Digital, mobile, and personalization are driving the future of retail — and smart brands are shifting their marketing strategies to align with new consumer behaviors.

According to Rick Kenney, Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s Head of Consumer Insights, early data from the 2017 holiday shopping season shows digitally empowered consumers are creating new paths to purchase.

“Shoppers no longer need to beat a path to stores on Black Friday. With an astounding 32 percent digital growth on Black Friday, the tide has officially shifted online as consumers are unshackled from the doorbuster sales of year’s past, and are free to shop on their own terms,” Kenney wrote in a blog post yesterday.

More than 64 million people shopped both online and in stores between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation (NFR), a US-based retail trade association. In addition, more than 58 million shopped only online, and more than 51 million shopped only in stores.

“The multichannel shopper spent $82 more on average than the online-only shopper, and $49 more on average than those shoppers who only shopped in stores,” the NFR explained.

Black Friday Again Beat Cyber Monday

While physical retail is still highly relevant and even profitable, digital is growing rapidly. For the second consecutive year, Black Friday — once the biggest in-store holiday shopping day — unseated Cyber Monday as the No. 1 digital shopping day, too, Kenney said.

Cyber Monday now rates as the second-biggest shopping day of the holiday season

The takeaway: Retailers need to be mindful of today’s consumer behaviors.

Customers shop when and where they want, balancing convenience, discounts, and experience. They switch from digital to physical and back with ease — and expect a unified, omnichannel experience.

For retailers, that means channel convergence is a must.

Shoppers have unified their shopping, and retail must unify to meet her expectations. Consumers expect speed and agility regardless of channel, and they have little patience for conflicting promotions, pricing, products, and inventory as they move between physical and digital worlds.

Draw them into stores with unique experiences, and entice them to buy online with free shipping — a perk Kenney called “an expectation of the season.”

Mobile Commerce Orders Grow

Mobile is proving stronger than ever this holiday season.

Kenney said shoppers placed 37 percent of orders and made 56 percent of visits from phones on Cyber Monday, up from 29 percent and 48 percent, respectively, last year.

On Black Friday — before many consumers returned to their desktop computers in the workplace — mobile played an even stronger role. Phones accounted for 60 percent of traffic to retail sites, up from 53 percent in 2016, Kenney reported. What’s more, customers placed 42 percent of their Black Friday orders with phones.

And even bigger mobile days await. “The weekends during the season and the final few days leading up to Dec. 25 are expected to see even more mobile shopping,” he added.

The takeaway: Shoppers continue to evolve and adopt new means of connecting to brands. They use their phones to shop on their own terms, on the move and when it’s convenient.

Retailers should focus on smaller screens. They should also optimize every aspect of the mobile experience, from the first tap on the screen through checkout.

Personalization Pays

Personalization, used effectively, helps keep your customers and attract new ones. It can cut acquisition costs by as much as 50 percent, lift revenues by 15 to 20 percent, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by as much as 30 percent.

Retailers that fail to offer personalized experiences are leaving money on the table.

On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, for instance, Kenney noted that retailers saw an impressive impact from personalization, especially from artificial intelligence-powered product recommendations.

While just 6 percent of shoppers engaged with such product recommendations on Black Friday, those shoppers accounted for 30 percent of all revenue. On Cyber Monday, the 5 percent of shoppers that engaged with AI-powered product recommendations accounted for 24 percent of revenue.

Have questions about your retail strategy? Contact Margaret Wise for more information or read more about Arke’s perspectives on retail experiences.

Understanding Today’s Consumer Behaviors

Digital remains the beacon of growth and hope for retail even as in-store sales seem to be stabilizing.

Retailers should aim to reduce friction across channels. They should offer better real-time inventory updates, and capitalize on technologies such as AI and proximity beacons to transmit relevant, targeted messages to customers.

Above all, improve in-store experiences and understand that mobile is key to survival.

As futurist Brian Solis explained, “Today’s customers aren’t just mobile. They’re empowered, demanding, impatient and elusive. As a result, mobile consumers are reshaping customer journeys and how they make decisions. The brands that benefit, understand mobile behaviors and are ready to provide useful content and real-time engagement.”