Consumers have just recovered from back-to-school spending, and for many, holiday shopping isn’t even on the radar.

But holiday marketing never starts too early for retailers, who are planning for a bigger, busier holiday shopping season this year.

According to projections from the website eMarketer, holiday sales are expected to increase 5.0 percent this year. The projection forecasts a robust improvement from the 3.6 percent growth in holiday sales in 2013. Further, eMarketer projects a 16.6 percent increase in holiday ecommerce sales, on the heels of last year’s 15.3 percent growth of ecommerce purchases. And they are projecting 8.4 percent of sales coming via ecommerce, an increase from the 6.5 percent annual rate ecommerce presently provides.

The message in these numbers, according to eMarketer, is that with an ever-increasing portion of the ecommerce pie available, brick-and-mortar retailers need not wait for foot-traffic alone. Last year, advances in technology allowed retailers and shop owners to engage their customers by mobile, even while the customer is in the store.

Recent advances in Beacon technology take advantage of a shopper’s “time in line” to sell accessories or offer discounts on other items. Though still in a nascent stage, Beacon technology is expected to enjoy a breakout period during the holiday season. Large retailers such as Macy’s have announced expanded Beacon use, and through the use of apps, smaller shops and brands can take advantage of Beacons.

“More than half of the top 100 retailers are actively working with beacon technology now—and they’re in different stages—but all of them are evaluating, testing, piloting, trying it out,” Rob Murphy, vice president of marketing at iBeacon provider Swirl, told eMarketer.

Beacons rolled out late last year, after Apple added Beacon protocols to its iOS7 iPhone platform. And while retailers are excited about it’s potential for reaching customers, the technology remains somewhat hamstrung. For the moment, Beacons can only be accessed — or access customers — through a retailer’s app, or via Apple Passbook. This means potential customers must download the brand’s app to their phone, and making that proactive exercise happen is still a hurdle for most retailers.

One work-around has seen retailers and Beacon platform vendors partner with popular websites to access a broader swath of potential customers. Combined with standard visual and local search capabilities, Beacons could render mobile devices even more effective as marketing platforms, and more readily incorporated into the shopping experience.


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