Winning With Responsibility in the Holiday Season and Beyond
Consumers aren’t just looking for discounts this holiday season; they're also looking for retailers to design their products and their business around responsible initiatives. Such are the findings of Accenture’s 13th Annual Holiday Survey, which notes that half of consumers would rather sacrifice expediency than cause harm to the environment. These consumers would pick up their goods in person, or simply wait longer to receive them, if it meant less pollution overall.
This responsible retail trend, which has been steadily building steam, is important for two main reasons. First, it demonstrates the validity of retailers’ long-term ambitions around sustainable business practices. Second, it helps retailers anticipate what will resonate with their customer base — which comes into particular focus as they prepare to compete for the holiday rush.
The good news, after all, is that retailers can expect healthy consumer holiday spending in 2019. The overwhelming majority of consumers (85 percent) expect to spend as much as they did last year or even more, which translates to an average of $637 each.
With this in mind, retailers should ask how their ethically minded customers might engage with their brand. And then — crucially — they should combine this consideration with other activities designed to outmaneuver the competition. As Accenture’s survey found, such additional activities could include focusing on the physical store as well as getting smarter about where and how to offer discounts.
Making Physical Stores Count
Despite steady growth in online sales, consumers today appear less likely to treat stores as showrooms where they can try out an item before shopping online for a better price. Indeed, they're significantly more likely to say they’ll purchase while in-store, not afterward when they're at home. In turn, they're planning to do half of their holiday shopping in-store this year.
This means thinking how their assortment and allocation of product can be used to best effect, not to mention ensuring that they have enough staff on-hand to provide a pleasant experience and — when necessary — answer customer queries about environmental impact. With creativity and ingenuity around the store footprint, retailers have an opportunity to leverage the surge in holiday foot traffic not only to increase holiday revenues but also to find those special customers who will be the loyal ones they depend on year-round.
Getting Smarter About Discounts
Not everyone is planning to splash out this holiday season. Largely citing concerns about credit card debt and rising food bills, 15 percent of consumers said they expect to spend less than they did last year. We also see more than eight in 10 (82 percent) consumers saying lower prices are the top factor that would tempt them to make an in-store purchase, followed by special offers and discounts (77 percent).
Retailers should be wary, however, of the impact that widespread incentives can have on their bottom line. Instead, they should explore how data-driven approaches can help them understand the profitability of individual offers, providing a clear picture of their impact on inventory and total sales. This is especially pertinent for gifts of clothing, given the heightened risk of returns and associated costs.
Conclusion: Thinking Beyond the Holiday Season
The holiday season will always be a critical time on the retail calendar, but the real aim should be to translate this annual boost into stronger year-round sales.
One way to achieve this may be to consider how today’s trends will evolve in the years to come. If some consumers are turning away from airfreighted delivery today, for example, what will they turn against tomorrow? If they're flocking back to in-store shopping, how should physical premises be designed to satisfy their needs? Above all, how can holiday discounts become a reliable, long-term benefit for everyone?
Lori Zumwinkle is managing director and North America retail lead at Accenture, a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations.
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