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Holiday O.P.E.N. Watch


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For thirteen years, Resource Interactive has studied retailers online during their high-stakes holiday season. Why the holiday focus? We’ve noticed that certain competitive advantages become highly conspicuous during these days of intense consumerism—the holiday season can either make or break the year for retailers. In other words, it offers us the opportunity to survey a retailer’s biggest moment and best effort.

Of the 40 online retailers we surveyed using our OPEN framework, we’ve chosen to feature fifteen in the final report. We focused on the social media, mobile and web site innovation, uncovering quite a few bright spots in a season of innovation and inventiveness. See how retailers fared—from Amazon to Zappos and everywhere in between—and take a look at the most novel marketing moves of the holiday season, which will surely become the everyday fare of 2010. Are you ready?

Published in: Business, Technology
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Holiday O.P.E.N. Watch

  1. 1. GREAT RESOURCEINTERACTIVE HOLIDAYO.P E.N.WATCH . 13th EDITION Resource Interactive | 343 North Front St., Columbus OH. 43215 614.621.2888 I
  2. 2. HOLIDAY 2009 OVERVIEW For thirteen years, Resource holiday season. Why the holiday 13 Interactive has studied retailers online during their high-stakes focus? We’ve noticed that certain competitive advantages—or a effects of plans well laid, including features and programs launched just prior to the holidays and those strategically (or sometimes unavoidably) delayed to go live mid-season. We’ve focused on the exploitation to consumers’ holiday shopping habits, spending thresholds, brand preferences? How much would they need old-fashioned signifiers of the season for reassurance, and how much would they crave novelty? digital laggard’s disadvantage— of social media, the adoption of The Macy’s “Believe” campaign become highly conspicuous during mobile and on web site innovation; was high-tech and multichannel these days of intense consumerism. email is not covered in this report. in execution but quite nostalgic in Holiday season retailers are look, feel and appeal. stress-tested and their readiness A blizzard of another sort in the for the consumer onslaught can northeast cost offline retailers an Of the fifteen retailers surveyed, make or break the year, as sales estimated $2B in one weekend nine are from Internet Retailer’s are disproportionately critical in but was a boon to ecommerce 2009 Hot 100 List, a ranking of the November and December. merchants. Each week and weekend year’s most innovative retailers. The brought dramatic developments and group as a whole achieved stellar It is true that the oldest retailing how the season would net out was a OPEN assessments because they practices—various forms of price giant unknown, particularly as it was proved to be overachievers. If this reductions, for instance—overtake tied to what Resource Interactive were 10th grade, everyone would the season like a whiteout. But has called the “recession-rewired” be in the front row and everyone lately, and particularly this year, consumer mindset. Various indices would be wrecking the curve. They there is a blizzard of innovation and have shown consumers measurably were trendsetters in many ways, and inventiveness as well. The focus of recovering from the recession but helped create some critical mass for the Holiday OPEN Watch is on the it was still a mystery whether or not the following: latter more than the former. We’re they’d have the holiday spirit that taking a snapshot of the state of frequently clicks “Add to Bag” and • Facebook Connect the industry as a way to judge its makes the store cash register ring. implementations and branded preparedness and to survey the What would the new frugality do Facebook apps 1 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  3. 3. • social networking invitations with • single or streamlined networking platforms. Even luxury various incentives logins, though no OpenID showed some forward momentum • sharing buttons anywhere and implementations due to well-managed inventories everywhere, from wish lists to • a handful of barcode scanners but also to better integrated checkout • a heaping of retailers on third- multichannel marketing. • blog and virtual world launches party mobile apps such as mid-season (though astoundingly NearbyNow. (In fact, whatever Then there were the sales results poor web site/blog integration) the holiday or shopping need, and the consumer satisfaction • mobile app debuts or new there was an app for that: even scores. A single-day online sales releases of preexisting apps the Salvation Army has a simple, record was set on December 15: • group gifting platforms musical one.) $913 million. And from November • e-gift cards particularly appealing 1 to December 22, online spending to the procrastinating public reached $22.5 billion, a 4 percent (shoppers had completed an increase over 2008, which was average of 47% of their holiday down 3 percent versus the year gift buying as of Dec. 9, the prior, according to comScore Inc. lowest level since ‘04, according Not surprisingly, then, consumer to an NRF survey) satisfaction scores were way up as • Black Friday and Cyber Monday well, according to Foresee Results. A discounts announced against few of our retailers achieved scores ticking clocks but also elongated in the high 70s and low 80s—Macy’s for weeks, even months 12.9% improvement over 2008 made • engrossing 1-click, video-inclusive it the biggest gainer, while Amazon catalogs and Apple improved less but had • branded iGoogle portals and less distance to travel to the top, with RSS widgets scores of 87 and 82, respectively. 80 • real-time co-shopping platforms is considered the magic number of and social shopping site customer service excellence. sponsorships Brand-sponsored charity, imperiled • competition-driven consumer- by the downturn, nevertheless But let’s look now at our own generated content surged ahead with the help of social method of scoring. 2
