Grey November for Canadian holiday shoppers

Expanded season can be a boon for retailers, says Oracle + Bronto 

Greg Zakowicz, senior commerce marketing analyst for Oracle + Bronto, says Canadian consumers are heading online and expanding the holiday season well into November   

Get ready for Gray November.

Or, as it shall be known in Canada, Grey November.

Typically, Black Friday (November 24) signals the start of the holiday shopping season, but over the past few years, consumers have expanded their scope. Last year in the United States alone, 57 of the 61 holiday shopping days brought in $1 billion each, according to a study by Adobe Digital Insights. Greg Zakowicz, senior commerce marketing analyst for Oracle + Bronto, said this is forcing retailers to adapt to a widening shopping season. Oracle + Bronto, a commerce marketing automation platform for high-growth retailers, could be just the ticket to respond to the ever-changing wants of the consumer, said Zakowicz.

“Incentivizing has expanded along with the season,” he added. “Retailers have been increasing discounts and offering them earlier, and consumers are now expecting discounts, and lots of them.”

Zakowicz added this puts retailers in a tough position: discount and lose profit margins or continue to try to train consumers to wait for discounts.

“The focus should be on finding ways to maximize revenue with the types of promotions you offer and to focus on building customer loyalty through a variety of means, such as with automated life-cycle email messaging. The purchase is only Step 1.”

Bronto, which touts such Canadian clients as Stokes, Canada’s largest kitchen, tableware and giftware sales company, provides personalized email marketing campaigns tailored for each business. Zakowicz said the Bronto marketing platform can help businesses break out of the typical discounting mania with features such as personalized product recommendations in emails, browsing-behaviour-triggered emails, mobile-responsive emails and automated life-cycle messaging.

He added the company also offers in-house professional services to help with everything from strategic guidance and planning (holiday-specific or year-round) to creating, designing, coding and scheduling the emails. Bronto’s Holiday Marketing Academy has also been a huge hit, helping commerce marketers prepare with strategies and inspirational ideas.

Zakowicz offered some helpful hints for companies looking to up their game this holiday season when it comes to attracting the coveted online shopper.

“From a promotional standpoint, consider grouping items together, using tiered discounts – such as ‘spend more, save more’ – flash sales, and gifts for in-store pickup,” he said.

If a company has a bricks-and-mortar location, Zakowicz said BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) is now expected concerning shopping.

“Also consider in-store-only sales to help drive traffic,” he added. “People will generally spend more once in-store, even if they are only picking up a couple of items.”

Zakowicz said Canadian consumers are becoming more localized in their online shopping habits; last year, 56% of Canadian consumers started their search on a Canadian retailer website, compared with 19% starting on a U.S.-based online retailer’s site, according to an eMarketer study. A recent KPMG survey also found that 80% of Canadians say they bought something online in the past three months and 42% say they are shopping online much more than they used to in previous years.

Not only have Canadians flocked to online shopping as of late, they’ve flocked to their phones to shop as well.

“Mobile is king,” said Zakowicz. “If you are not mobile-optimized, you’re not optimized. Make sure your emails are responsive, easily read and understood on mobile devices, and that your website and checkout is frictionless on mobile. Mobile purchasing is rising in Canada, and we are only a few short years away from more than half of all e-commerce happening on mobile devices.”