Nick Mangiapane

As online sales continue to reshape retail, businesses are grappling with fulfillment and inventory management as well as accelerating investments in improving services such as curbside pick-up and “click and collect.”

Here, Nick Mangiapane, chief marketing officer of Commerce Signals, shares some insights into current trends and how certain tools — including a free category tracker — can be used to help retailers navigate the market.

WWD: From a consumer spending perspective, what are some of the most notable trends you are seeing as we head into the peak holiday shopping season?

Nick Mangiapane: The two biggest shifts we’ve seen since the pandemic started has been the acceleration of online retail purchases and the drastic reduction of travel. Retail e-commerce growth has more than tripled from mid-March on. It’s gone from over 15 percent ahead of 2019 to more than 55 percent and it’s shown no signs of slowing down.

In travel, consumer spending is down 67 percent and the recent guidance from the CDC and others to stay home during [the holidays] will drive a continuation of this trend.

WWD: How is COVID-19 impacting sales? Which retailers/channels are best positioned to succeed?

N.M.: Retailers with strong e-commerce and online ordering capabilities are best positioned to succeed. Target (with more than 200 percent online growth over the past three months) and Foot Locker (over 65 percent online over the past three months) are just two examples of retailers who have invested heavily in the online buying experience from long before this pandemic. Their efforts are paying off now.

WWD: What are some of the metrics that retailers and brands need to be looking at right now?

N.M.: Market share at a county or zip code level is really important. Renewed government restrictions make it very hard for any business to determine if store sales trends are due to the local market restrictions or relative performance. Granular market share data, such as that in our merchant tracker, is great for isolating your performance versus the competition.

All retailers and brands need to keep watch on their customer experience metrics like in-stocks, on-time shipments, and wait time for buy online/pick-up in-store. A bad experience in November could cost a retailer that shopper for the rest of the holiday season.

WWD: How does your platform work? And how can companies leverage these insights?

N.M.: Our consumer spend impact tracker is available through our intuitive online dashboard as well as via a large data file. The category tracker is actually free for U.S. businesses and the merchant tracker access can be licensed. To learn more, readers can visit the category tracker and the merchant tracker.

WWD: What’s your sense of 2021 in regard to consumer spending? What are the headwinds?

N.M.: The sooner vaccine approvals and roll-outs occur, the sooner our economy and lives can get back to normal.