Reports have found that consumers beginning holiday shopping even earlier this year, and that may be a good thing as consumer behavior continues to shift drastically to favor online shopping and at-home delivery.
According to Accenture’s 14th annual holiday shopping survey, most U.S. shoppers are supportive of retailers closing on Thanksgiving Day wanting to protect the health, safety and livelihood not only of themselves but of store employees. In fact, the company’s survey revealed that 61 percent of consumers plan to minimize in-store shopping with the expressed intent of reducing health risks to essential workers. The same number reported they would be “inspired to shop with retailers that demonstrate visibly high commitments to health, safety and hygiene practices.
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“It’s not so much that you could get [sick] by shopping, it’s actually that you don’t want to give something to [retail employees] which I thought that was really amazing, really a big deal,” said Jill Standish, a senior managing director at Accenture. “One of the things that are coming through is how transparent things are today because we’re sitting in front of media most of the day and it’s really easy for news to spread. What you do with your employees and what you do with your policies and procedures is just well known.”
In fact, 57 percent of respondents told Accenture they “really want to shop with a retailer that supports their workers.” Further, 41 percent said they will not shop with a retailer that has laid off staff or reduced benefits because of the pandemic.
Concurrently, consumers are planning to show support for minority-owned businesses. While 40 percent of respondents said they will support and shop at minority-owned businesses, 39 percent said they will shop at retailers that support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Surprisingly, Accenture’s survey found that only 11 percent of consumers were willing to use methods of buying online and picking up in-store. According to Standish, this may be partially due to “curbside pickup” or buy online, pick up in-store meaning different things across retailers. It may make consumers question if they will need to enter a store for pickup or simply wait for an employee to deliver products to their cars.
At the same time, consumers have become adjusted to free online shipping which is ultimately the most convenient option. Still, to be considered, findings showed that consumers’ patience is fleeting and if a retailer does not deliver on expectations for a seamless experience, they will not shop with the retailer again.
“This is really tricky for a retailer because it is more expensive if you think about it to ship too long,” said Standish. “You’ve got to pick up the tab for the packaging and everything else.”
One method of getting consumers back in stores is through appointment-based shopping. Accenture’s report saw 62 percent of consumers are open to booking times to shop in person at a department store, consumer electronics retailer, or a homeware retailer.
Accenture’s report found that while 44 percent of consumers plan to spend the same amount on holiday shopping this year compared to last year, 41 percent said they expect to spend less. Only 15 percent said they plan to spend more.
With the acceleration of online shipping and a clear preference for at-home delivery in mind, Standish says retailers will be up against some difficulties with delivery capabilities which may create a “bottleneck.” But with consumers starting holiday shopping early, retailers may have the opportunity to plan accordingly.
“In terms of some strategies we’re seeing it’s starting early,” said Standish. “It is flattening the curve. Instead of having pent-up demand right to the very end and needing everything to be expedited, we can start early and get our act together to make it a little bit easier for the retailer.”
In part, Standish explained, the consumer has been motivated to shop early after experiencing more frequent out-of-stocks during the pandemic. “We’re seeing this across all categories,” she said. “Both online and in-store. If you do know what you want, and you see it’s available the consumer is saying buying now, versus waiting.”
Accenture’s survey found 30 percent of consumers plan to start holiday shopping earlier this year out of fear of not getting items on their list if they wait until after Thanksgiving. However, this early holiday shopping may give retailers an opportunity to collect data on holiday purchasing trends that will mirror shopping later in the season.
“If you knew that consumers are starting to buy certain products together, that you didn’t think would be complimentary but all of a sudden you’re seeing that demand, can you put them in the same warehouse and alleviate split shipments and put it in one box?” said Standish. “Can you start to see demand hiking in certain areas by watching what’s trending on social? Can you move inventory closer to that demand or at least understand what the cost would be to do that? Those kinds of strategies can only be done if you really have a view of what’s going on, locally, and how to do that it’s really a testament to data play.”
Further, with this data, retailers will be able to consider how much in-store shopping consumers will partake in and determine how much product is needed in-store.
“Cost to serve just went up,” said Standish. “How can you start to get smart and surgical about how you fulfill demand but also how do you eliminate the extra cost. That to me is kind of the game that this holiday is going to show and I think it’s for the long run it’s not just for holidays, it’s going to be like this for a while.”
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