Holiday Season and Retail Shopping Days, how they have changed

Holiday Display Photo

Christmas is less than 60 days away. Of course, if you are a parent, you are probably keenly aware of the dwindling number of shopping days.

Nowadays, it seems that retail holiday shopping promotions start around the first week in September, just after the close of the Labor Day and Back-to-School promotions. Stores such as Home Depot, Lowes, and Costco all had their seasonal aisles stocked with a combination of Halloween, Thanks Giving, and Christmas decorations and gifts.

But the big question is, how will you and your customers choose and shop for holiday gifts this year? In 2017, brick-and-mortar stores raked in 84 percent of holiday sales, will that trend hold in 2018? The following statistics from Gartner L2’s Intelligence Report, Omnichannel 2018 gives some interesting insight.

In 2017, online retail sales during the holidays rose 14.7 percent over the previous year to ring in $108 billion. Amazon grabbed most of the online sales dollars rising from 38 percent in 2016 to a whopping 50 percent ($52 billion) in 2017, according to Gartner.

However, according to the report, holiday sales take place in stores. “Nearly 85 percent of holiday sales last year [2017] was in brick-and-mortar stores, and that can give retailers an edge online,” Gartner L2 said.

The key to future success is tying together the online and offline customer experience. According to Gartner L2’s index, over 60 percent of retailers showcased their in-store inventory on their online product pages in 2017, that was up from 35 percent in 2016. Looking to take full advantage if the internet search engines to generate sales, 56 percent posted their holiday shopping and shipping guide online last year.

Omnichannel retailing has become the gold standard for success in the retail environment. Omnichannel is defined as “seamless and effortless, high-quality customer experiences that occur within and between contact channels.” In other words, businesses that create efficient and effortless customer interactions through desktop, mobile devices, and in-store interactions.

In 2017, more than 40 percent of all sales in November and December were made on mobile phones. Expectations for 2018 are that more than half of all holiday purchases will occur on mobile devices. For retailers with a shopping app, mobile now accounts for more than 50% of online transactions and in-app sales dominate.

Age and sex make a huge difference in the way people shop.

In a survey of 1,200 customers by Natural Insight, 88 percent reported that they intended to shop in stores this year. Of that 88 percent, the biggest demographic readying themselves to hit the stores are those between the ages of 30 and 44 (with people aged 45 to 60 and aged 18 to 29 following closely behind).

A significant 47 percent of survey respondents reported that they would be shopping before December, a 9 percent increase over 2017.

Women edge out men when it comes to how early shopping will occur—almost a third of women reported intentions to complete the majority of holiday shopping prior to Thanksgiving, and 94 percent of women will be finishing up by early December. Men typically shop a bit later according to report findings, but the number of men planning on shopping in stores before December has increased by 11 percent over last year.

Touch and feel.

When asked what brings a shopper to a store, 52 percent of respondents said it’s because they want to see and touch products before they buy them to assess quality. However, turning that touch and feel sensation into a sale is the challenge. In fact, 62 percent of shoppers surveyed said that they use their phones while they’re in-store. Price comparing and weighing that price against shipping and other factors are decisions being made right in the shopping isles.

Technology Innovation

As smartphones become more powerful, so too are the applications that they are capable of running. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AR), virtual reality (VR), and voice activation are beginning to play an important role in a shopper’s experience and helping brands become more relevant.

For example, last holiday season Home Depot leveraged AR ad units within the Yahoo Mail mobile app to help consumers view what a Christmas tree with decorations from the store would look like in their own home.

Tools like geotargeting and promotions on mobile not only deliver a personalized experience, but they can help drive foot traffic in-store. Near Field Communications (NFC), the function on your smartphone that allows customers to pay for good through Apple Pay, Google Pay, and a growing number of credit card pays, can also be used to push coupons and special sale notices to customers while they are in the aisle looking at items.

In review, consumers are changing, and to keep pace; retail must change as well.

Oh, and one last word of cautionary advice. While you may be consumed about finding that special gift for your wife, don’t forget the all-important Christmas card—the one that perfectly expresses your sentiment of love. Because, no matter how expensive or well chosen, the gift will mean nothing if there is not a sentimental card attached. If on Christmas morning you realize that you forget the card, go to the fridge and drink all the milk. Don’t delay, go to the grocery and head right to the card aisle where you will find three other guys in the same situation and only three cards [for a wife] left on the shelf. Grab the card with the best cover, don’t bother reading it and don’t look back. Get the milk, and a pen—then head for the checkout before the guys on isle 15 realize what happened.

Your partner in success,

David Cabral