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During the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday alone, American consumers spent $58.5 billion, a 19.9% increase over 2017. Online sales in particular are at an all-time high, with Cyber Monday’s $7.9 billion taking the crown for the biggest ecommerce day in U.S. history. Where did all those figures come from? Adobe.

Adobe is well-known in the industry for their holiday insights. We’re in the middle of the biggest holiday shopping season ever. Who better to shed some light on that than Michael Klein, Adobe’s Director of Industry Strategy for Retail?

“Media is the new store and stores are the new media,” says Klein, on why a brick-and-mortar presence has become a differentiator for retailers. We also spoke about what made this particular holiday season stand out from previous years, the delicate balance between physical and ecommerce, and why Best Buy and Nordstrom are nailing it.

Michael Klein, director of industry strategy for retail at Adobe

ClickZ: Adobe analyzes holiday shopping every year. What sets 2018 apart from previous years?

Michael Klein (MK): What I’m seeing more than ever is retailers using brick-and-mortar as a differentiator or an advantage. In urban areas and even in department stores, there are more pop-ups. Macy’s is always trying to push the envelope there. They have b8ta pop-ups in their stores, which is kind of like the Sephora of electronics in a way. They’re giving you the opportunity to touch, feel and play with the devices on the floor.

CZ: What do you mean by physical as a differentiator?

MK: Media is the new store and stores are the new media. Historically, the differentiator was in product, brand and price or value, and now the playing field is different. If I’m only after a product that has a particular price, why do I need to go into a store? People want to lay in a bed before they buy it. Casper has an interesting proposition with the Sleepmobile and their store in New York. I’m surprised at how creatively they use physical space.

Casper Sleepmobile

We also see data around buying online and picking up in-store, which allows somebody to engage online and then leverage the physical locations to pick up and return. And then there’s the way Nike uses data to help the merchants. They’re starting to understand patterns and the types of products that might be applicable to the audience that’s in the geographical area from all the data they have from the Nike+ members.

CZ: What’s something you don’t think retailers realize about the balance between ecommerce and brick-and-mortar?

MK: The seamless experience isn’t always there. It’s not always efficient in terms of connecting the dots. If I was in your store on Sunday and you communicate with me on Tuesday, do you have an awareness of what I was doing on Sunday? It’s easy to say but not easy to sell because of the nature of the two channels.

Nordstrom has omnichannel in the store, but not everyone has nailed that. If I like a particular item but they don’t have it in my size or the color I want, Nordstrom can find that product somewhere in the system and then give me the option to have it shipped home or shipped to the store so I can pick it up. We also see interesting things happening with Adidas. They’re doing more bespoke customization, bringing personalization to the product beyond just monogramming.

Adidas customization

CZ: Did anything about this holiday season surprise you?

MK: One surprise that has come up in Adobe data is that while traffic is at an all-time high, the value of the visit isn’t what it once was. Some of that could be attributed to last-click attribution and where social media plays a part in the customer journey. There certainly isn’t a lack of engagement on social media, but how is that really affecting commerce? We need to get to a point of better multi-touch attribution so we understand all the touchpoints that lead up to a conversion. If we only rely on last-touch attribution, we don’t get the full picture.

CZ: You can’t really talk about retail these days without bringing up Amazon. How can brands protect themselves from being steamrolled?

MK: I don’t want to sound cliché, but it definitely comes to experience and services. Adobe’s mission statement is changing the world through digital experiences. You have to be able to delight the customer on experience and services. Best Buy, with their army of blue shirts, is delivering on that. Their buy online-pick up in-store option is one of the most effective in terms of inventory accuracy. While we want to see attractive, engaging experiences, if you don’t deliver on service, Amazon can.

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