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2022 Holiday Preparation: Hybrid Shopping Experiences

The holiday season has long been equal parts joyful and stressful, but global events have exasperated this dynamic. After 2020 prevented many from seeing their loved ones, we have all learned to appreciate gathering together when it’s possible even more. But the impact of the pandemic poses new stressors for consumers like rising inflation, supply chain issues, shipping delays, and more.

For brands, it’s no longer just about providing products that consumers want to give friends and family. You must meet consumers where they are amidst all these obstacles. One thing we know to be true is that shoppers will be making purchases online and in stores this year, and they want a seamless experience between the two. Welcome to the new era of hybrid shopping.


Why hybrid shopping is important

After two years of uncertainty, the retail industry landed on hybrid shopping as the solution to provide flexibility for health differences, preference for convenience, and optimum timing. While in-store placement is best for visibility, elevating direct-to-consumer strategies provides a huge gain from a first-party-data standpoint, allowing brands to own the interaction and the experience, rather than relying solely on retail partners. Not to mention, only focusing on in-store experiences can limit growth and impact the bottom line.


Where to start

As you begin planning for the holiday season, keep these two things in mind.

  1. Tighten up your logistics – Whether searching online or in stores, consumers want to know how many products are available and when or if you are going to restock. More specifically, they want to know sizes, colors, and at which store location they can find a product. And it’s even better if you can tell them what aisle to go to at each store location to save the time and hassle of searching.
  2. Embrace a total commerce approach – Hybrid experiences aren’t just about where consumers purchase your products, they’re also about how you approach the holiday season. Centralizing your budget, KPIs, and internal alignment enables everyone in your company to work toward a common goal.


How to stand out

As we mentioned, tightening up your logistics and embracing total commerce are just the start for brands who want to be competitive this holiday season. If you want to differentiate yourself from the competition, here are a couple of ideas to run with and make your own.

  1. Make the physical more experiential – Retailers that aim to get more foot traffic need to create an experience that consumers can only get at their physical stores. Maybe that’s a QR code that reveals a digital experience, an in-store game, augmented reality experiences in the store, or even setting up an insta-worthy display.
  2. Consider delivery hubs – For brands with a large footprint, it could be worth it to identify underperforming stores and turn them into delivery hubs for curbside pickup; buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS); or ship from store. It will drive traffic to the underperforming stores, and free up delivery congestion at the best-performing stores.
  3. Embrace the store-within-a-store concept – This concept is a win-win for consumer goods and retail brands. If a retail space is underutilized, CG brands can create a dedicated space in the store for their top holiday product(s). A grand, unique display make the physical more experiential, like we talked about, and helps retailers optimize the square footage of the brick-and-mortar store.

And this is all just scratching the surface for what your brand can do to create hybrid shopping experiences this holiday season. For more ideas to blend your physical and digital stores, download our 2022 Holiday Preparation Playbook and get connected with the full-service Merkle team to establish a cohesive, cross-channel strategy for the holidays.