Insights from our 2017 holiday retail survey

By most accounts, the holiday shopping season was an e-commerce success, with final tallies beating analyst estimates. Earlier this month, we asked e-commerce teams about their holiday marketing strategies — planning, budgeting and expectations — and what they did differently this year from last year.

Nearly 100 respondents shared their feedback. The majority (57 percent) of respondents worked in-house, while 43 percent were at agencies. The client/company size represented skewed to the smaller end, with 60 percent of respondents working with companies with annual revenues below $25 million. Nearly 13 percent represented companies with annual revenues over $500 million.

There were several interesting findings from the survey. Here are some of the highlights from the final results.

Holiday budgets rose across most platforms

Overall, search and social budgets increased this holiday season over the previous year, with 70 percent of respondents saying they increased budgets on both channels. Display retargeting budgets for more than half of respondents (56 percent) also increased year over year. Sixty-five percent used dynamic retargeting ads this holiday season.

More than three-quarters of respondents said Google budgets rose year over year, with 25 percent saying Google budgets rose by more than 50 percent. Nearly 40 percent increased Bing budgets this holiday season, and 66 percent boosted Facebook ad budgets year over year.

Source: Search Engine Land 2017 Holiday Retail Survey

Pinterest advertising remains hard to scale, and that’s reflected here. Just 8 percent of respondents increased their Pinterest ad budgets over last year’s this season, and half aren’t using the platform at all.

Amazon has been rapidly increasing its ad offerings for sellers on the platform. Among respondents, 36.5 percent are selling on Amazon, and of those, 34 percent increased their ad budgets this holiday season.

Holiday planning is primarily a fall sport, but many plan year-round

When it comes to planning holiday marketing strategies, September was the most popular month to get cracking, with nearly 18 percent of respondents starting then. Just over 12 percent of respondents said they plan year-round. Just as many said they don’t have time to plan (this gives me anxiety) as those who said they start planning in August.

Source: Search Engine Land 2017 Holiday Retail Survey

For 56 percent of respondents, planning started at the same time it did the year before, while 20 percent started planning earlier.

These and many more findings from the survey — challenges, tactical changes and consumer behavior changes, to name a few — were the basis of a lively discussion packed with jewels of insights for retailers in a webinar with Brad Geddes of Adalysis, Elizabeth Marsten of CommerceHub and Aaron Levy of Elite SEM. You can find the webinar, Holiday Retail Search Strategies 2017: What worked, what didn’t, on demand (registration required).

Agile Retail Brings Tech and Fashion Together

Agile Retail Brings Tech and Fashion Together

How do you make a better fashion company? CEO Roman Kirsch would tell you to build a tech company that does fashion.

Speaking in broad strokes, there do not seem to be two mainstream industries quite as at odds with each other as tech and fashion, and yet the hybrid of the two is proving to be a powerful union. It is no coincidence that Lesara, Kirsch’s agile retail company, just won the award for Europe’s fastest growing tech company by TECH5.

The company is tech and the product is fashion.

This model isn’t just winning over consumers. It is starting to cause ripples at the highest levels of the fashion industry.

How Traditional Fashion Retailers Operate

A traditional fashion retailer operates on an archaic business model. They employ a team of designers who rely on their own expertise and taste to create styles, which are then produced in bulk a few times a year. First, the summer collection is produced, then the winter collection a few months later, and so on. Those clothes are then sold in thousands of stores around the globe.

But that model runs into several problems. Here’s a few:

  • Overproduction
  • Producing unpopular styles
  • Large overhead costs
  • Slow response to consumer trends
  • Higher prices.

Of course, one of the biggest issues is that many consumers are favoring eCommerce more than shopping malls. Buying clothes online has become much more convenient.

The biggest shopping weekend of the year, which begins with Black Friday and ends with Cyber Monday during the final weekend of November, highlights this trend. In 2015, consumers spent 10 percent less at retail outlets than one year prior, but on Cyber Monday national sales increased 16 percent to a whopping $3.07 billion.

The Agile Retail Approach

The reason agile retail companies are gaining success is because they employ a direct-to-consumer model, which caters to what consumers are gravitating towards. This approach also saves incredible amounts of overhead. Kirsch says part of the reason this new brand of tech fashion company is called agile retail is because of the way it manages its production and distribution in its direct-to-consumer model.

“Traditional retail stores can take as long as six to nine months from when they have an idea for a style until it is on the shelves. Because of the way we are designed, it can take us less than ten days to identify a style, have it designed, produced, advertised in our online store, purchased, and shipped to the doorstep of the shopper. That is what makes us agile: we are able to keep up with trends on a week-to-week basis.”

And keeping up with trends looks drastically different in agile retail than it does in traditional retail. Kirsch has publicly touted the absence of teams of fashion experts at Lesara that would normally attend fashion shows and come up with style concepts. Instead, the designers at Lesara leverage the power of smart data to identify trends, assess demand, and produce in appropriate quantities.

This scientific method for determining consumer interests is an advantage for two reasons. First, it means Lesara is able to produce exactly what consumers are looking for without having to do a ton of guesswork. They can accurately pinpoint which styles consumers are gravitating towards. As a result, fewer mistakes are made when trying to figure out what people want to wear.

