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Chitra BalasubramanianHead of Business AnalyticsRetailNext
With ecommerce having outpaced brick-and-mortar sales during the 2014 holiday season, retailers are increasingly merging digital and physical shopping experiences. Chitra Balasubramanian, head of business analytics for RetailNext, a provider of in-store analytics, spoke with eMarketer’s Lisa Barron about omnichannel retail.
eMarketer: How strong was foot traffic this past holiday season?
Chitra Balasubramanian: In the brick-and-mortar environment, foot traffic was down compared to last year. During the combined November and December period, traffic declined about 8.3% vs. the prior year. Moreover, sales were down by about 8%.
eMarketer: What about foot traffic in the period after Christmas?
Balasubramanian: It was strong this year. Compared to last year, we saw an 8% increase in sales on December 26 and December 27 vs. last year. Traffic was also up 3% vs. last year.
A lot of it comes down to the timing of the dates. December 26, 2014, fell on a Friday instead of a Thursday, and a lot of people had that day off. Therefore, there was more opportunity for consumers to go in-store.
eMarketer: What major trends did you identify in the 2014 holiday season?
Balasubramanian: Digital is starting to emerge as a force to be reckoned with in the retail industry, and we’ll start to see more of that coming into fruition in 2015.
Retailers should be in a better position to deploy relevant technologies within the store. Many have taken on omnichannel strategies, which will likely pay big dividends this year. There is more of a focused attempt to converge the digital and physical space.
eMarketer: Who is at the forefront of this?
Balasubramanian: Victoria’s Secret has done a great job. We also see big-box retailers doing a lot with buying online and picking up in-store, as well as offering kiosks and other types of technology in-store to better educate consumers on products.
eMarketer: Was the buy online and pick up in-store feature a big one in 2014?
Balasubramanian: It’s a way to drive traffic from the online channel into the physical store. Shoppers who buy online and pick up in-store end up spending a lot more once they get to the store. From a financial perspective, it’s beneficial for retailers to have that type of option in place.
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