Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thank you all for reading this year! I'll be back in 2010 to bring you more on the latest Gen Y retail trends. Have a wonderful holiday season and a very happy and healthy New Year! :)

Web sales surge during holiday snows

Although foot traffic at U.S. retailers last weekend took a hit due to holiday snowstorms, trapped inside took to the Web. Online retail sales rose 22.4% for the weekend compared with last year, according to a report by the Associated Press, which cited research from Web research firm Coremetrics. On Saturday, sales were up 24.8% alone.

Coremetrics research also found that the average shopper spent and ordered more on Saturday, when the weather's effects were deepest, than Friday. The surge continued on Monday; morning sales were strong as shoppers raced to make purchases so they could be delivered by Christmas.

As a result, online retailers are leveraging the spike. Many have extended the cutoff for standard shipping.

Now, what to make of these stats? This quote sums it up nicely: "This teaches consumers that maybe those of us that procrastinate, we still have time to go online very close to Christmas," John Squire, Coremetrics' chief strategy officer, told AP.

Kodak takes out the shipping anxiety

Sending last-minute reminders to shoppers about shipping deadlines is undeniably smart. But giving them the exact cut-off time to ensure delivery before Christmas is even better. Kudos to Kodak.com for taking the mystery of the equation by spelling out shipping rules clearly and upfront. It will make everyone more merry come Christmas morning.

The season for being social

In our recent December issue, I spoke with Susan A. McKenna, CEO of Winnetka, Calif.-based social-media firm McKenna’s Marketing, about how companies should tap into social-networking sites to lure last-minute holiday shoppers this season. Retailers, listen closely:

“Twitter is the place to be to get the word out about timely promotions,” McKenna said. “Meanwhile, both Twitter and Facebook can be used to offer up exclusive discounts, and hold countdowns and contests.”

Retailers can also use these sites as a vehicle to let consumers know what’s still in stock (and what’s going fast). “Anything that stimulates demand is effective,” said McKenna.

In addition, don’t be afraid to send out more than one tweet to plug a Twitter promotion. “Create some buzz, and get the word out as much as possible,” McKenna added. “Send out between five and eight tweets in a 24-hour period.”

Online retailers: Highlight what’s in stock

Once again, let me gush over Amazon.com for a moment: I love how the company's latest email blast highlights what items are still in stock and readily available to mailed out ASAP.

It's no secret that retailers expected inventory levels to be especially low this year. Since many retailers last year were left with lots of unsold merchandise after the holiday season, companies ordered fewer items this year to fill shelves. News of this spread quickly among shoppers, so be clear and tell them what's still in stock. Then offer guaranteed shipping so they know it will arrive in time.

Amazon's been on my good list all year ...

KISS works at Wal-Mart

Ever wonder what it would be like if the members of KISS worked at your local Wal-Mart? OK, me neither. But how amusing would it be to see them there, stocking the shelves and helping you at checkout? Click the video to watch. KISS is currently selling -- and promoting -- its latest album, "Sonic Boom," exclusively at Wal-Mart.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Target pops up in NYC

Target opened a temporary store in New York City today, attracting dozens of shoppers lined up in the cold for a chance to snag some of the retailer’s most-popular holiday gift items. Despite this morning's freezing temperatures (I mean, freezing), I went downtown to check out the launch.

The pop-up location Target To-Go is creatively set up like an outdoor take-out dining spot, where shoppers peruse items listed on signage resembling a menu at a fast-food restaurant. Customers then order by number and take the items to go. All gifts come already wrapped.

Those waiting in line at Target To-Go -- situated at the intersection of Gansevoort and Washington Streets near the High Line entrance -- received a clipboard with a list of the available 50 items -- ranging from toys and gadgets to home decor, beauty and fashion items.

The list is intended to give shoppers an idea of what to expect when they arrive at the front of the line. The location also features product displays to showcase the items for sale.

The concept is extremely unique and should fare well during its short stint in Manhattan. Target is also opening temporary holiday pop-up shops in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

“This holiday season, we wanted to give our urban markets a little slice of Target,” said Shawn Gensch, VP of marketing for Target. “We’re always trying to reach our guests in new and interesting ways, and Target To-Go gives time-starved city dwellers a convenient and affordable holiday shopping experience.”

