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How Ecommerce is Changing Holiday Retail

By: Katie Gardner on December 8, 2016

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Arnold Schwarzenegger’s holiday classic, ‘Jingle All the Way’ epitomizes the perils of holiday shopping’s past. Arnold’s character has several failed attempts to find the season’s hottest toy – TurboMan. He runs from one crowded store to the next in hopes of finding the toy for his son.

If the movie were remade today, the plotline would be much different. Gone are the days of fighting crowds for the last toy (or parking spot). Ecommerce is changing how people shop during holiday season. As retailers eye their strategies for NEXT holiday season and beyond, here are the trends they need to be privy of.

Black Friday is no longer a standalone holiday.

Traditionally, Black Friday was thought of as a day of mass shopping, where shoppers lined-up outside of stores in the wee morning hour to get the best deals. However, with the proliferation of ecommerce and its enablement of the ability to shop anytime, anywhere, Black Friday has extended throughout entire holiday weekend. Consumers no longer feel obligated to forgo sleep and make a purchase on Black Friday. 

“I don’t think the deals is really that special on Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday. So really, the shopping was done just because I had time to kill. It could’ve been any other day.” - Unnamed disheartened CP shopper

Shoppers are hooked on discounts.

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend proved to be a catch-22 for retailers, as more Americans shopped this year (online or in-store), yet they spent less this year. The National Retail Federation released a survey that showed shoppers spent $289.19 over the four-day weekend Thursday-Sunday compared with $299.60 over the same period a year earlier. Feeling the pinch from showrooming, consumers who oft turn to Amazon and other ecommerce players for a lower price, brick and mortar retailers are focusing its efforts on competing on price.

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“I shopped because I received coupons / promo codes for 20% to 30% discount on my entire order for things I use frequently and need.” - A pragmatic CP consumer 

 “I had this idea in mind for a month or so now, signed up online to receive the brand’s emails hoping to get a % off email (which I did! 10% off), then decided to wait until Black Friday and Cyber Monday to see if there was a better deal, which there was (buy one, get one 50% off) so I went ahead with my purchase using the Cyber Monday promo code." - A savvy CP employee 

…. And if they don’t find the deals they want, they won’t buy

While shoppers rush to discounts, with the NRF survey showing that 36% of shoppers saying that ALL their purchases were on sale, and nearly 66% said most of their purchases were discounted. If shoppers did not see the deal they wanted, they are willing to wait to make a purchase. Today’s shoppers are smart and know they can get good deals throughout the holiday season. Today’s shoppers know sales are not a one-day or even a one-weekend phenomenon. 

“Browsed online, waited for sales prices, disappointed with actual price didn’t shop. I was specifically looking for major appliances I was inundated with sale emails that didn’t show as much sale/clearance prices I expected. So I waited.” – Better late than never CP shopper 

Strong movement between online and in-store

While 2016 was the first time more consumers shopped online during the holiday as opposed to in-store; we are still seeing consumers move between channels. There is no linear path to purchase, consumers are being trained to look for deals online and then either make a purchase or go in-store. For example, this blogger made a combination of purchases in-store and online. I even put items in my shopping cart, only to go in-store the very next day. Others toggled between the two, making a purchase online and then picking up in store.

“I did look at several locations online and found that the prices were set at same level. I skipped ordering on Amazon and opted for Home Depot due to being able to pick up, get immediately and skip shipping.” – Buy online, pick in-store CPer

In sum, holiday shopping as we used to know (and love/hate) is dead. We are fully immersed in an ecommerce world where shoppers are empowered and on the prowl for the best deal. The challenge for retailers is now taking these shoppers it has converted from prospects to customers to loyal, lifelong customers. Stay tuned for our next blog post to learn how.

 

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