woman shopping with her eyes looking up
The recent holiday shopping season provides some interesting insights for retailers. PHOTO: Joanna M. Foto

Digital, mobile and social are the pillars of retail’s future.

According to Rick Kenney, Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s Head of Consumer Insights, this past holiday shopping season demonstrated the very foundation of retail has shifted — and the traditional top shopping days have realigned in sync with new consumer behaviors.

Black Friday Unseated Cyber Monday

Kenney said Black Friday — formerly known as the big in-store shopping day — unseated Cyber Monday as the No. 1 digital shopping day, too.

What This Means for Retailing

Unify or Die, Kenney said.

Channel convergence happened this year, as clearly exemplified by Black Friday’s rise to become the shopping day for both digital and in-store. Shoppers have unified their shopping, and retail must unify to meet her expectations. 

The need for speed and agility is layered on top of this new expectation of unified. Those retailers that continue to put up with the 'Noah’s Ark Problem’ — creating and maintaining two sets of everything - promotions, pricing, products, inventory - will be unable to keep pace with the evolving needs of the shopper.

Mobile Commerce Soared Again

Mobile soared once again this season, peaking at 60 percent of all traffic on Christmas Day. For the season, 52 percent of all traffic was on smartphones. "We’re not on the way to Mobile-First, it’s already here," Kenney said.

What This Means

Shoppers continue to evolve and adopt new means of connecting to brands. The rise, or, rather, the dominance, of mobile means shopping is done on the shoppers’ terms, on the move and when it’s convenient for them. 

Retailers should focus investments on the small screen and optimize every aspect of the mobile experience from first tap through checkout.

Social Media Drives Sales

Social was a real path to purchase for shoppers this season, Kenney said. During Cyber Week, 6 percent of all mobile visits started on social.

What This Means

The rise of social indicates that shopping is a strong thread in the fabric of social consumer platforms — social’s share of traffic is up 161 percent over 2014. The business of selling in direct context of the consumer environment remains nascent, but this season’s data clearly shows that the two activities — social and shopping — are absolutely intertwined. 

Retailers must get comfortable with pulling their commerce experience further up the funnel to wherever consumers engage (intentionally or otherwise) with them. With social emerging and mobile dominating, the new retail pillars are here.

Retail Growth is Digital

Globally, shoppers drove digital commerce up 34 percent over last holiday — well ahead of the 24 percent growth experienced during the 2015 holiday season.

What This Means

While in store sales were generally reported as flat to down, and a seemingly never ending parade of store closings, digital remains the beacon of growth and hope for retail. 

Digital remains on course to maintain this growth pace, as retailers will invest in reducing friction from the digital shopping process, including enhanced product findability through the use of artificial intelligence, accelerated payment with mobile wallets and of course real omnichannel progress realized through improved inventory visibility (amongst other tactics). 

With this focus on customer centricity, 2017 will be the year of the shopper.