Contrary to popular belief, shoppers aren't abandoning brick-and-mortar to shop online exclusively. Although consumers do relish the convenience and vast inventory available online, they still crave the tactile experience of the retail store. This is even more true during the holiday season. In fact, a recent study conducted by Natural Insight found that the vast majority of consumers (88 percent) plan to do their holiday shopping in stores this season. To be successful this holiday shopping season, retailers must cater to all demographics. Here are some consumer trends to be aware of this holiday season:
Holiday Shopping Bliss: Consumers Look for Inspiration When Shopping
For some consumers, holiday shopping is a treat. According to Natural Insight’s survey, shoppers enjoy the in-store experience because it enables them to see and touch products as well as get gift ideas. They also enjoy the holiday atmosphere and decorations that only brick-and-mortar can provide. To attract more foot traffic this holiday season, retailers should think outside of the box. For example, every store will have decorations and holiday music playing, but retailers can go the extra mile by offering hot cocoa or free holiday cards. They might even consider partnering with a social media platform like Snapchat and create a branded geofilter! A unique experience or offering will get consumers off of their laptops and phones and into your store.
Holiday Shopping Nightmare: Consumers Confront Holiday Stress
While there are aspects of holiday shopping that most customers enjoy, the same survey found that shopping is the No. 1 cause of stress during the holiday season. In fact, 25 percent of consumers reported that shopping is their top stress over the holidays. Of that 25 percent, 65 percent cited crowds as one of the main causes of stress. To get consumers into their physical stores, retailers need to deliver the improved customer service and shopping experience that today’s shoppers expect.
Since crowds are the biggest stress factor for shoppers, retailers need to provide other ways for their customers to shop when their stores are quieter. For instance, one way to help customers avoid crowds is to encourage them to shop earlier in the season. Other ways to help customers avoid the crowds include offering buy online, pick up in-store service; displaying ideal times to visit the store, which Google tracks; or communicating peak hours and ideal shopping times with customers via email and social media so shoppers can plan ahead.
Convenience and Knowledgeable Sales Associates Are Key to Holiday Sales
Natural Insight's survey also found that when selecting presents, convenience and organization are two of the most important factors for consumers. And when asked about bad shopping experiences, a high number of consumers mentioned either the lack of available sales associates, the lack of knowledgeable sales associates, or rude sales associates. This holiday season, it’s essential for retailers to organize stores to ensure consumers can easily navigate aisles and find the gifts that will fit within their budget. A few ways to keep customers happy when shopping in-store include keeping shelves stocked; using retail execution software to better track project completion, avoid fraud and streamline inventory management; and making sure displays match out-of-store promotions.
Additionally, having nice, available and knowledgeable sales associates might not be the reason why customers come to your stores, but not having them might be the reason why they leave. Retailers should focus on hiring employees who are passionate about their brand and can help customers find the perfect gift.
Natural Insight’s survey highlights the significance of providing an exceptional in-store experience to drive foot traffic and sales this holiday shopping season. Today’s consumers exist in a world that moves at an unparalleled pace. Retailers need to embrace changing consumer needs and be prepared for holiday shoppers to remain competitive this holiday season and beyond.
Stefan Midford is the president and CEO of Natural Insight, a retail execution software. He is also the president and CEO of Capango, a mobile-first retail job matching platform that connects job seekers to rewarding opportunities without resumes.
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