The fourth quarter of 2017 may generate the biggest sales yet for e-commerce retail, at least according to a new CPC Strategy report that features the results of a survey of 1,500 U.S. consumers about their holiday shopping plans. One key statistic from the report: 88.1 percent of shoppers surveyed plan to spend about the same or more as last year. This study answers many questions on retailers’ minds, from where customers will shop to how early they’ll get started.
Get Sales Going Early
If you still think shoppers are waiting until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to start holiday shopping, it’s time to reassess your strategy. According to our survey, 35.5 percent of respondents will start shopping for products before Black Friday. That’s right — 35 out of 100 of your customers may already have finished most of their holiday shopping by the end of the month. If you’re not pushing early sales and promotions online and offline, you’re missing out.
Be Prepared to Compete With Fast, Free Shipping
Nobody will be surprised to hear that 72.1 percent of shoppers surveyed plan to look for gifts on Amazon.com. Experts at CPC Strategy speculate Amazon’s Prime Day in July could be a big part of the reason consumers have started holiday shopping even earlier in the past few years. Amazon has set the bar for fast and free shipping, which, according to the research is now the baseline. In fact, 46.1 percent of shoppers reported overall price (including shipping) is the most important reason to buy holiday gifts from a particular retailer. In other words, it doesn’t matter how low the base prices are for your products if the shipping costs push them above competitors.
Know Who Your Competition is Online
Thirty-two percent of shoppers surveyed price check products on their phones while in-store, which isn't news to most brick-and-mortar retailers. However, it’s not just in-store price checking you should be thinking about; consumers are also checking reviews for products online. According to Vendesta, a platform for selling digital solutions to local businesses, 92 percent of consumers now read online reviews vs. 88 percent in 2014. As a result, it’s important to pay attention to product reviews appearing on your e-commerce site, across review sites and on Amazon (if applicable).
Understand What Your Audience and Customers Value in a Retailer
While we’re not advocating that you completely change your methodology to fit your audience’s perceived desires, you should be hyperaware of your customers’ values. Price may be hugely important, but 23 percent of the 18-24 year olds surveyed chose “brand quality” as an important factor in their decision to buy gifts from a particular retailer. On the other hand, 55-65 year olds showed a preference for “product selection” (20 percent), which could help explain why this age group also chooses to shop at big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.
Capitalize on the Advantage of Brick-and-Mortar
If you’re a retailer with a brick-and-mortar presence, it’s important to understand that while many brick-and-mortar stores are sinking due to e-commerce competition, there’s still a big advantage to shopping in-store. According to our survey, 60.4 percent of consumers stated they would shop for gifts in-store at a discount retailer this year, while 24.5 percent indicated they would visit an in-store speciality retailer. Shopping in-store gives consumers the opportunity to see and feel products in person, which reduces the risk that they will purchase a gift online that will disappoint out of the box.
The Bottom Line
The data shows that Q4 is shaping up to be strong for both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores, as long as you understand what your audience values in a shopping experience. Here’s what every retailer needs to survive the season: fast and free shipping; high-quality products; and solid product reviews to drive confidence in online shoppers.
Leanna Kelly is a content specialist for CPC Strategy, a retail-focused digital ad agency that specializes in driving growth on channels like Google, Amazon.com, Facebook, and more.