The NYC iteration of Target To-Go is open to the public from Dec. 11 to Dec. 13, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

The holidays in a social networking world

I've had a little Twitter bird sitting on top of my cubicle nameplate for well over a year now. I like to think of him as my office mascot and he's certainly a good conversation starter too, especially when people briskly pass by, knock him over and then comment on his adorableness before putting him back on his perch.

Anyway, my cubicle recently underwent a full-on holiday decoration transformation, courtesy of editor-in-chief Marianne Wilson. The revamp is especially fitting these days as I've been spending a good portion of time researching how retailers are adding seasonal spirit to their social networking initiatives. Is your company doing anything specific to stand out this season on sites like Twitter of Facebook? Drop me an email (smurphy@lf.com) and share your story!

Happy Holidays from my office to yours!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Give a good game

Idea of the day: Let the online world replicate the brick-and-mortar experience by creating the same holiday excitement that occurs in stores.

How to do so? Industry experts suggest online retailers offer time-sensitive specials. For example, just as some stores often open its doors at midnight or 5 a.m. during the season, dare your customers to shop online at these odd hours by offering discounts.

Create some hype --- shoppers will surely buy into it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Go ahead and be perky already...

More consumers are buying gift cards online instead of purchasing them in person, according to the Pre-Holiday Online Shopper Gift Card Survey, sponsored by CashStar. And an overwhelming 88% of online shoppers indicated that they would be more likely to purchase a gift card that has an incentive attached, such as sending a $50 gift card and receiving a $10 gift card in return for the shopper itself.

It looks like restaurant chain Houlihan's is paying attention. This promotion landed in my inbox, and I like the way it sounds.

It’s perfect timing too -- it's no secret that gift cards are a top seller in the last 15 days leading up to Christmas, so they should be promoted throughout retail sites by now. Gift cards should also be highlighted in the obvious spots -- such as the home page and product pages -- but don’t overlook less obvious areas either, such as the key shopping cart section, according to Ken Burke, founder and chairman of Petaluma, Calif.-based MarketLive, an e-commerce software and solutions provider.

“The shopping cart page allows shoppers to think about the purchases they want to make before heading to checkout,” Burke recently told me. “Pair the promotion with the catchy verbiage, such as ‘Forget someone on your shopping list? A gift card is an easy solution!’"

Since a gift card is the cheapest thing a company can send, Burke said ship it to shoppers for free. “These perks can be very effective,” Burke added.

So start showing off your best incentives ...

Playing up the Christmas calendar countdown

Amazon.com reigns supreme in the online shopping world, and rightfully so. It plays all the right moves to lure shoppers to its site, especially around the holidays when its free shipping on orders over $25 offer goes an extra long way.

Although not all retailers can afford to offer free - incentives, it's critical that they make shipping a priority.

Here's an easy way how: Since customers don’t want to risk that their purchases might not arrive in time, retailers should take the mystery -- and anxiety -- out of the equation by calling out shipping dates across the site, especially in the days leading up to Dec. 25.

Retailers should also send out dedicated e-mails to remind shoppers how much time is left to make a purchase so it arrives by a certain date. Use language such as “Only 48 hours left!” to create a sense of urgency.

It's simple concepts like this that go a long way.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Free shipping for all procrastinators

How can you not love the idea of a dedicated free shipping day? Now with Cyber Monday long gone, retailers and online consumers alike have December 17th to look forward to. The one-day event offers free shipping to customers with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.

More than 450 retailers have already signed up to participate in "Free Shipping Day," eclipsing last year’s final tally of 250. Participating merchants include Toys R Us, J.C. Penney, Apple Store, Nike, Sears, Babies R Us, Eddie Bauer, PacSun, PetSmart, and Ralph Lauren.

“Numbers show that online shopping dramatically slows after December 10th,” said Luke Knowles, founder of FreeShippingDay.com. “The day encourages people to continue buying items online later into the month of December, and obviously this is appealing for retailers.”

Offering free shipping is always a smart move for retailers, and this is a great way to attract sales from -last-minute shoppers. What a great way to celebrate procrastination!

Manhattan Holiday Window Displays

Speaking of innovative holiday windows popping up throughout Manhattan, I got a little carried away with some research. Click above to see a compilation of the city's most popular displays, along with a voiceover by yours truly.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Great things come in pairs...

... which is precisely why I love Bloomingdales' holiday window series this year. The colorful display embraces a "dynamic duo" theme that features famous couples -- from President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and Batman and Robin to salt and pepper shakers -- all lined up to meet Santa.

Photos courtesy of Rudy Pospisil, anothernormal.com