While it may seem a little early to start preparing for holiday shoppers this year, now is the time to focus and track what’s happening in consumer trends and how changes in the pandemic circumstances affect them. At this time, only 35% of U.S. shoppers (vs 53% in 2020) say COVID-19 will impact how they shop for the holidays this year. In another survey, only 14% say they will not shop in-store. Also to be taken into consideration, however, is that consumers have made permanent changes in the way they shop. With more than 70% of survey participants reporting that online touchpoints figured prominently in their shopping experience, it has become apparent that digital plays a critical role in their process.
The information above is pretty general, and if you stopped there, you might plan for more shoppers coming in-store for a more personal experience. However, digging a little deeper into the trends will yield more detail that will allow you to tailor your strategy to work more efficiently with how consumers will shop for various categories of products and where to focus your digital efforts.
Based on various surveys, there are four basic reasons consumers will shop in-store: convenience, immediacy, product trial, and in-person experience.
Convenience and immediacy encompasses beauty and toiletries, pet care, health care, groceries, home improvement, small appliances and auto parts. This accounts for about 40% of people shopping in-store.
Product trial and in-person experience brings people in-store to shop for things like apparel and accessories, jewelry, mattresses, home furniture and major appliances.
So, let’s take a look at how this affects how you should plan your holiday marketing strategy. Say your business falls into multiple categories. For products in the convenience category (grocery, pet care, etc.), you can promote your curbside pickup options. For items such as beauty, home goods, etc., you might consider offering a virtual try-on feature to provide your customers the product trial experience.
Offer options that match your delivery speed to the consumer’s urgency of need for a given item. This can take some of the pressure off you to provide fast delivery for everything, everywhere, at all times. This can contribute to customer satisfaction and result in a benefit to your margins.
Another important point to keep in mind is that the digital component must be mobile friendly. Over 25% of online shoppers are doing so on their mobile devices – with that number rising as high as 44% when shopping for grocery. According to stats on Google, searches for “online shopping app download” have grown globally by over 300% year over year.1
Let’s touch on some terms and concepts that may be new to you such as digital channels and digital touchpoints. Basically, these refer to the digital manner in which shoppers can purchase products from your online store, contact your customer service for product info or to resolve issues such as returns, etc.
With digital channels, you can be multichannel (multiple individual channels, all available to the consumer, but the channels are not connected to each other) and omnichannel (all channels available to the consumer, and the channels are connected to each other), with omnichannel being the optimal situation.
For instance, you have your website with your e-commerce store. At the same time, you may be promoting and featuring your products on platforms such as Facebook or Instagram and others. The goal of these digital channels (omnichannel = multiple channels) is to provide a way for the customer to connect to your store at the moment they see your product and are ready to purchase from you, without having to click away from that contact – or touchpoint – and then having to go through the process of accessing your website, signing in, finding the product…you get the picture.
Also, providing this immediate access to customer service to answer questions (through WhatsApp? or other chat/message app) contributes to a positive customer experience and sense of satisfaction. This serves to retain your loyal customers and a way to gain new customers who might not otherwise have occasion to encounter your store or website.
Lastly, combine the above information with the following stat and you begin to see the impact this can have on your sales:
On average, 64% of existing customers, and 80% of new customers, engaged with a digital touchpoint during their shopping journey.
You have the tools – now get ready to do some business!
1 Google Data, Global English, Jan. 26, 2021–March 26, 2021 vs. Jan. 26, 2020–March 26, 2020.