There are many traditions surrounding Christmas, one of the biggest being the buying and giving of presents to family, friends and acquaintances.  It’s also a time when people spend a little more money and time on themselves as the party season dawns and a new dress, pair of shoes or a touch of hairstyling is required.

The festive weeks become a fiercely crucial trading period as retailers and merchants, both online and store based (and multichannel), compete aggressively for shopper mindshare and spend.

Christmas shopping patterns have changed considerably over recent years and they have been shaped heavily by the impact of technology – a combination of the internet, back office systems, in-store technologies and mobile devices.

On the one hand, retailers can arm themselves with more systems to attract customers, make shopping more fun and easier, and analyse shopping habits.  On the other, consumers have access to the Internet, tablets and smartphones to conduct their research, make comparisons and complete their purchases.

Before technology really started to influence the retail sector, a shopper would typically visit a town centre, look at items on display, maybe try them out and eventually buy in-store.  In the modern age, a shopping journey begins long before a shopper visits a store and the whole process has become far more complex and elongated than it was previously.

This is why it has become so important for retailers to analyse and understand in detail the customer journey, not just pre-purchase but long after it too.  By truly understanding the thinking and pre- and post-purchase behaviour of customers they are not only able to preempt purchase decisions, but also increase conversion rates and engender long-term customer loyalty through carefully crafted marketing strategies.

One of the modern challenges for retailers is ‘showrooming’, where a shopper will complete their research online and possibly in several stores, only to buy their product elsewhere.  Unless a purchase cannot be made anywhere else, for example, visiting a spa for a treatment or buying a coffee at an outlet, showrooming has become a modern feature of shopping journeys.  A shopper may look at an item in-store, then undertake some research on their phone, only to find the product online or elsewhere at a cheaper price.

This Christmas more than ever before, retailers need to understand their shoppers and in particular be able to measure their ‘showrooming to conversion’ rate to create a total retail experience for their shoppers. 

Taking this even further, ‘mobilerooming’ is becoming a key element of a shopper’s strategy, where a person’s smartphone has become a significant portable hub for research, comparison, communication, interaction and purchasing.  This means that ‘mobilerooming to conversion’ rates are even more important for retailers to understand because mobile devices are so pivotal in decision-making.

An example of a total retail experience is where a shopper can visit a store, test a perfume (for example), add it to a wish list on their smartphone, go home and complete the order online or by phone, then either collect it from store or have it delivered. 

Along the way and through automated analytics tools, such as customer behaviour management, a retailer can analyse the various touchpoints – at home, in-store or on the move – and measure how effectively staff members are engaging with customers.  They can also understand how other factors have influenced the shopper’s behaviour; for example, a great customer experience offered by a helpful member of staff, a packaged promotion personalised to the customer or the ease with which the sale was made.

Retailers also have the ability to positively influence customer behaviour based on historical information such as frequency of visits, average spend and purchasing trends.  This capability helps merchants to engage with their customers with the interests and objectives of shoppers in mind at the appropriate time and place.

Although many retailers will have already planned their marketing and sales strategies for Christmas, modern analytical and promotional technologies are now being developed in such a way that, if not already deployed, they can be set up very quickly.  In the next few weeks, retailers have the capability not only to increase their sales relative to competitors, but also go into 2015 having developed real loyalty among happy customers.