  4. 4. On-demand, personal, engaging NRF’s 2009 Holiday Consumer view, purchase and share the tens of and networked: Resource Intentions and Actions Survey’s thousands of outfits created by Wet Interactive doesn’t think these prediction that gift card spending Seal customers on their iPhones, digital experience attributes ever would be down, we deemed the shows what consumers can do for a go out of style. But that’s not to say Personal experience less than ideal. brand given the tools and the right they are unchanging; what was an We also assigned a lower score for sharing platform. Neiman Marcus, optimized On-Demand experience the Personal experience due to low- part of our survey but not featured two years ago—a web site Store functioning wish lists or the absence here, showed some real invention Locator, perhaps—would have to of available experts for consultation, with its Style Radar, but the fact be a GPS-powered mobile Store be it for fashion or electronics. Sears’ that a Chicago profile exists without Locator today, and, ideally, one that Shop Your Way is among those real Chicago women’s input is a big prompted location-aware special programs setting the Personal pace. missed Networked opportunity. offers. For the OPEN Holiday Watch, we’ve assessed fifteen retailers’ The Engaging experience must There were several other ability to assign the right priority to feature video these days— performance indicators for On- each of the four attributes, meet the instructional or merely inspirational, Demand, Personal, Engaging, and needs of each, and refresh each with catwalk-like, employee-produced, Networked—too numerous, in the most current and compelling consumer-produced for a fact, to describe here. For those online tactics and technologies. competition, whatever works best of you interested in absorbing for the retailer’s target market. all of the tactics and rationale for As the 2009 holiday season turned Extra points were given if the each of these cornerstone digital into the mobile tipping point for videos were socnet-enabled. A experiences, we might recommend retailers and consumers, no mobile- blog without a content strategy for our book, The Open Brand: When optimized site or mobile app meant inspiring consumer participation— Push Comes to Pull in a Web-Made a lower On-Demand score. Retailers beyond reading posts—earned a World. The following four pages can’t afford to send text alerts lower Engaging score. Finally, the are a handy cheat sheet, though, and get back to business as usual: optimum Networked experience is highlighting the four experiential web analytics firm Compete found earmarked by consumer creativity, types as interpreted by Best Buy, that 37% of smartphone owners not the quasi-community of TopShop, Barneys and Burton purchased merchandise via their brands camped out on the major Snowboards. Then we have the phones in 2009. If there were no social networking sites so as to full OPEN assessments of fifteen opportunity to customize virtual gift repurpose promotional messages. retailers, a much abbreviated cards, which surged in the eleventh The September launch of iRunway version of our OPEN Scorecard hour (Christmas Eve) and disproved by Wet Seal, which lets consumers service offering. 3 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  5. 5. Best Buy’s Idea Giftr taps the wisdom of techie crowds. It’s an app that aggregates gift ideas from real people—Blu-ray expert Derek in San Francisco, for instance—that make sense based on your Facebook profile data. It also, of course, lets you spread the word about your picks to Facebook friends and family. ON-DEMAND efficiency, ease, control, findability, instantaneousness Best Buy’s Pitch In Card was one of an elite handful of group-gifting ideas from online retailers. There were just two drawbacks: only the intended recipient could sign up for the card, and there was no virtual version of it. For a brand that knows and sells digital, making consumers shop with plastic seemed rather retrograde. Not everyone can make their way through app downloads and mobile data plans. Enter Best Buy Mobile’s “Walk Out Working” program, which sends folks out the store door with MEMORY LANE the right custom mix of mobile Best Buy’s gift card last year services and apps installed on their doubled as a mini speaker new phone. By November, Best Buy for a digital music player made sure that one of those apps (not included) such as the would be Google Mobile, a hands- Apple iPod Touch or the free way to search on the go: you Creative Zen. You don’t have simply speak the search terms into to be a geek to know that your smartphone and the results was one cool card. come with locations nearest you. Puts a whole new spin on “phoning it in.” 4
  6. 6. PERSONAL acknowledgement, dialogue, customization, privilege, popularity Finally making it across the pond, TopShop opened its NYC doors in early April after a 7-month delay due to the global recession. Their web site was festooned for the holidays, but we were looking for some distinctively British retailing— beyond that Kate Moss-inspired waif style. And we found this: a Personal experience awaiting consumers via the Style Advisor suite of services. Bridging clicks and mortar, it includes use of private fitting rooms, in- person styling and purchase advice, birthday treats, and two gift cards a year. For those young fans still not feeling privileged enough, there is the 10% student discount that we thought only existed at campus bookstores. 5 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  7. 7. ENGAGING participation, belonging, immersion, entertainment, inspiration Barneys’ Creative Director Simon Doonan said “we pulled out all the stops” this holiday season. And he doesn’t just mean the “Saturday Night Live” windows, which helped the luxury retailer bid everyone a “witty holiday.” Barneys brought the same verve to their online efforts, even debuting their new blog, B-sides, mid-December, and hosting a contest to design their Twitter background for a $100 gift card. Between store events galore and special offers on Facebook, the Cranky Elf on Barneys’ YouTube videos and the irresistibly shareable content of Barneys Babble, Barneys might just be staging the luxury sector’s comeback through a social media pile-on. 6
