New figures show that retail sales in December increased at the fastest rate for nine years. Statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that sales in December were up 5.3% on 2012, and 2.6% greater than November 2013. 12% of sales were through the online channel. Separate research from the IMRG-CapGemini eRetail Sales Index show that UK shoppers spent £91 billion online in 2013, with an estimate that 2014 will see internet sales of £107 billion.
However it has not been good news for every retailer. Some supermarkets reported disappointing results, as did Debenhams and Marks & Spencer. The message seems to be simple – customers are spending more, but are being choosier on where they shop.
So what can retailers do to maximise their performance – particularly now that the peak Christmas season is over and it is even more difficult to generate sales? Both the IMRG and ONS figures give some useful pointers to 2014 trends that retailers need to focus on:
1 Make it mobile
Online sales may be up, but according to IMRG growth is largely by driven by mobile commerce. Over a quarter (27%) of internet sales came from tablets and smartphones. This means that retailers need to be sure that they have a mobile strategy in place, particularly that their websites are optimised and, if relevant, they have apps in place to help drive sales.
2 Embrace omnichannel
A quarter of multichannel retail sales now involve click and collect services. This provides traditional retailers with a chance to use their existing bricks and mortar shops to good effect, both in differentiating themselves and also driving more visits, with accompanying potential add on sales. The whole process needs to be seamless and easy for the customer if the experience is deliver ongoing sales.
3 The experience is key
Customers are gravitating to retailers that deliver the service that they are looking for. Interestingly, the ONS figures showed that small shops grew their sales more than their larger competitors, gaining 8% in 2013, against 2.6%. Much of this is down to the personalised attention that they receive – help in finding the right product, advice and after sales support. Retailers of all sizes therefore need to focus on the end-to-end experience, understanding what customers want and then engaging with them in the right way.
After the tumult of Christmas retailers across the UK need to take the time to analyse their performance, benchmark themselves against their peers and begin planning for Christmas 2014 – it is less than 340 days away……….