The fourth quarter is the make-or-break season for many retailers. The sales in this shopping season account for more than 30% of the yearly volume of sales for numerous retailers and this holds especially true in the case of brands that specialize in gifting accessories or luxury brands.

This shopping spree doesn’t see a slower pace until after Black Friday and Cyber Monday come and go. All brands and merchants have pulled every last tactic to maximize their sales during their periods but they also understand that Christmas and surrounding holidays are just as popular for shoppers.

With that said, it’s important that retailers stay in front of this season’s trends in light of the booming competition. Innovations in retail are differentiators and below we’ve listed the

Online shopping is going to be huge:

In 2015, Fortune reported that for the first time, the number of buyers on online channels, standing at 103 million, exceeded the number of buyers in the physical stores during the Black Friday weekend. Shopping is definitely moving online and this is seconded by Marketing Land, which reports that by 2020, more than half of the Black Friday conversations will refer to online sales.

Unbelievable discounts:

Demand through both online and offline channels has increased but in an effort to better convert, retailers are implementing discounts strategically. With retailers openly resorting to ‘price anchoring’, the exponentially increasing ‘original price’ and the discount offered has led shoppers to expect discounts for every commodity. According to surveys carried out by Accenture, more than 40% customers will not pay full-price for products during the 2016 holiday season.

Free shipping and hassle-free returns:

In an industry dominated by Amazon, where Prime subscribers get free shipping and delivery within 2 days, most of the online retailers are also stepping up their game. Not surprisingly, according to Deloitte’s research, 88% customers don’t want to pay extra for expedited shipping and more than 2/3rd of them want free delivery by Christmas even if ordering just a week before.

A higher than usual sales volume is almost always accompanied by a higher than usual return requests. While returning at brick-and-mortar stores is an effortless process, a retailer’s return policy has a large effect on not only its brand reputation and image, but also its future sales volume. 95% customers say they will buy again from a retailer if the return process was easy. Retailers that offer free shipping on returns and a hassle-free refund process are expected to increase their sales by 58% to 357% over the next two years. While the initial setbacks for free shipping on a large number of items will be undoubtedly staggering, the ROI in terms of future sales and competitive advantage is more than worth it. Further, this brings your brand one step closer to a true omnichannel experience.

Physical retailers are rising up to the challenge:

Sure, online retailers allow you to shop while sitting in the comfort of your home. But will you get personalized assistance, along with selfie stations and toy demos to spice up your shopping? The increasing competition has made physical retailers provide a more immersive shopping experiences along with special in-store activations on the omnichannel front, to entice shoppers in brick-and-mortar locations.

With the increasing number of people preferring online shopping rather than visiting crowded retail stores, it is now more important than ever for retailers to provide an omnichannel experience to buyers. This usually refers to the digital presence in physical retail stores but what about the physical presence when online shopping?

Innovative retailers are responding by providing a more personalized and seamless experience across their digital channels, with many of the perks of an in-store experience.

Technologies like Augmented Reality will help bridge the gap between an in-store and online shopping experience as the key factor in deciding a winner in a highly segregated marketplace. Augmented Reality makes the shopping experience truly omnichannel, by addressing its main drawback — the absence of try-and-buy.

In the recent past, we have seen many innovative use cases of AR in online shopping to a widespread acceptance among the shoppers, especially for buyers in the home decoration and furnishing sectors. People are eager to ‘try’ the product, whether it is an apparel, a piece of furniture, or an electronic equipment in their own personal space. Physical retailers have also utilized AR technologies at their stores to a wide variety of effects- ranging from simply trying apparel to demonstrating an industrial product’s build and specifications.

In a world of plentiful options, shoppers are quick to migrate between brands. Brand loyalty is largely being replaced with experience and incentives. As such, let AR give your audience an unparalleled shopping experience and give your brand the competitive advantage this holidays.

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