  8. 8. NETWORKED self-expression, ego gratification, portability, community, meaningful change He might not look like one of Santa’s elves but Mr. Awesome (so named by fans) was live on the Burton Snowboards web site for a very Networked holiday campaign. Contests ran, fans exchanged tips about the competition and the best snowboarding gear, and winners were announced via the live feed. “Movie Monday” had fans calling in every snowboard movie they could recall, culminating in this art/graffiti board. To win, fans throughout the ten-day “Web Presents” had to visit local stores selling Burton products, interact on Facebook, and talk to Mr. Awesome via a chat box. Prizes included Burton products, trips to ski resorts/competitions, and a grand prize trip to the Olympic Games. All in all, this Networked one- trick pony was anything but, bringing diehard Burton fans together for all manner of holiday fun. 7 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  9. 9. 8
  10. 10. 15 BRANDS ASSESSED Of the 40 online retailers we surveyed this year in APPAREL / ACCESSORIES order to achieve some breadth of perspective, we’ve American Eagle chosen to feature fifteen. Nine of the fifteen retailers are on Internet Retailer’s Hot 100 Online Merchants list Anthropologie (indicated by the asterisk) due to their innovation. The *Charlotte Russe remaining six are also keeping the industry on its holiday Gap (mistle)toes through the thorough application and occasional refinement of best digital practices as well as *Net-a-Porter the adoption of new and notable features in ecommerce *Zappos sites, the mobile channel and social networking. That said, as case studies, these fifteen assessments are COMPUTERS / ELECTRONICS only as valuable as the object lessons they offer, so our *Apple selection was also based on the presence of learning curves and areas for improvement we thought were illustrative of challenges common to online retail now. DEPARTMENT STORE / GENERAL MERCHANDISE *Amazon Macy’s Nordstrom JCPenney *Sears *Walmart HEALTH / BEAUTY *Sephora HOUSEWARES / HOME *Wisteria * On Internet Retail’s Hot 100 Online Merchants 9 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  11. 11. Amazon product pages DELIVER ON-DEMAND could stand an upgrade. Aside from the main product image changing by passing a cursor along the thumbnails (now including customer images, a superb Networked idea), there isn’t much to make the experience a single-page, dynamic, see/ learn/go affair on par with other retailer product pages. PayPhrase is a new way to verify a consumer’s account for The Amazon iPhone app enables speedy purchasing. Consumers create a unique phrase (easier to consumers to visually search for related remember than all those user IDs, according to studies) and tie it products by taking a picture of an item to a 4-digit PIN. This is linked to their Amazon account, which is with the phone’s camera, which is then pre-loaded with credit card and shipping address. uploaded to Debuted on the April release of their Blackberry GET PERSONAL app, this feature, called Amazon Remembers, helps consumers use their phones to store items they want to buy immediately or eventually. Amazon’s legendary recommendation engine lets you get under the hood and tweak what your past behavior says you’d like next. This feature and others must be working: Amazon, Walmart and Target captured 18.9 percent more traffic among the top 500 retailers than last year during the post-Thanksgiving period. 10
  12. 12. GREAT GOOD LACKING BE ENGAGING Stopwatch shopping…the seconds ticking away, the dwindling supplies of killer deals. And what could be in that gold box? Ah, the thrill of it all! MEMORY LANE Last year’s dynamic toy list was much more fun to navigate than this year’s plain product shelf pages. Did customers forget to shop as a result? This year’s toy list paired ratings and reviews with video, and both are serious conversion tactics. GET NETWORKED Bucket lists, move over. Amazon provided us with the bestselling, most-wished-for and favorite gift products of ‘09, and introduced a Bestsellers Archive in December as well. You can glimpse the “real-time web” on Amazon. While shopping, consumers can confer with their social graph about various products, thanks to a browser No one does data add-on called Glue. Currently, Glue can like Amazon, with be found on Amazon, but also IMDB, these hourly updates, Wikipedia, Citysearch, Google on what ornaments Finance, MTV, and many more. positively everyone’s buying. 11 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  13. 13. DELIVER ON-DEMAND AE’s text alert program has been hugely popular since its November ‘08 After gathering consumer feedback on site features, launch, so the September AE gave its checkout a makeover in time for the ‘09 launch of their mobile new year. Consumers can finally save payment and site, with m-commerce, shipping info and enter codes at any time. store locator and wish lists for sending to others had to be a hit for the holidays. Deloitte AE’s estimated 40% of 18-29 downloadable year olds would use their and printable phones to shop during coupons are the holidays. We’re good-looking waiting for the mobile enough to app and some brand- remember to sponsored mobile social bring to the networking because store. Resource research tells us millennials live a great deal of their lives on their mobile phones. Quick Looks have been around since Gap debuted GET PERSONAL them several years ago. AE’s version doesn’t improve or advance the feature in ways millennials would appreciate. How about a Send to Friend or Send to Parents button? Not only do AE fans RSVP as guests for events such as Friends & Family and flagship parties—a common Facebook utility rarely used by most fans—but once at the event, they can often score customized apparel as well. These multichannel synergies appeared to be working better for AE: same-store sales were down 5% in October but up 7% in December, exceeding analysts’ expectations. American Eagle’s Wish List has high functionality, including searchability and a feature allowing consumers to set priority levels for each desired item. 12
