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eMarketer projects that US retail sales will increase 5.0% in the core holiday season of November and December in 2014, an improvement over last year’s growth of 3.4%. This stronger overall retail climate, along with long-term trends toward digital commerce, will drive US ecommerce sales up 16.6%, compared with last year’s growth of 15.3%, according to a new eMarketer report, “Holiday Shopping Preview: Ecommerce Grows as Brick-and-Mortar Stores Embrace Digital.”
Ecommerce plays an especially prominent role during
the holiday season. This year, eMarketer estimates that 8.4% of US retail sales will be digital, compared with 6.5% for 2014 in total. Even as more shopping shifts online
for the holidays, omnichannel retailers this season are using mobile media to highlight the advantages of their physical stores. Last year, retailers saw big spikes of mcommerce sales as shoppers took advantage of time in line to find additional products that complemented their in-store purchases. This year, retailers will expand programs using visual search, beacons and local search that will make phones even more powerful shopping tools.
Beacons have created a lot of buzz in retail, but most tests so far have been small-scale. This holiday season should change that.
Although Apple baked beacon protocols into iOS 7 in October 2013, the news was too early to have any impact on last holiday season. Since then, however, retailers have begun to test them in-store. “Retailers, especially the national retailers, are trying [beacons] out, seeing how things go,” said Chris Damron, chief innovation officer
at BeaconStream, a proximity-based mobile marketing platform.
Behind the scenes, however, many more retailers are considering them. “More than half of the top 100 retailers are actively working with beacon technology now—and they’re in different stages—but all of them are evaluating, testing, piloting, trying it out,” said Rob Murphy, vice president of marketing at Swirl. The end result is that deployments will grow in scale and ambition as the holidays approach, according to Murphy.
One of the major hindrances so far has been the limited audience penetration of branded retailer apps. Beacons only work through apps or Apple’s Passbook, so if only
a sliver of a retailer’s customers have downloaded its branded app, the beacon experience will have a very limited effect. In order to resolve this dilemma, retailers and beacon vendors have started to partner with sites that have a broader slice of their customer base.
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