“Consumer spending is expected to be up 4% for the 2015 holiday season – what are you doing to ensure your customers are willing to spend more with you?”
This blog post is an executive summary of the BRP INSIGHTS: Shopping Trends for the 2015 Holiday Season and Beyond. For more in-depth coverage of the 2015 holiday shopping trends, I encourage you to read the full report.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for shoppers – and retailers too! Consumer spending is poised to increase year-over-year from 2014.
In a 2015 Gallup holiday spending intention poll, consumers estimate spending an average of $812 on gifts this season – up 4% from the $781 estimated at the same time last year, and the highest estimate since 2007. While they have higher discretionary income, consumers are still frugal and price sensitive. Consumers are smart about their holiday spending and continue to search for the best value.
Halloween is the New Thanksgiving
Consumers don’t have to wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to get the best deals. For most retailers, discounts and holiday hype began right after Halloween on November 1. And the deals don’t stop there, as discounting is continuing throughout the season. This may cause many consumers to shop around, or postpone their purchase, until they find the best deal.
With stores offering deals throughout November it becomes less imperative to have a blowout Black Friday… or even be open at all. REI announced it would close all of its 143 stores on Black Friday. In an email sent to stores they wrote, “Instead of reporting to work, we’re paying our employees to do what we love most—be outside.” Gamestop and Staples have also announced they won’t open their doors for business on Black Friday.
In this competitive market, retailers must offer deals throughout the month of November and not focus solely on Black Friday or Cyber Monday to hit their numbers.
Retailers Think “Click-and-Mortar”
Many retailers are gearing up for the most omni-channel holiday season yet.
- Target – With 25% of sales predicted to be fulfilled trough shipping from a store or order pickup, Target hopes to add value and establish itself as an omni-channel leader.
- Toys“R”Us – Specifically targeted to kids, the Great Big Book of Awesome” catalog now features the ability to have an interactive experience – bringing toys to life within the app and playing in virtual reality mode.
- Lands End – Typically an online and catalog retailer, Lands End opened pop-up shops in New York and Boston to complete their multichannel experience.
These are just a few of the holiday examples where retailers are honing in on an exceptional customer experience that integrates clicks and bricks.
The market place is competitive and retailers realize that in order to capture their share of consumers’ wallets, they need to expand and emphasize their omni-channel offerings.
Shopping on Mobile Devices Continues to Accelerate
Mobile influence and contribution to retail sales will ramp up this holiday season. Retailers featuring their best deals on Thanksgiving will surely see an influx of mobile purchases as customers shop right from their couch. According to Adobe, 51% of retailers’ website traffic is predicted to be via mobile on Thanksgiving and 29% of Cyber Monday purchases are predicted to occur on a mobile device. While customers are “webrooming” on their mobile devices on Thanksgiving, keep in mind that more than two-thirds of shoppers who browsed online ultimately bought in-store during last year’s holiday season.
Shoppers can easily opt to use their mobile phone on Thanksgiving Day rather than fight the crowds at stores. Brands that do mobile right will win customers’ loyalty and future sales.
EMV Processing Creates Longer Checkout Experiences
The EMV confusion has already been begun. As a customer is checking out, she naturally swipes her card and the cashier notices that the card is chip embedded so they instruct her to insert it instead. The customer fumbles for a second, maybe questions the process to the cashier, then inserts the card and has to remember to leave it in until it has completed the longer than expected process. Aside from being an unfamiliar operation, the push-and-pause method takes longer than the swipe and is expected to negatively impact checkout line this holiday season.
Retailers with trained store associates familiar with the push-and-pause EMV transaction process for its customers will be a step ahead of retailers that are unprepared. Retailers who have missed the EMV deadline will be liable for fraudulent transactions, but at least they will have the fastest checkout lines!
Retail Processes Will be Tested
This past year has brought an influx of technology advances that have been embraced by consumers and gradually adopted by retailers – mobile payments, EMV, guided selling, flexible ordering and pick-up/delivery options, endless aisle and many more capabilities. With so many new retail practices and processes and the busiest season of the year approaching, retailers will be tested. There is a collision of many new processes that retailers need to properly train associates and customers to conduct in a high-pressure environment.
Retailers could witness mayhem if they don’t train staff accordingly and prepare their systems for increased demand. System fumbles not only frustrate shoppers but cause retailers to lose customers for life.
Beyond 2015: Real-time Retail and Personalization are Critical
Consumers’ holiday shopping experiences will transcend all channels and they expect immediate products and services. Real-time retail is the ability to deliver a seamless experience to a consumer whenever, wherever or however she chooses to shop. According to BRP’s 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, retailers are focused on expanding their real-time capabilities to deliver the personalized experience their customers now expect.
Real-time Features Enhance the Shopping Experience
Retailers that can provide associates with customer data in real-time before checkout are able to provide a more personalized experience and can offer suggestions to customers that impact their purchase decisions. According to the BRP survey, within 3 years 510% more retailers will know what is in their customers closet and provide this information to sales associates in real-time. In addition, personalizing the shopping experience by understanding the customer’s online browsing history will increase by 1060% over the next three years (from 5% today to 58% in three years).
Personalized Promotions and Pricing
In the past, retailers’ pricing hierarchy was based on various levels: company, division, channel, zone and store. Now there is a new pricing strategy and structure at the personal level – based on individual shoppers. According to the BRP survey, 174% more retailers will be offering personalized promotions/pricing in the next three years.
While real-time retail may not have as much of an impact on the 2015 holiday season, the need to offer customers a shopping experience that transcends channels will increase dramatically. Those retailers on the forefront of this offering will have a competitive advantage and attract and retain more loyal customers.
With an expected 4% increase in spending this holiday season, retailers have a prime opportunity to exceed the expectations of current customers and impress new shoppers to convert them into loyal customers. The holiday shopping season, which now extends from November 1 through Christmas, is less dependent on the traditional sales spikes of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. While this provides nearly two months of promotional opportunities, retailers still need to captivate the attention of consumers with a steady cadence of creative campaigns.
While this season will be “in the bag” before we know it, it is critical to reflect on the successes and failures that come out of this holiday season to improve the capabilities and processes for future holiday seasons. The 2016 holiday season is less than a year away – will you be ready?
I encourage you to read the full BRP INSIGHTS Report.
DOWNLOAD NOW: Shopping Trends for the 2015 Holiday Season and Beyond
As always, I appreciate your opinions and feedback on this topic. Please share your thoughts below.
 CSA, How Target is going Click and Mortar this Holiday, November 2015
 Adobe Digital Index, 2015 Online Shopping Predictions, October 2015