Looks like retailers are placing their bets on happier holidays this year. But you wouldn’t know it by their modest investments in mobile shopping.
A new study from the Hay Group, a management consultancy that measured the seasonal hiring plans of 14 of the country’s largest retailers, reports that 36% plan to be hiring more sales elves than last year. In last year’s survey, only 10% planned increases. And 75% believe sales will gain this year.
“Retailers are betting that 2012 is going to be a great holiday season,” writes Craig Rowley, VP/global practice leader, in the analysis. “After four years of economic turbulence, they have figured out how to operate in an uncertain business environment and are calm and cool, knowing that they are ready, as they head into the holidays.” Importantly, the study found that 43% are shifting toward permanent -- rather than seasonal -- hires, indicating they expect the merriment to extend into 2013.
The study also found that stores are shifting their e-commerce strategies, fueled by a successful 2011, which saw 10 days with online sales topping $1 billion.
Expect holiday sales to start earlier: While the majority (58%) say they will hold off on holiday promotions until November, 42% intend to start next month. But a smaller percentage of stores (just 18%, according to the study) say they feel under pressure to match online-only prices, and overall, 50% say they intend to cut back on overall discounting.
Nor are they heaping spending on mobile channels, despite steady growth in m-commerce. A new report by Shop.org, the e-commerce arm of the National Retail Federation, says that on average, retailers plan to invest just $207,000 on mobile objectives this year, compared to an average of $55,000 spent in 2011.
Despite limited spending, more retailers are jumping into the mobile game: Only 9% of the companies surveyed had not made any mobile or tablet investments this year, compared with 18% in 2011. And 60% say they have a mobile site that they’ve optimized for Web browsers.
In addition to consumer-facing smartphone innovations, retailers say they are also beefing up in-store mobile efforts, with 45% already or planning to offer e-receipts in the next two years, and 57% saying the same about mobile point-of-sale options.
But within retail organizations, there are hurdles, with 60% saying business objectives for mobile are unclear, 40% citing lack of experience in designing for smartphone and tablet formats, and 36% expressing concerns about inadequate budgets, including staff.
“While consumers are rapidly adopting smartphones and tablets, and there is no shortage of companies eager to provide mobile offerings to retailers,” writes Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester Research VP/principal analyst in the report, “retail executives are taking a measured view of the immediate benefits of these efforts -- in part because of myriad challenges that must be considered when investing in mobile for their company.”