Consumers may not begin thinking about the winter holidays until fall weather really sets in, but retailers are in holiday mode long before the weather cools. As merchants spend the next month wrapping up the back-to-school shopping season, they’re simultaneously prepping and planning for the busy holidays ahead.
With consumer expectations transforming on a near daily rate, retailers’ ability to learn and adapt becomes even more important. We’ve reviewed the game tape from the 2016 holiday season, surveying over 2,000 holiday shoppers to understand how they plan and shop for the holidays and what retailers can learn from these findings. From this new data, we’ve crafted an insight-driven playbook for the holidays that retailers can use as a tool to prepare for the most important few months of the year.
Digging into the 2017 Holiday Planning Playbook, there are five key things you should expect to see this year:
1. Shoppers heading to the stores.
Sure, shoppers love to browse digital racks on their smartphones while they wait for their ride, their date or their food … but they’ll be heading to the store for holiday inspiration as well: 47 percent of holiday shoppers say they visit stores to gather gift ideas. This holiday season we will likely see retailers doing more to blend digital and in-store experiences to inspire and encourage even more shoppers to head to their storefronts.
- 47 percent of holiday shoppers say they visit stores to gather gift ideas
- 63 percent noted they’d like to use online wish lists to assist with gift purchasing
- Three of four holiday shoppers checked return policies before making a purchase
- 22 percent backed out of a holiday purchase due to an inconvenient return policy
- 93 percent said their loyalty would be affected if they didn’t receive a response to negative comments
2. Shoppers browsing early but not buying — yet.
It’s all about strategic shopping during the holidays, and consumers will not be rushed. More than half of holiday shoppers said in 2016 they started researching potential purchases in October or earlier, but two-thirds waited until November to start purchasing. It’s important for retailers to get out early with holiday messaging, but don’t be surprised if presents show up under the tree much later in the season.
3. Your niece sending links to her wish lists.
I can’t be the only one who spent hours cutting photos out of Toys “R” Us catalogs to include in my Christmas list to Santa. 2017 isn’t much different … except where it’s completely different. More than a quarter of those who received specific asks and hints from loved ones used retailer online wish lists and gift registries; 63 percent noted they’d like to use these in the future to assist with gift purchasing. Many retailers are already in the game on this trend: IKEA released its registry tool earlier this year, promoting registries for occasions ranging from a wedding to a new home.
4. Retailers addressing commitment issues upfront.
2017’s holiday shoppers don’t want to have the “relationship” talk right away; they would rather ease into things after establishing some trust. Three of four holiday shoppers checked return policies before making a purchase last season, and 22 percent ultimately backed out of a holiday purchase due to an inconvenient return policy. Look for retailers to be upfront and completely transparent about their policies, and proactively provide this information so shoppers don’t have to dig for the answers they’re looking for.
5. More communication — the good kind.
This holiday season, don’t be surprised to see many more retailers following up to see how customers liked the product or responding to comments. The lines of communication are opening even further: Consumers can comment on reviews to encourage conversations between shoppers and between brand and shoppers. According to the survey, consumers expect retailers to reply to negative comments; an overwhelming 93 percent said their loyalty would be affected if they didn’t receive a response.
Download the 2017 Holiday Planning Playbook for more information about these trends, how consumers plan to shop this holiday season and what retailers might be planning in response.