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Avoid a retail nightmare before Christmas.

The 2017 holiday season will see brick-and-mortar retailers scrambling like never before with online sales consistently on the rise. So how will retailers win this holiday season and avoid a nightmare before Christmas? By embracing the brand engagement trends that offer frictionless shopping or by offering in-store customer experiences, experiences you simply can’t get online. Here are four trends to watch.

Consider subscription services.

Subscription services aren’t new, but more and more traditional brick-and-mortar brands are getting in on the action as a way to extend their reach. These services provide the customer with convenience and flexibility, which are critical during the busy holiday season. If done well, they also provide a personalized experience through curation.

Most subscription services work in a similar way: a customer signs up for the service and a schedule for receiving goods, the brand sends out a curated selection of items at that cadence, the customer has a short but reasonable time to try the goods, and service and shipping are typically free. Under Armour, babyGap, and Starbucks have all jumped on the subscription bandwagon this year.

Partner up.

Another brand engagement trend on the rise is partnership. Brands are realizing that, sometimes, two brands can be better than one, especially when it comes to the competitive holiday season.

Many traditional retailers are partnering with online brands, delivery services, and restaurants as a way of expanding their offerings or providing frictionless shopping to busy shoppers. Both brands in these partnerships are featured in marketing and are benefited by the collaboration. For example, Target has partnered with Framebridge to offer lower-cost custom framing. Taco Bell piloted a “Taco Mode” button with Lyft where customers could make a (Lyft) run for the border at the touch of a button. Lord & Taylor is nearing a partnership deal with Walmart to sell Lord & Taylor clothing on Walmart.com and let customers return Lord & Taylor clothing at a Walmart store, a move that offers convenience to customers while expanding Walmart’s competitive advantage online.

Innovate your delivery options.

Another retail trend to watch centers around delivery of goods. More and more retailers are offering door-to-door service and curbside pickup. During the gift-giving season and all the bustle surrounding the holidays, the brands that have simple, convenient, and flexible delivery and pickup will gain an advantage. Target is expanding its same-day delivery options as well as testing curbside pickup. Macy’s is also expanding same-day delivery into new markets. Even Costco is getting in on the action with two-day shelf-stable food delivery and fresh-food delivery through Instacart, which is handy for customers who don’t want to wait in long holiday lines.

Make your in-store experience a destination.

The convenience of shopping with these brands is one compelling reason for shoppers to get out to the stores for the holidays. Another is because the in-store experience offers something customers can’t get online. Stores that are embracing the destination experience will win door swings. Adidas opened a pop-up shop in Berlin that allowed customers to create bespoke sweaters in the store using body scans, augmented reality, and fabrication machines. Similarly, Reebok just opened a flagship store in Boston that offers custom-cobbled shoes and custom clothing that’s printed on-site. Reformation’s San Francisco store created a new way to shop with minimal in-store inventory and lots of innovative technology to surprise and delight the customer. These stores are looking at ways to reinvent the brick-and-mortar experience, making it high-tech and relevant for today’s shoppers.

Take action.

If your brick-and-mortar isn’t using any of these brand engagement tactics, it’s not too late to start. You can still squeeze in some of these trends before the holiday season starts in earnest, and these trends will continue to engage well into the New Year. If you want to talk about a digital strategy to make it happen for your brand, give me a shout!


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