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Luxury brands grab online holiday shoppers through digital disruptors

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Upscale brands are grabbing the attention of holiday procrastinators.

Three in 10 shoppers are still scrambling to finish holiday shopping, according to the National Retail Federation, and many are jumping online in search of their perfect, albeit “last minute” holiday gifts.

Luxury brands see these harried shoppers as an opportunity to move the needle on holiday revenue, and they are using digital disruptors to ease their pain. For example, Nordstrom launched its first-ever, limited edition chatbot, a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users. Nordstrom’s bot, which is supported by a mobile messaging platform from Snaps, conducts these “conversations” via Facebook Messenger and Kik.

“We know this technology has recently become more widely used, and we were excited to discover a relevant way to integrate it into our offering to help us achieve our goal of delivering great experiences and products to our customers,” Jessica Canfield, spokesperson for Nordstrom told Chain Store Age.

As Nordstrom’s shoppers access the bot through either messaging app, they are asked several questions about who they are shopping for, such as where the recipient spends their weekends, their main interest when eating out, even vacation preferences. Based on their answers, the bot serves up tailored gift ideas.

Chatbot customers can also reach a digital customer care specialist at any time by asking for help or typing in a specific gift request.

“We want to offer our customers a fun, easy and convenient shopping experience this holiday season,” Canfield said. “Chatbot is one way we’re hoping to bring all of these elements together for our customers and help them find the right gift for everyone on their list.”

The service, which went live on Dec. 13, is available until Dec. 24. Following the test, “We’ll listen to our customers’ feedback to determine if there are additional opportunities to apply this technology moving forward,” she added.

Another digital disruptor gaining traction this holiday season is digital gifting options. Nordstrom launched its version of e-gifting through a partnership with CashStar. Shoppers select a gift online and send it, along with a personal message, via email. Recipients select their item size, color and shipping address. They also have the option to swap the gift for a digital gift card.

Neiman Marcus has put its own spin on digital gifting this holiday season through GiftNow, a program supported by Loop Commerce. The luxury brand is using the service as a means of enabling shoppers to choose and give gifts “all the way up to Christmas Day,” Catherine Davis, VP of marketing, Neiman Marcus, told Chain Store Age.

“Online shipping timing has meant that holiday shopping has had to end online two or three days before Christmas,” she added. “We love offering this extended online gifting option as an added service to our customers.”

By choosing the “GiftNow” button on an item’s product page, online shoppers are prompted to select a proposed size and color, if applicable. Then they enter the recipient's email address and enter payment info to complete purchase, and choose delivery date and time.

When the delivery date arrives, an email gift notification and personal note is sent to the recipient. Upon redemption, the recipient is able to choose size, color, and provide shipping address). The recipient can also choose another item if the gift choice is unavailable or not quite what they wanted.

“This is a fun way to give a gift, but also let the recipient choose what they most want — and it feels more personal to some people than a gift card might,” Davis said. “The gift recipient can also send a thank you note back to the gift-giver directly through the service.”

Since adding the GiftNow program, Neiman Marcus has achieved approximately a 90% recipient redemption rate, and a 50% higher average order value compared to generic gift cards.

The chain originally launched the GiftNow service in the spring, she said.

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comScore: Online desktop sales climb one week before Christmas

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

With only days to go in the 2016 holiday shopping season, online desktop spending continues to rise.

For the holiday season-to-date, $55.2 billion has been spent online, marking a 13% increase versus the corresponding days last year. The most recent week, Dec. 12-18, posted a strong 15% growth in online sales, marking $7.6 billion in desktop spending during the last full week before Christmas.

These details were shared by comScore in analysis highlighting U.S. retail e-commerce spending from desktop computers for the first 48 days of the November-December 2016 holiday season.

"This final full week of online holiday shopping before Christmas saw an uptick in desktop spending, finishing off the season on a high note and bringing the season-to-date growth rate to 13%,” said comScore CEO Gian Fulgoni.

Free Shipping Day (Friday, Dec. 16) saw $967 million in desktop spending, closing out a streak of 22 consecutive days reaching a billion dollars in online desktop sales. This also rounded out the season-to-date total to 30 days achieving this milestone, data showed.

“While the corresponding shopping week last year tailed off in the end, due to it falling two days closer to Christmas, this year we saw strong growth through Free Shipping Day, with four billion-dollar spending days and a notable weekend surge as consumers rushed to get their online orders in with enough time to ship their gifts before the holiday,” Fulgoni added. “The heaviest spending days of the season are now behind us, but there is still another $7 billion-to-$8 billion that will be spent over the balance of the year that will once again get us to new all-time highs for desktop e-commerce.”

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Survey: Online spend per gift rises; outerwear most popular gift

BY Marianne Wilson

Consumers are spending more money per gift online this holiday season than last — 49% more to be exact.

That’s according to e-gifting platform and service Loop Commerce, which announced insights into consumer gifting behavior and top gifts purchased between Dec. 10 and Dec. 16, 2016.

While consumers are spending more, the top gifts continue to be apparel, led by outerwear, including fleece sweatshirts and jackets. The data also underscores a growing trend toward more personalized, thoughtful gifts as accessories, like handbags, displaced traditional gifts of the past, such as kitchen appliances, cookware, and even electronics.

Loop Commerce evaluated purchases made through its large network of top retailers including Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Coach, among others.

“This holiday season, we are seeing not only more gifts being purchased on mobile devices and online, but shoppers are buying more expensive and personal gifts than ever before,” said Roy Erez, CEO and co-founder of Loop Commerce. “With last-minute shoppers coming online during these final shopping days before Christmas, we anticipate that these gift givers will continue to purchase personal and thoughtful gifts as retailers can now easily accommodate them through an e-gifting option.”

Significant findings of the survey Include:

• Online spend per gift up 49% over last year: Men are spending roughly 30% more than women on average. From Dec. 10 to Dec. 16, men spent 16% more versus the previous week (Dec. 3 – Dec. 9) and 37% more versus the same period last year. The amount women spent this year also grew – with their average spend per gift up 7% from last week and increasing 53% over last year.

• Outerwear most popular:This year, outdoor apparel continues to dominate top holiday gifts, and represented seven of the top 10 gifts purchased online the second week of December, with fleece jackets and sweatshirts the top gifts of the season so far. According to Loop Commerce, the top three categories for gifts included apparel (56%), accessories (15%) and health and beauty (6%) — a very significant shift compared to the same period last year. In 2015, the top three categories were apparel (30%, home and garden (15%) and health and beauty (13%).

• Mobile device browsing continues to increase:The growing number of retailers that have optimized their mobile sites and applications have drawn more consumers who are comfortable browsing on their phones. Loop again saw significant growth of 35% in mobile and tablet browsing, at the expense of desktop browsing, which decreased 55% over the same period last year.

The majority of online gifting transactions continue to take place on desktop, representing 66% of sales in 2016 versus 70% in 2015. While transactions on desktop decreased 5% year-over-year, transactions on mobile devices grew 12% (handsets and tablets combined).

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