  14. 14. GREAT GOOD LACKING BE ENGAGING To usher in the new year, AE debuted the AE Closet, a drag-and-drop outfit tool that enables consumers to increase or decrease a product’s appearance so it scales with You’ll never run out of model and celebrity videos other products and to bring the and voices on the AE Scene blog, but there could image to the front or back—as in be more content devoted to the participatory Powerpoint. The idea is to build consumer, not just the spectating one. a closet of wished-for outfits, and though it’s a little tricky at first, the extra manipulability AE allowed visitors to view gifts in a catalog should be very engaging for the or look book view because consumers millennial market. increasingly want to act on inspiration at the moment it strikes—thanks to branded lifestyle imagery. GET NETWORKED AE’s holiday Look Book prompted networking with the usual Facebook and Twitter buttons but also an Embed Code for all those millennial bloggers who love showcasing brand assets. Blogger outreach done right: fashion blogger Nana in Wonderland was asked to style three items from the ‘09 Holiday Collection. Her expertise carries a AE’s Student Union is as hyperlocal as you can different kind of credibility for the get and its community-building tactics run the fun 15-25 year old AE target market. gamut—from free airport shuttles to free tees on clothes dryers. If the brand used these student unions for crowdsourcing product and message ideas, there’d be no stopping the shopping. 13 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  15. 15. DELIVER ON-DEMAND Anthropologie offers a downloadable desktop widget for daily inspiration. But no podcasts, no mobile app, no Buy Online—Pickup in Store, and no mention of a mobile- optimized site anywhere. Fans A growing number of online retailers make their catalogs would love a bit more instant clickable—taking consumers straight to the product page. Anthropologie’s consumers can gratification. leap from their lush and lovely scenes to a page that has Facebook and Twitter share buttons and alternate views for more contextual inspiration. The retailer’s products are also showing up in Elle Dailies, trend-based emails with clickable images. GET PERSONAL Believe it or not, many online Overall, one of the least merchants had no special way promotional retailers in our study, to just wish consumers a great offering free shipping only on holiday. Anthropologie’s “Let orders over $150, Anthropologie It Snow” design was simple debuted a charming profile- and sweet and though it based gift finder on Cyber Monday instead of deep discounts. went to everyone, it felt like Submitting a ‘typed’ letter led to a personalized gift list whose personal acknowledgment attributes could be changed if not perfect, and then printed or of patronage. shared via Twitter or Facebook. 14
  16. 16. GREAT GOOD LACKING BE ENGAGING More moody merchandising that is seasonally and trend appropriate—and easy to buy. The is a truly inspired bit of branding about, well, inspiration! Featuring cultural luminaries such as filmmaker Jane Campion, clicking around the home page leads to an array of artifacts that move the filmmaker—rehearsal photos, blog entries—and the movie Bright Star’s trailer and web site. All of which will, no doubt, keep Anthropologie’s fans engaged. GET NETWORKED MEMORY LANE Talk about a fabulous tactic for elevating your style Over 20,000 Kaboodle fans have also become authorities. Anthropologie’s Flickr tie-in let consumers Anthropologie fans through the Kaboodle Brand Program. show What I Wore. We think this merchandising feature should make a comeback. The perennially hot denim category is, let’s face it, also the one most prone to fit issues so a tough sell online. Consumers want their blue jeans just so. Anthropologie offers a rating and review from a Top 1000 Contributor— and her description is nearly as good as a try-on. 15 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  17. 17. DELIVER ON-DEMAND Many of Apple’s products are inherently On-Demand and the brand fully leverages this advantage with constant novelty. There were some very rare limited time offers for fans this season, which likely drove some of their impressive numbers: Hitwise, a website research company, reported that traffic on the Apple iTunes store was up 346% from the previous day in December. Total downloads for the iPod Touch’s mobile software jumped 1,000% on December 25 from other December Fridays, according to a report from research firm Flurry. It seems everyone wanted to play with their new i-devices. Apple has to create an On-Demand experience for hardware as well. They offered gift guides, free next-day shipping—a real standout from most shipping offers, extended store hours, Express Bay pickup, and Reserve Online-Pickup in Store right through December 24. Business Week’s Customer Service ranking for Apple? #4. Emailed receipts are better for our increasingly digital record-keeping. 16
  18. 18. GREAT GOOD LACKING GET PERSONAL Outside the top 20 retailer list, The Apple Store site saw an impressive 71% increase in visits on Cyber Monday 2009 versus 2008, reports Hitwise. iPod engraving along with a personalized gift card—that’s the way millions wanted to celebrate the holidays. They’ve been personalizing their music for years now. Configuring a custom Mac, designing books and calendars with iPhoto: all Apple ways to personalize a consumer’s products, thereby staying intimately connected to the brand. Apple’s One to One program means personalized service all year round. 17 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  19. 19. BE ENGAGING To promote its relatively new iTunes LP format (it displays lyrics, liner notes, performance videos, photos, etc.), Apple posted a 20-song Holiday Sampler. Free for one week, Apple said it would “soundtrack your holiday.” Not everyone was thrilled with the selection, which included Barry Manilow singing “Jingle Bells. Everyone is truly a ” critic in the Apple-Engaged universe. The iTunes Facebook page asks terrific questions about cultural items—music, movies, TV shows. The better the questions, the bigger the feedback. Note the number of responses. iTunes has been releasing new celebrity playlists since 2003, and they’re big hits, keeping consumers coming back for more, especially when alerted about new content on the iTunes Facebook page. 18
