The 2015 holiday shopping season is officially underway, and it’s shaping up to be the most digitally influenced shopping experience yet. Retailers that step up engagement efforts across digital channels are primed to hit the top of their shoppers’ “nice lists” this holiday season.

The Black Friday weekend may be behind us, but it clearly set the tone for this year’s shopping season and holiday shopping trends to come. Retailers nationwide happily welcomed more than 151 million people who said they shopped either in stores and/or online between Thanksgiving Day and Sunday, November 29, according to the 2015 “Thanksgiving Weekend Survey,” released by the National Retail Federation (NRF), and conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. Nearly 102 million people said they shopped in stores, and more than 103 million said they shopped online, the data shows.

During these visits, the NRF estimates that the average spending per person throughout the weekend came to $299.60. There’s plenty of shopping time left, and retailers need to be on their game if they want to keep up the momentum. Of course, traditional factors such as sales and discounts, merchandise quality and availability and knowledgeable sales associates will drive consumers’ decisions about where to shop. However, digital influence will strongly shape shoppers’ decisions over the next four weeks.

“Retail is in the middle of an incredible revolution and evolution,” explains Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer of the NRF. “The age-old holiday tradition of heading out to stores with family and friends is now equally matched in the new tradition of looking online for holiday savings opportunities.”

The Digital Holiday Shopper

The key to success this holiday season is for retailers to focus on their digital touch points if they want to engage shoppers and drive revenue. As shoppers demand more access to their favorite retailers, on their terms, the omnichannel retailing experience continues to permeate the industry as a viable shopping model. This means that retailers are in the hot seat to offer a critical holiday shopping trend this season — a seamless shopping experience that enables consumers to use various touch points to browse for merchandise, make a purchase decision and procure merchandise. For many, that means blending digital touch points into what used to be a traditional, in-store experience.

The key service to successfully support this concept is the adoption of buy online, pick up in-store (BOPUS) processes. In fact, this is a prerequisite for many omnichannel shoppers this holiday season. Specifically, among those who start their journey online, 46.5 percent said they will take advantage of retailers’ BOPUS or ship-to-store options, according to the NRF’s 2015 “Holiday Consumer Spending Survey.”

Mobile Merriment

The other prerequisite among holiday shoppers is retailer support of mobile shopping opportunities. In fact, holiday shoppers have their smartphones and tablets at the ready, and many more than last year are eager to put them to good use. For example, 37.9 percent will use their smartphones to research products, a jump from 35.8 percent last year, according to the same survey. Meanwhile, one in five (20.3 percent) will use their smartphones to check product availability in a store.

And tablet users aren’t far behind. Almost half (47.5 percent) will use their devices to research products, and 34.5 percent will use their tablets to complete some kind of holiday purchase — slightly up from the 33 percent who did so last year. Meanwhile, nearly one-quarter (23.5 percent) will use these devices to check for in-store availability of merchandise.

To ensure that the 2015 holiday shopping season is truly “the most wonderful time of the year,” retailers must focus on holiday shopping trends. In an effort to attract digitally savvy holiday shoppers, emphasis on a truly blended omnichannel experience, BOPUS options and device-supported services will translate into a merrier holiday shopping season industry-wide.

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Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Deena M. Amato-McCoy is a veteran business journalist specializing in retail and retail technology. She has spent her career as a reporter and editor covering retail technology topics such as digital signage, beacon solutions, EMV, mobile payments and other customer engagement strategies for publications including RIS News, Grocery Headquarters, STORES, Chain Store Age, Apparel and others. Deena has cultivated strong industry relationships throughout her career, and is always keen to uncover key business trends. Follow Deena on Twitter @Deena46

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