Secondly, it allows the company to run with futuristic efficiency. Overproducing certain styles has allowed bargain retail outlets like Ross and Marshalls to run highly successful, multi-billion dollar businesses. And all they are selling are items that have been overproduced or that weren’t popular enough to sell. With smart data, Lesara makes what people want in the right quantities.

Lesara is based in Berlin and has expanded its reach to most of Europe. While they have not yet announced when they will launch in the U.S., we can be sure that eventually, American consumers will be able to benefit from Lesara’s unique approach.

Shopper Photo via Shutterstock


6 Creative Retail Ideas to Boost Customer Experience

boost customer experience

The face of retail is changing. With constantly increasing competition from eCommerce websites and shoppers able to buy from their mobile devices any time they want, it’s become more and more challenging simply to get customers into your store – not to mention keeping them there.

With that in mind, below are some ideas and ways you can attract more customers and boost your retail sales.

How to Boost Customer Experience and Sales

Open a Store Within a Store

I recently visited a coffeehouse that devoted part of its space to a small bookstore, owned by a separate entrepreneur. The same tactic can work for many types of retail products.

For example, the owner of a women’s clothing boutique could rent some space to a jewelry designer. Renting space provides you with some steady income, while the additional product line can draw different customers who may shop at your store as well.

Sell Food or Beverages

This area can be a little tricky, because depending on what you sell, you may not want the potential disaster of food and drink spilling on your wares.

However, if you plan carefully and choose to sell foods with minimum mess potential, refreshments can be a way to keep shoppers in your store longer. For instance, if you own a children’s toy store, a coffee cart to keep the parents’ spirits up while kids play could be a great idea.

Set Up a Vending Machine

Search online and you’ll find many services that provide vending machines to be installed in local businesses. Vending machines don’t just sell candy anymore. These days, you can find vending machines that sell everything from cosmetics to consumer electronics.

Look for a product that’s complementary to yours. Place the vending machine where it can be seen from your store window to draw in curious customers.

Offer In-Store Charging Stations

Keep customers in your store longer by providing free charging stations for their mobile devices. This is also a great way to prevent impatient companions (men) from dragging shoppers out of the store. If Steve discovers he can charge his phone while Sue browses, he’s likely to be much more patient.

Provide Entertainment

Poetry readings, book signings, puppet shows or musical performances by local bands or singers – depending on what you sell and who your target customer is, there are many types of entertainment you can provide.

Hosting entertainment is also a good way to get publicity in local publications or on community websites that might not normally write about a retail store. Promote a weekly entertainment event, and you could find a whole new audience of shoppers.

Try a Pop-up Shop

Opening a temporary, secondary space for a limited time is a great way to test new markets. If you’re considering opening a second location in a nearby town, you can test the waters with a pop-up shop to see if consumers in that area like what you’re selling before committing to renting a full-on retail store.

Pop-up shops also enable you to take advantage of seasonal marketing opportunities, test new product lines and benefit from the excitement of a limited-time concept. Pop-up shops can be set up in empty retail spaces. But you can also use the pop-up concept in a slightly different way by opening a kiosk or cart in a local mall, shopping center or busy Main Street retail zone. Make sure your pop-up shop succeeds by staffing it with an experienced and trusted employee.

What creative retail ideas have you tried in your store to attract more customers and boost customer experience?

Coffee Image via Shutterstock


Government Relaxes FDI Norms for Single Brand Retail, E-Commerce for Food Products

Government Relaxes FDI Norms for Single Brand Retail, E-Commerce for Food Products


  • The government has relaxed the local sourcing norms up to three years.
  • It’s for entities undertaking Single Brand Retail Trading in India.
  • It is likely to ease Apple stores opening in the country.

Government on Monday relaxed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms in a host of sectors including civil aviation, single-brand retail, defence, e-commerce, and pharma by permitting more investments under automatic route.

Other sectors in which FDI norms have been relaxed include e-commerce in food products, broadcasting carriage services, private security agencies and animal husbandry.

“Now most of the sectors would be under automatic approval route, except a small negative list. With these changes, India is now the most open economy in the world for FDI,” said an official statement.

The decision to further liberalise FDI regime with the objective of “providing major impetus to employment and job creation in India” was taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

This is the second major reform in the FDI space. The Centre in last November had significantly relaxed the foreign investment regime.

In the tech sector, perhaps the most important announcement was relaxation of the FDI norms for single brand retail, in context of the planned entry into the India’s retail space by Apple, LeEco, andXiaomi.

(Also see:  Government Panel Nod Paves the Way for Apple Retail Stores in India)

In its statement, the government said, “It has now been decided to relax local sourcing norms up to three years and a relaxed sourcing regime for another five years for entities undertaking Single Brand Retail Trading of products having ‘state-of-art’ and ‘cutting edge’ technology. ”

As for e-commerce in food products, the government’s statement said, “It has now been decided to permit 100% FDI under government approval route for trading, including through e-commerce, in respect of food products manufactured or produced in India.”

Tags: Apple Store India, Apple Stores, Apps, DIPP, FDi, FIPB, Home Entertainment, Internet, Laptops, LeEco,LeEco Stores, Make in India, Mobiles, Narendra Modi, PC, Single Brand Retail Stores, Stores, Tablets, Wearables, Xiaomi