  20. 20. GREAT GOOD LACKING GET NETWORKED For a brand known—at least until the App Store— for proprietary closed platforms, this is a great sharing feature and one we’ll see more of with the real-time web. Apple’s On Campus Facebook tab brought the brand home for students across the nation. With campus rep profiles, featured student films, a local event calendar and polls, there were plenty of ways for fans to come together. More than 3 billion apps have been downloaded from Apple’s App Store by iPhone and iPod touch users worldwide. Making your way through them could be overwhelming were it not for the Networked experience of Customer Ratings and Reviews and an ever changing lineup of Staff Favorites on the Store’s homepage. Apple’s Networked consumer experience is the gift that keeps on giving. Moderati’s release of Xmas Romplr: Remix, just one of the many third- party apps created for the holidays, let users remix classic tracks including “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” Songs could be saved or—better yet—uploaded to Facebook or sent in the form of e-cards to friends and family. 19 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  21. 21. DELIVER ON-DEMAND Millennials who love to create and share outfits? Charlotte Russe needs an app for that. In the meantime, CR fans joined other mobile holiday shoppers on the iPhone app from NearbyNow, which pairs the gift guides of retailers such as Macy’s, Bon-Ton, The Buckle and CR with magazines such as Seventeen, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan. Once a product is chosen, NearbyNow finds the nearest store or enables m-commerce. Mark Dixon, VP of product management at NearbyNow, says consumers are 17 times more likely to buy from a nearby store than buy online. Well, for now, anyway. Charlotte Russe dropped its gift card right into its gift guide. And why not? E-card recipients could have their gift “in hand” instantly, unlike several other retailers, whose e-cards required a 24–48 hour wait. GET PERSONAL Just a few questions to reveal what the consumer is most interested in and Charlotte Russe emails can be that much more personal from the start (and only get better with purchase data). Why not take it one step further? Ask about color, most important wardrobe needs, etc. Companies built on personal style profiles such as Covet and Shopittome are proliferating, if not for the individualized recommendations, then for the sheer fun of self-discovery: am I more this or that? A social networking strategy can be both Networked and Personal with the right consumer limelight tactics. Charlotte Russe makes heavy use of contests—a Fan of the Week!—whose winners strut their CR style on the CR Facebook page through uploaded photos, video and personal narrative. Consumers also answer tweeted trivia questions and collect prizes on YouTube and the web site. 20
  22. 22. GREAT GOOD LACKING Premium denim and knits brand People’s Liberation gets the full BE ENGAGING Look Book treatment but also some irresistible sonic branding, as a fashion video plays to “Classy Girls are Back” by the Nervous Wreckords. Shop by Occasion, Trend or Outfit: this is searchandizing that makes sense for the target audience, though the outfit tool lacks the interactivity of some more recent entrants from competitors. Making up for this—and then some—is CR’s Shop Together, which sends word via Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, email or IM instructions that you’re online and looking for a shopping pal. GET NETWORKED CR is one of the few retailers to use MySpace for what it does best: blend celebrity, trends, friends and music. Charlotte Russe grew 633,333% from 2007 to 2008, according to Internet Retailer. And they’re still growing through innovation and heavy social networking. On December 17 this season, they launched their new avatar-based social network/virtual world. Wow. 21 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  23. 23. Gap leveraged its brand family members—Banana Republic, Athleta, Old Navy and Piperlime—with Quick Links to “neighboring” brands also carrying DELIVER ON-DEMAND the product being searched. Consumers could also take advantage of sales and It’s been a fairly good year for Gap, as the brand free shipping across all five brands. celebrated its 40th birthday. Sales were up 17% in This is as close as retailers came to a the 2nd quarter, though sister brand Old Navy was universal login, with the exception the holiday winner. Gap’s retooled Gap Style Mixer of Amazon’s Payphrase. OpenID mobile app likely contributed to sales and buzz, as implementations didn’t make it now features m-commerce and community sharing retailers’ to-do lists this with Facebook friends, and a geo-aware special holiday season. discount for those who open the app near a Gap store. Snow wiped out an estimated $2B of store sales on the East coast the final weekend before Christmas so retailers used their sites to announce longer store hours. But online merchants also helped themselves: comScore reported that online spending grew 13% that final weekend over last year. GET PERSONAL Gap shoppers could put a personal touch on their holiday e-greetings, as the cheerleaders held up whatever name was typed in—no matter how exotic—and delivered it one of three ways. There’s room for improvement of the personal Gap experience— with no customization options, no co-shopping, no interesting ways to put your profile on record. But the Gap Jeans Challenge earlier in the year is a great example of what to do more. Partnering with social shopping site Polyvore, contestants were asked to style the jeans and answer a juicy, very personal question. 22
  24. 24. GREAT GOOD LACKING BE ENGAGING After a two-year TV advertising hiatus, Gap was back in a their web site, emails and magazines. The Cheer Factory big way and made the holiday ad’s theme as multichannel as remained on the site long after consumers were finished with possible. There were bus tours and plaid-clad cheerleaders the holidays. everywhere from NY, LA, Chicago and SF to YouTube, Facebook, GET NETWORKED Gap loves pop-up stores almost as much as Target and the latest in the UK featured arttwork by, yes, newly famous fashion bloggers. Philanthropy is itself a great networking platform, and Gap partners with Product Red and Feeding America. All those cheery videos on Gap’s Facebook page garnered hundreds of thumbs up but also provided plenty of time to dig the boots, which both the NYT and the LA Times reported were Barneys Co-Op private label. Mmmm. Don’t they sell shoes at Piper Lime? 23 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  25. 