a new appliance did so because their previous appliance was broken or defective, while 32 percent purchased because they wanted to upgrade their existing appliances or remodel their kitchen. An additional 20 percent of customers purchased a new appliance because they moved to a new home.
A challenge for retailers is to carry a wide enough variety of appliance models in stock that will best meet all of their customers' specific needs. Findings from the study show that customers' desired appliance was available 62 percent of the time, 21 percent had to be ordered and delivered from another store, and 7 percent of the time were available only online.
The delivery process is yet another opportunity to delight customers. Delivering an appliance on time is an important factor in driving satisfaction. Overall, 83 percent of customers indicate that the retailer delivered their appliance as promised. Also critically important to customers is ensuring the right appliance is delivered as ordered -- met 85 percent of the time -- and that the appliance isn't damaged, with 91 percent of appliances delivered damage free.
Overall satisfaction with appliance retailers averages 789 on a 1,000-point scale in 2013, with the gap between the highest and lowest scores only 21 points, down from a gap of 38 points in 2012. While there is a statistically significant difference in the overall score between the highest- and lowest-ranked retailers, there is not a significant difference between the highest-performing retailer's score and the industry average or between the lowest-performing retailer's score and the industry average.
"This really highlights the competitiveness and opportunities that retailers have in differentiating themselves among appliance shoppers," said Cooley.
Lowe's ranks highest in satisfying appliance retail customers for a fourth consecutive year, with an overall score of 800. Lowe's performs particularly well in the store facility, merchandise, price, delivery service and installation service factors.
Following Lowe's in the rankings are Sears (792), which performs well in sales staff and service and shares the highest score in merchandise with Lowe's, and The Home Depot (790).
(Source: J.D. Power and Associates, 09/07/13)
Daily Sales Tip: Disagreeing and Diffusing
You can get away with disagreeing with prospects as long as you show them the respect of really listening to what they have to say. Take into account when and if it makes sense to disagree.
You can diffuse an angry prospect by starting your answer to a question with the phrase, "You're making a legitimate point," or "I hear what you're saying," and really mean it.
Never underestimate how much prospects want to feel that they have been heard, and once you have given them that chance they will hear you.
Source: Adapted from Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success by Colleen Stanley, president of Sales Leadership, Inc.