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Editor’s comment – September 2019

Shopping peak 2019 is nearly upon us. From Black Friday to decorating the halls with boughs of holly to the tune of supermarket and department store TV adverts, the shopping fest of Black Friday – and it’s preceding weeks’ margin-slashing offers – are all ready for implementation.

In this issue of InternetRetailing magazine we look ahead to the peak season, draw insight from 2018’s figures and investigate the key areas that digital is changing for retailers at this time of year.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, shares his insight into the figures, looks at whether Black Friday is now ‘over’ and examines whether retailers have to get involved with the weekend of offers.

A study by Yieldify has found that retailers are looking ahead positively to peak 2019 with many expecting an average 25% improvement on 2018 Black Friday revenue. The report for which it spoke to retailers in the US as well as in the UK, predicts that retailers will see growth of 28.6% for the peak shopping season as a whole. Less than 10% of are expecting flat or negative results for Q4 2019. 

However, US retailers were among the most optimistic, with almost half predicting a revenue boost of between 25-75% on last year, versus just 33% who predict the same in the UK. Pureplay ecommerce retailers were less positive than multichannel retailers, with one fifth predicting no change.

Two areas which have grown in popularity amongst retailers and consumers in recent years are pop-up stores at Christmas time and signing up friends and family for gifts which continue all year. Stephanie Heasman, director of customer success, Feefo examines the growth of the subscription model and how Lifebox Food uses reviews to gain insight into its personalised products.

Ian Tomlinson, CEO, Cybertill, meanwhile, explains how retailers are using pop-up shops as a tool to drive sales, both online and off.

As Heasman says, customer insights play a major role in subscription box growth. “If you don’t know your customers you are sunk,” says Howard Rawlings, managing direct of wellness box business Lifebox, adding that maintaining competitiveness and reducing churn in the subscription box business can be challenging.

Paul Skeldon, InternetRetailing’s mobile editor, investigates peak from a mobile perspective and the experience that shoppers in 2019 expect.

September is the month that new payments legislation was supposed to come into force. PSD2 puts the responsibility for fraudulent transactions firmly on the shoulders of retailers operating online and requires the majority of transactions to be secured with additional information – not just a CVV number. Either by checking each transaction above £30 in real-time with the cardholder’s bank or by verifying the cardholder’s identity through a second secure method such as something they have, know or are, the legislation was due to shake up the customer experience.

The industry has been given an 18-months extension – which is good for the run up to Christmas when retailers don’t want an increase in cart abandonment – which also allows time to investigate the opportunities that PSD2 offers. I look at this and other changes in the payments industry that will impact retail over the next year.

Of course, global brands have to monitor changes such as these across the world since changes in one country can impact other markets as well as cross-border trade. Velia Carboni, chief digital officer at VF Corporation, spoke to me about how the global company balances global digital requirements with the needs of individual brands and regions during one of the most significant periods of transformation for the company.

With brands including Vans, The North Face and Timberland, VF is trying to speed up the end-to-end product chain bringing consumer feedback into the process earlier in the production cycle while also using digital to reduce time and travel for designers. A range of digital technologies have been incorporated into its new offices in London, the learnings and insights from which will feed back into a centralised team to drive innovation across the group.

Innovation and tech enablers is one of the themes for this year’s InternetRetailing Conference which is taking place in London on 10 October. New markets, customer engagement, loyalty, customer experience and omnichannel will all be covered in what looks like another interesting event bringing together the retail industry for round-table discussions and workshops. The team at IR Towers looks forward to seeing you there.

Emma Herrod

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