25. Some retailers gave just as much thought to the On-Demand consumer experience after Christmas. JCPenney offered an DELIVER ON-DEMAND After Christmas Sale Wake Up Call for mobile phones. Consumers could use the store locator and check mobile alerts once they awakened and were headed for the mall. The widget was likely a big hit among millennials, for whom December 26 is a very big gift card redemption day. The September release of JCP’s iPhone app builds on JCP’s 2-D code reader was a their Know Before You Go pilot program implemented in initiative by making weekly select Houston stores as a mobile deals and shopping lists coupon reader—no more clipping portable. and having to remember to bring the print version. The coupons were scanned by a cashier at checkout and offered big discounts. JCPenney enables consumers to connect with others at the moment of adding merchandise to their bag. We think perhaps this new On-Demand scenario might distract from the shopping task at hand. GET PERSONAL JCPenney club perquisites are immediately apparent to those considering membership in JCP Rewards or the Portrait Studio Club: a KitchenAid Mixer sweepstakes or a sizeable discount. Personal experiences are all about special privileges. 24
  26. 26. GREAT GOOD LACKING BE ENGAGING Consumers liked sending delinquent gift givers to the doghouse last year so much that JCPenney brought it back—with more features and more fun. Facebook Connect helped build the Case Gallery, as did multiple choice reasons for the sentence. The retailer’s YouTube channel had already streamed over 125,000 views by November 20. The funny takeaway? Tools bad. Bling good. Over at competitor Sears, various engaging features taught consumers: bling good. But tools good too. GET NETWORKED The Angel Giving Tree let customers adopt a child or senior in need (it was possible to specify their location, age range, and gender) then shop for them online at The Angel’s needed items were emailed to the gift giver along with info about free FedEx Ground shipping and drop-off locations. Finally, to draw more people to the charity, Facebook Connect let folks share their “Angel adoption” with friends. Not yet a bona fide trend but it should be: JCPenney offered an instant coupon for A Facebook holiday consumer content platform lets fanning them on Facebook. JCPenney fans upload photos and their modes—or odes—to joy. 25 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  27. 27. DELIVER ON-DEMAND How many ways can I shop, filter, find? Macy’s had gift guides galore, a dynamic online catalog, and TV spots right on their site: no need to head to YouTube where brands can get a little lost in the crowd. Macy’s multichannel focus is stronger than most, a strategy CEO Terry Lundgren says is driving their growth. Home page space was constantly allocated to a printable in- store savings “pass”— note the nicer word for coupon. MEMORY LANE Macy’s iPhone mobile app has everything from GPS-enabled store Did this barcode scanner idea ever get locator to in-store savings passes and easy checkout using the implemented? If not, there are mobile consumer’s Macy’s profile. Macy’s is also one of the major retailers barcode scanners aplenty from vendors these that can be found on the new Free Shipping iPhone app, which days, including Red Laser and Snappr. helps consumers find coupon codes for price discounts as well as shipping deals—so they can decide whether to buy online or off. 26
  28. 28. GREAT GOOD LACKING GET PERSONAL Many major retailers offer digital photo services from their web sites but Macy’s has applied that process to gift cards— a great personalization idea. And if you’re on the receiving end of one of these cards, you can check the balance online. A perennial gift idea—but one notoriously difficult to get right—is fragrance. Macy’s offered a great online survey over the holidays to heighten your chances of choosing the right notes. Macy’s high functionality wish list allows sorting, the ability to move items among multiple lists, tracking needs/purchases, and sharing with friends via email. Who knew wishing could be so organized? For those who want some face time, Macy’s lets you schedule individual appointments with style advisors who will help determine your personal style profile— and offer first dibs on your sizes and favorite brands. Signing up can be done via email or 1-800 #. 27 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  29. 29. BE ENGAGING Macy’s “Believe” campaign won over the nation and showed retailers what “seamless” looks like when it comes to integrated multichannel campaigns. To contribute to the charity Make-a-Wish Foundation partnership, children had to mail a real letter in a real mailbox in a Macy’s store. Where’s the digital in that, you ask? Santa’s stationary was downloadable. Who knows how to tie a fashion trend to a charity? Macy’s does. Their Fall 2009 Come+Together is about mix and match fashion and Feeding America, their national anti-hunger partner. Celebrity-studded TV spots were embedded right into the catalog pages! 28
  30. 30. GREAT GOOD LACKING GET NETWORKED Twitter profile? Check. YouTube channel? Check. Facebook presence? Check. Reasons for people to join or follow each? Check. Some of these networking initiatives were launched just prior to the holiday season and Macy’s wanted the world to know about them. Hence, the display ads—among other things—to spread the word! Here’s a great Facebook question to tie into Macy’s National Believe Day, December 11, the Believe consumer stories on, and the CBS premiere of the new original animated special called Yes, Virginia. Macy’s is motivating consumers to write reviews with a big fat gift card drawing. Good idea. Project Runway designers vie for the prize: having a Macy’s INC private label dress made and sold. Now that’s a serious drop-down social networking menu. And right onto the one- click Macy’s catalog. 29 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  31. 31. DELIVER ON-DEMAND Net-a-Porter’s gift guide had enough of the rare and unexpected The retailer’s mobile iPhone app to work for those who already have was way ahead of the luxury pack, everything, though not enough to offering almost everything the rival Neiman Marcus’s. Still, who site does without overwhelming else offered legendary footwear the small screen, and making sure designer Christian Louboutin shoes consumers can shop new arrivals for Barbie? (They sold out in one twice a week. day, by the way.) This has to be one of the stronger confirmations that wealth went stealth during the downturn and, for all those affluent shoppers who’ve discovered digital, aims to stay that way. Brown bag deliveries same day for London and New York? Très on-demand. The new full-featured GET PERSONAL Wish List is only visible to those who sign in. You can drag and drop, print, email, name so as to remember the ensemble or occasion you’re planning for, and, of course, buy your inspirations. Anyone could join the retailer’s knitting circle, as these Twitpic-uploaded and Facebook-showcased event photos testify. 30
