Smiling female sales associate

The story e-commerce isn't telling

WE Communications Blog: Consumer

— Shelby Berliner 

We’re packing up the seasonal décor, bidding adieu to families and solidifying plans for New Year’s Eve. Yep, the holiday season is coming to a close. This last week of the year prompts many year-end reviews and new year prediction stories — and, of course, the holiday shopping season trend reports and roundups.

MasterCard’s SpendingPulse release turned some heads by announcing U.S. sales grew 7.9 percent during Black Friday through Christmas Eve, giving retailers a reason outside of New Year’s parties to raise a glass. E-commerce in particular was called out as a big winner, which grew around 20 percent in comparison with last year.

These numbers aren’t a huge surprise. As my colleague Elizabeth Herrera Smith wrote in a recent post about rethinking Black Friday, 103 million people shopped online over Thanksgiving weekend alone. MasterCard’s report also highlighted that people are doing more research online prior to purchasing than before — a point which rings true here at WE, as our own research finds that female shoppers pride themselves on the hunt before a purchase (one of many broader skillsets our research identified, such as creativity and patience).

Three women shopping in mall

That said, millions of people are visiting malls this week, whether it be to return a tight-fitting sweater, use a gift card that came in their stocking or pick up the one thing they really wanted but didn’t get for themselves. Each reason gives retailers a chance to make an impression. It could be via a speedy and hassle-free exchange, an atmosphere that still feels calming and beautiful despite the crowds, or a personalized touch that makes that purchase feel extra special.

The point is that while e-commerce is of course growing and taking its due place in the holiday shopping trends, brick and mortar remains key too. Each in-store experience gives retailers the opportunity to strengthen an existing relationship, or convert a new customer entirely.

That physical space shows who a brand is and gives it a chance to heighten the sense of magic we feel during the holidays — it humanizes a brand and helps bring its story to life. Communications can play an impactful role in sharing that story, finding and partnering with the right influencers to relay it, and painting that aspirational picture that inspires people to visit and buy. All of those pieces come together to create an actual and well-rounded experience. When a person really, truly experiences something, they feel a connection to it. And when a retail experience genuinely connects someone to a brand, it inspires them to buy and share — both online and offline. That connection is the sweet spot where retail battles are won and lost.

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