TECHNOLOGY

’Tis the season for digital shopping

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Consumers will be increasingly powering up their computers, mobile devices and virtual assistants this holiday season.

This was according to data from Citi Retail Services (CRS) that revealed that while nearly three-fourths (73%) plan on visiting a brick-and-mortar store to purchase holiday gifts, 57% also plan on turning to their computer to shop. This is followed by 42% of customers who will shop through their mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, and 13% who will be turning to their virtual assistant, such as Alexa or Siri, to facilitate their holiday shopping needs.

Millennials and Gen Xers are at the forefront of this shift, with 60% of Millennials and 53% of Gen Xers planning to use their laptops or computer for their holiday shopping this year. Fifty-five percent of Millennials plan on using a mobile device, followed by 48% of Gen Xers. When it comes to voice assistants however, Gen Xers take the lead with 22% employing voice commands, surpassing Millennials at 17%.

With smart speaker ownership poised to dramatically increase (Adobe predicts that smart speaker ownership will rise to 48% of U.S. consumers after the holiday season from 32% in August), voice-driven shopping behavior is likely to rise right along with it, providing retailers with a year-round opportunity to seamlessly connect with consumers and drive brand loyalty, the study reported.

As consumers adopt new means to shop for the holidays, they continue to leverage innovative ways to extend their purchasing power. Eighty-four percent of consumers plan to shop at a store where they are a rewards member, specifically so that they can accumulate discounts and/or rewards points. Meanwhile, 60% of rewards members have opted not to use their rewards on purchases throughout the year so they can allocate them toward a holiday gift.

Further, more than one-quarter of shoppers (26%) anticipate they will save an impressive $200 or more this holiday season, thanks to their rewards programs. And, again, Millennials and Gen Xers lead the way with 33% and 28%, respectively, expecting to save $200 or more by leveraging rewards.

With eight out of ten (83%) consumers currently enrolled in at least one rewards program, and one in four (26%) belonging to five or more, there’s an immense opportunity to engage consumers in these crucial moments. Consumers are also keenly aware of which rewards programs they are enrolled in, with nearly nine out of 10 (88%) – and 95% of Millennials – confirming they are more loyal to stores where they are a rewards member.

“What we’re seeing is that technology is altogether reshaping the holiday shopping season,” said Leslie McNamara, chief marketing officer and head of workforce development, Citi Retail Services. “Consumers are turning to connected devices to purchase gifts in droves and for retailers, this means rethinking their marketing strategy to encompass a robust strategy – including voice technology – to reach consumers in their evolving channel of choice and ensure a seamless shopping experience.”

Among those who will buy gifts this holiday season, over a third (37%) plan on spending more than they did last year, and 69% plan to kick off their holiday shopping before, or on, Black Friday. While Millennials and Gen Xers are getting a head start on their shopping (74% of Millennials, and 77% of Gen Xers are starting to shop before, or on, Black Friday), 40% of Boomers will start their shopping after Black Friday.

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TECHNOLOGY

Alibaba’s shopping extravaganza knocks it out of the park

BY Deena Amato-mccoy

Amazon’s Prime Day has nothing on Alibaba’s annual shopping event.

Alibaba Group’s 10th annual Singles Day, held on Nov. 11, was the Chinese e-commerce giant’s most far-reaching shopping holiday to date. The 24-hour shopping extravaganza racked up a record $30.8 billion in sales (or gross merchandise value (GMV), an increase of 27% compared to 2017. Alibaba’s Cainiao Network processed more than 1 billion delivery orders.

The event surpassed last year’s $25.3 billion record at around 5:34 p.m. SIN/HK (4:34 a.m. ET) on Sunday, and sales kept increasing throughout the rest of the day. Volume outpaced U.S. online sales combined for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and also topped Amazon’s Prime Day. (It’s worth noting, however, that Alibaba’s number of mobile monthly active users is 666 million — double the entire U.S. population—as Forbes pointed out.)

With more than 180,000 brands participating in this year’s event, and customers in 230 countries and regions completing transactions, this was the company’s most-inclusive and farthest-reaching event to date, according to Alibaba.

Overall, 237 brands surpassed $14.3 million in GMV, including leading international brands Apple, Dyson, Kindle, Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Nestlé, Gap, Nike and Adidas. Over 40% of consumers made purchases from international brands.

The top countries selling to China included Japan, the United States, South Korea, Australia and Germany. This year’s event also marked the debut of Alibaba’s recently acquired unit Lazada. The Southeast Asian e-commerce company held its own single-day shopping festival in its six Southeast Asian markets, according to the company.

Interest and participation among U.S.-based brands comes on the heels of an increasing trade war between China and the United States. The latest round of tariffs went into effect on Sept. 24, which imposed a rate of 10%. This will increase on Jan. 1, 2019 to 25%. China announced retaliatory tariffs and, thus, it is likely that the U.S. will propose a fourth list of tariffs.

“Today we witnessed the strength and rise of China’s consumption economy and consumers’ continued pursuit to upgrade their everyday lifestyles,” said Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group. “Participation from the entire Alibaba ecosystem enabled our brand and merchant partners to engage with consumers like never before.”

As big as the event has gotten in the last decade, only 17.5% of China’s commerce is done online, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Alibaba plans to use its network, including its New Retail strategy that merges online and offline experiences, to increase the pace and breadth of the event moving ahead.

“We will, for sure, continue to evolve and continue to be innovative,” said Zhang. “I think, going forward, people’s lifestyles will change with the development of new technologies and business models … Looking ahead, Alibaba will continue to lead the evolution towards the future digital economy and lifestyle.”

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Digital-first mattress company launches Amazon-only mattress collection

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Tuft & Needle has expanded its assortment with a new line — but it’s only available to Amazon shoppers.

The digital-first mattress company launched its “Nod by Tuft & Needle” collection, a line of bed-in-a-box mattresses sold exclusively on Amazon’s website. The line, which features twin, twin XL, full size, queen, king and California king mattresses, features pricing that ranges from $275 to $495, according to Amazon’s website.

The deal comes on the heels of the mattress start-up’s recent merger with Serta Simmons Bedding in September. Through the deal, Tuft & Needle’s direct-to-consumer features will be integrated across SSB’s household name brands, which include Serta, Beautyrest, Simmons and Tomorrow.

The new Amazon line complements a section of Tuft & Needle mattresses, pillows and accessories already sold on the online giant’s website. The company already has 25% of its sales filtering through Amazon. Taking the partnership one step further, in August 2017, the startup outfitted its Seattle location with Amazon-branded solutions, including tablets where customers can read product reviews found on Amazon; Alexa-powered Echo devices that answer customer questions, and QR codes that enable one-click purchasing through the Amazon app, according to ReCode.

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