  32. 32. GREAT GOOD LACKING BE ENGAGING Videos (some with music), most with product hot spotting on Net-a- Porter’s destination site, are also being served on YouTube, including the latest look at the iconic LBD—Little Black Dress. The e-retailer’s content is a notch above most other apparel retailers; it helps to have a founder with a fashion journalism background. Net-a-Porter pioneered the ecommerce site that is just as much an editorial one. GET NETWORKED The Facebook page repurposes all the retailer’s assets and throws in a little blogger love to boot. Feeling a part of the community of fashion designers isn’t a stretch for Net-a-Porter fans, so knowing what was on those designers’ holiday wish lists was a nifty networking idea. 31 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  33. 33. Nordstrom e-gift card recipients got theirs within 4 hours of approval. DELIVER ON-DEMAND There was light-hearted multicultural messaging from Gap’s Cheer Factory. But Nordstrom took it one step further, publishing shipping schedules for three of the major ways to celebrate the holidays. Exclusive music compilations from Nordstrom can be sampled on a media player. As the retailer put it, try before you buy, or just enjoy the music while you shop the rest of their site. GET PERSONAL Nordstrom doesn’t have a mobile app yet but did offer its Gift Guide through mobile shopping concierge NearbyNow, which directed consumers to the nearest store. Nordstrom made the top ten on the NRF-sponsored Customer’s Choice survey of the best retailer service, regardless of channel. It’s no wonder. The retailer synonymous with personal attention offers plenty of On-Demand features, such as an RSS feed, Buy Online, Pick Up In Store, privacy settings on Wish Lists, and style advice from real experts on staff. Here, the retailer profiles a Manager of Personal Stylists, who explains the first step in “updating your look” and determining your signature style. 32
  34. 34. GREAT GOOD LACKING BE ENGAGING Free site downloads of gift tags, ornaments and seasonal decorative paper birdhouses in the Christmas Nordstrom catalog kept the whimsical holiday theme engaging—and crafty types busy. Nordstrom’s blog “the thread” is the place to go for inspiration, with videotaped designer interviews and now The Fashion Mixer is an Engaging the high-energy, millennial-focused BP.TV., as well. experience that starts with the palette expertise of a Nordstrom Fashion Director, once again putting a real individual into the digital mix. GET NETWORKED Reviews are encouraged—and so is sharing a little about the reviewer herself. More self- expression, more happy Networked The Networked experience at Nordstrom could use a little customers. boost, with more opportunities for showcasing customer creativity and sharing responses to meaningful questions on the brand’s Facebook page, for starters. How about, “Are you heading some place warm? Send us your vacation spot.” 33 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  35. 35. DELIVER ON-DEMAND The Sears2go mobile site lets consumers browse, purchase and schedule delivery or pickup for major home appliances. A washing machine from a mobile phone? No spin cycle in this customer journey. Sears Holdings spokesman Tom Aiello reports that usage of the mobile site and mobile app were up considerably during Black Friday weekend. The Blue Crew is the embodiment of Sears’ On-Demand experience. They were working overtime this holiday, answering questions by pointing shoppers to the appropriate service. ShopYourWay tied together Web shopping, in-store Sears helps loyal consumers bypass the holiday shipping charge shopping, mobile commerce and personal shoppers fluctuations with a year-round ShipVantage program. available via phone, chat or email. Sears’ customers had a 360 degree On-Demand experience. 34
  36. 36. GREAT GOOD LACKING GET PERSONAL Sears’ Gift Finder, which included a Virtual Gifts Sweepstakes, gave shoppers a quiz to send to friends and family from a microsite at or Sears’ Facebook page. Once the gifts were picked, people sent virtual gifts through a Facebook app, thereby entering both sender and recipient into a drawing for one of ten pairs of real prizes valued at over $24,000. Quirky, fun questions made the experience feel personal. One login and one profile is a year-round Personal advantage, enabling Sears consumers to keep their purchase histories and lists for Kmart, mygofer, and Craftsman as well. 35 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  37. 37. BE ENGAGING The clever Gift Faceoff let consumers select up to five gift ideas to compare search results using custom Google Trends integration. The top gift contestants also let you know what Sears thought were hot gifts to give. Think tools, electronics and bling. Even Sears’ layaway plan gets a video treatment— here, Santa’s elves have just discovered it. Black Friday Doorbusters happened every Saturday and Facebook fan deals popped up randomly—keeping consumers coming back to Sears again and again. Sears’ Always Good News offers videos about hula hoopers in Cambodia and anything else that is occasionally useful but generally just for lifting one’s spirits. Sears’ Twitter followers are reminded where to get their daily dose. 36
