There’s less than eight weeks until Christmas and the annual retail frenzy is underway.

Perhaps the most successful online/offline retailer, John Lewis, is due to air its latest Christmas advert offering this week, with the soundtrack expected to have been recorded by Lily Allen.

This ad, together with the annual M&S offering and the standard rerun of Coca Cola’s “Holidays are Coming” herald the start of the season for many of us, filling us with that familiar mix of nostalgia and sheer panic at the insurmountable tasks to complete before December 25.

Of course there’s the smug few who’ve completed their shopping, but for the rest of us mere mortals there’s the debate between the sensory experience of visiting the shops, or the convenience of going online.

Christmas 2012 showed some interesting statistics for retail, published by Experian. In December alone UK consumers made 2.8 billion visits to retail websites, spending more than 372 million hours shopping.

I’m not telling you anything new by saying that online retail continues to grow at some pace. We all know the practical reasons why – range, price, ease, simplicity and the “open all hours” principles. But it’s the added value elements of retail that are starting to be commonplace, mainly due to consumer demand and expectation.

Just last year most of us would’ve been happy purchasing off a straightforward transactional website and waiting for it to arrive, often including a trip to the post office or couriers depot to collect.

Now we’re expecting, and getting, augmented reality apps, social-commerce and ‘click & collect’ from most online/offline retailers and more. ‘Click & collect’ grew over 40% last Christmas and another surge in retailers offering the service is expected again this year.

Of course the run up to Christmas is a key period, but the statistics from the festive shopping patterns should be monitored for future planning. They, in my opinion, indicate longer term shopping trends and preferences and give a good insight into where the year-round market should be focusing.

Blending the online and offline shopping experience is vital, but so too is the ability to provide useful shopping tools for mobile retail too – market-leading and experience enhancing apps, useful tools on websites, social media sites linked to online spending, shareability of the shopping experience and more.

Savvy retailers are deploying the full marketing mix to entice us to visit their digital platforms and then once we’re there give us the best experience possible, so we buy from them over and over again.

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