The Big Winner This Holiday Season? The Consumer

The following is a guest blog by Jill Puleri, IBM Global Retail Leader.

All the benchmark stats are in, which means we’ve made it through another Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping spree.

Who won this holiday season? It’s clear the big winner is the consumer. The digitally savvy consumer has become the leading driver of holiday retail sales growth, with mobile traffic and sales soaring to record levels. Retailers who connect in real time with these smarter shoppers through preferred shopping channels will continue to win their business and loyalty.

This year’s holiday shopping demonstrates the rise of multi-channel shopping. Smarter shoppers traverse across multiple sales channels looking for better deals at home, in-store, through mobile and social channels, often all at the same time. And much of this year’s holiday shopping will happen while the consumer is kicking back on the couch. The point is – customers have more control than ever before – they can now shop with whomever, however, and whenever they want.

Many people are surfing, socializing, shopping and multi-tasking on many devices to increase their buying bandwidth. Consumers may use their laptop, tablet or home computer at the same time to consider product reviews on one device while checking competitive prices on another.

It’s also clear that last year’s post-pie purchase spike following Thanksgiving dinner is now an all-day “couch commerce” feast for consumers. To maintain continuity with their online counterparts, retailers such as Walgreen’s and Target are experimenting with opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day trying to cash in early on holiday sales.

Some interesting stats from the IBM Benchmark to support these trends:

  • Online sales on Thanksgiving grew by 17.4 percent followed by Black Friday where sales increased 20.7 percent over last year.
  • Mobile purchases soared with 24 percent of consumers using a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, up from 14.3 percent in 2011. Mobile sales exceeded 16 percent, up from 9.8 percent in 2011. 
  • Consumers shopped in store, online and on mobile devices simultaneously to get the best bargains. Overall 58 percent of consumers used smartphones compared to 41 percent who used tablets to surf for bargains on Black Friday.
  • Holiday shoppers turned Cyber Monday into the biggest spending day ever with online sales growing 30.3 percent over the same period last year

The rise of today’s digital marketplace illustrates that customer is in control more than even before. To succeed this holiday season and beyond, retailers need to identify and cater to each customer’s unique preferences. Without these insights, shoppers are one click away from buying from another merchant.

Jill will be featured on the Nightly Business Report with Erika Miller tonight at 6:30 PM ET to discuss the results of the IBM Benchmark Study and the forecast for upcoming retail sales this Holiday Season.

Jill Puleri is the Worldwide Retail Industry Leader for IBM Global Business Services.  In this role, she is responsible for the strategy and development of offerings and solutions that address retailer’s pain points around the Store, Merchandising, Supply Chain and Multi-Channel.  She has over 20 years of experience with clients in the retail industry having held various leadership positions in sales, marketing and consulting.

Most recently, Jill was VP World Wide for Retail Store Solutions where she lead the global organization responsible for driving revenue, profit and market share for IBM’s solutions for the store.  Under her leadership the division was transformed and returned revenue and profit results that were two times the market with market share gain every quarter.

During her career, Jill has worked on store transformation projects with clients such as Carrefour, Talbots, Gap, American Eagle and Marshalls.   Prior to IBM, she worked for NCR Corporation selling Point of Sales solutions to national accounts headquartered in the Boston area.

She holds a BBA in Marketing from the University of Massachusetts, graduating Suma Cum Laude.  Jill is an active member of the National Retail Federation.

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