  38. 38. GREAT GOOD LACKING GET NETWORKED Sears really keeps the networking going with video on five different YouTube channels, featuring how-to clips including cooking demos, Sears was one of several retailers that some fun pool playing contests, and military well wishes. And, most stepped up their enticements to fan them important for the Networked experience, consumers themselves. on Facebook. Here, a Blue Crew guy has been replaced by very enthusiastic elves. The retailer’s long-standing Heroes at Home packs a big philanthropic wallop, showing how many and exactly who are being affected by people’s generosity. The Give Together platform by Sears was one of the best of a growing number of group gifting options. Consumers could track contributions to see how close they were to their goal. 37 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  39. 39. DELIVER ON-DEMAND How do you want your On-Demand daily Sephora fix? The retailer offers a mobile phone widget (but no app yet), a beauty portal on iGoogle, and an RSS/ Atom feed. Do they have the content to keep these channels flowing with beauty expertise, events and enthusiasms? You bet. CashStar reported that online gift card sales increased more than twelve-fold (1129 percent) between Black Friday (November 27) and Christmas Eve. Sephora keeps consumer interest in theirs with a dual-mirror compact, no expiration date, plus the ability to check balance and transaction history online. Ecards and More Ways to Shop made the destination site a good place to be during the holiday countdown and the integrated emails didn’t let you forget it. Sephora Favorites and Top-Rated Products give consumers both peer and expert opinions as filters: when one set of reviews isn’t convincing or helpful, the other almost always is. 38
  40. 40. GREAT GOOD LACKING GET PERSONAL Sephora University: How many other retailers wish their training programs could create a “credentialed” staff and build brand equity? Sephora’s beauty experts, however well-trained, are still a tad hard to find on the site. They’re much easier to spot and take advantage of in- store, as anyone knows who’s stared at the mascara just long enough for a great on-the-spot consultation. No social network buttons to share My Favorites with friends yet. And a place for skin regimen reminders or notes would enhance this personal brand experience beautifully. Sephora = samples on steroids. You really know this if you’re A Very Important Beauty Insider, with points and holiday coupons to spend—while A registry for events (requiring beauty gifts, of course) has an earning your right to, yes, even more samples. inspiring dropdown menu—including “Dropped 2 Dress Sizes.” 39 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  41. 41. Expert how-to videos can be found on BE ENGAGING Sephora’s blog, on their Facebook page, and on YouTube. At it since January 2004, Sephora’s Beauty and the Blog is one of the grande dames of social media, asking its readers genuinely interesting questions, debuting Sephora exclusives, showcasing philanthropic partnerships, wearing their Technorati ranking badge proudly, featuring individual bloggers, and showing link love to 35 other beauty and style bloggers. So where’s the mention on 40
  42. 42. GREAT GOOD LACKING GET NETWORKED Sephora has 362,306 fans (and counting) on its Facebook page and one of the reasons is clearly the story-based sweepstakes. Tell a good enough one on Facebook or Twitter or on the Sephora Claus microsite this holiday? Win great prizes and a little celebrity to boot. 41 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  43. 43. DELIVER ON-DEMAND The new mobile application lets you take a photo of your wall or available space and Walmart determines how large of a television Walmart, Walgreens and other digital photo developers start the you can accommodate, then suggests the best process online while helping consumers express themselves with televisions to fit in that space. This unique custom products that are also points of pride. “Look what I made feature is a great way to generate buzz about a from the computer in the kitchen!” Walmart’s Photo Center has a nifty new mobile app. Judging from the Facebook mobile component. comments about it, though, there might be a need for a Blackberry or other smartphone implementation. Four ways to stay current with Walmart’s deals. MEMORY LANE Last year’s simple holiday mobile alerts, which launched December 1 ‘08, remind us just how far the industry has come in a single year. Walmart helps consumers shop their local stores with everything from location information to local ads and Site to Store shipping. 42
  44. 44. GREAT GOOD LACKING GET PERSONAL The retail giant’s Wish List functionality is fairly basic except for one feature: access to Amazon-like customer favorites. Not many such favorites were listed yet so time will tell if this is a helpful way to build a wish list or registry. “Dear Walmart” letters, read by employees, and shared via video on Walmart’s Facebook page, are deeply moving. It might not be about your life experience but it feels personal just the same. Consumers can learn about Q&A participant, and can rate their answers’ helpfulness at Resource research shows that knowing the reviewer has something in common with you enhances the value of this type of Networked experience. At, shoppers rate answers on their helpfulness and can find out more about those who post responses. 43 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH
  45. 45. BE ENGAGING Cause marketing at Walmart is impressive any time of the year, but during the holidays, it provides ample reason to spend more time with the retailer—and the people Walmart helps. Sharing buttons—including the call to action button “Volunteer Match”, video, blog entries on, and the WalMart Gives Back badge all add up to an exceptional Engaging experience. Walmart’s YouTube channel has something for everyone. This 4 star-rated video picked up 3,500 views in no time. Walmart and a handful of other retailers kept the promotional party going all week long. Consumers following Walmart on Twitter for daily deals were already in place to learn about Cyber Week specials. 44
  46. 46. GREAT GOOD LACKING GET NETWORKED For Walmart Gives Back, there are 15 ways to share. But when it comes to socnet buttons for Walmart shopping, consumers can’t yet share product imagery or descriptions, only reviews via Facebook, Digg, and Delicious. Walmart helps consumers know what others think through ratings and reviews and a friend connector on the new mobile app. This was one of the season’s most inventive group gifting platforms. No stranger to Facebook apps, Walmart put a lot of personality into this Christmas List Workshop. People need to know what friends and family desire, so a platform that gathers that information digitally is a natural Networked experience. Walmart’s A Show of Support Facebook application lets soldiers’ families and friends go on record together with their love and support—and a photograph. 45 HOLIDAY OPEN WATCH