As shops across the country begin illuminating for the (increasingly long!) run up to Christmas, research from Webtrends has revealed that 30 per cent of us are planning to do more of our festive shopping online this year than ever before, in order to find the best deals on our gifts. But before the shops start turning off those lights, the research also shows that despite the potential cost benefits of shopping online, 46 per cent of us still like the ‘Christmassy’ feeling of shopping in-store.

The high street is fast becoming a festive showroom. Nearly a third (32 per cent) of gift givers will browse the high street before buying online, and a further 29 per cent will browse the web for deals, check the item in stores before returning to the internet to purchase.

John Fleming, Marketing Director EMEA & APAC at Webtrends comments, “The psychology of shopping is extremely fascinating. While price and service are key factors in people’s purchase decision making, emotion and tradition also play a part. It’s tough for retailers to stand out but with potential customers already engaging online, omni-channel retailers have a unique opportunity to secure additional sales by taking what people like about in-store shopping and replicating the personal shopping experience online.”

Using context to grab a ready-made customer

When deciding where to shop, twice as many women value the ability to gain loyalty card points as men (32 per cent compared to 16 per cent) whereas one in eight men (13 per cent) like shopping in-store because of the gift wrapping service. Therefore retailers could take advantage of this trend by offering a flash ‘double points’ day exclusively online, or free online gift wrapping, in order to tempt purchasers to buy from them rather than head out to the shops, or to a competitor.

Fleming explains, “By understanding your audience’s preferences and the context in which they are shopping, online retailers can mimic that which draws customers to their high street counterparts and then increase sales through contextual personalisation – using what we know about a customer and matching it to external factors such as the time, date, device, and even the weather they are experiencing, to understand and then help drive their shopping intent.”

Using online insight for high street success

However there are some experiences that cannot be replicated online. One in five Brits (21 per cent) enjoy the sense of achievement when loaded up with lots of Christmas shopping on the high street, saying they like to physically touch and see the product before purchasing in-store. But retailers can again turn this shopping trait to their advantage. With nearly half (44 per cent) of Brits going online to avoid having to brave bad weather, retailers can send timely messages to entice them away from the snowy streets and onto the web.

And on the flip side, retailers can continue engaging with the online customer offline, by using new technologies such as beacons. Enabling retailers to interact with customers that are near or in-store at that time, beacons can help tempt shoppers in the vicinity with special offers, ‘limited time’ offers and even stock alerts (advising that items the customer browsed online are in-store and available, for example). When asked, more than two in five (42 per cent) of Brits stated they would like to receive real-time information and offers from retailers when in the vicinity.

Fleming comments, “We are seeing increased technological advances emerging that are helping brands engage with consumers in previously unimaginable ways, and this could be used to a retailer’s advantage during the festive shopping season. Omni-channel retailers can now use information about what a customer has searched for online and engage with them in a physical store to alert them to offers on that item – our survey found that more than one in ten Brits (11 per cent) would like real-time reminders from their phone when in store, so that they can be directed straight to the item previously searched for online. That’s not a bad number for a technology that 82 per cent of Brits haven’t heard of.”

Published on: 9:04AM on 5th November 2014