Last year’s holiday season for retailers was like no other. Retailers, like REI, stepped up and said “No more.” The specialty outdoor retailer made a statement that prioritized its brand message over the industry norm the public has come to expect over the holiday season: stores that remain open ‘round the clock and doorbusters galore.
REI shuttered its stores during the busiest day of the year and encouraged its loyal shoppers to #optoutside. As a result, the brand observed more than 10X more social media mentions than any other retailer. Many acknowledge this as a huge win for the niche retailer.
Why am I writing about REI? Well, it’s largely because the holiday season has arrived again. The holiday season is the annual battlefront for retailers; a time of year that separates the retail winners from the losers. The stakes are high: the holiday season is when most retailers earn the bulk of their annual revenues.
But on the flip side, the holiday season is often a nightmare for consumers, with long lines wrapped around storefronts, shoppers fighting over merchandise and limited parking spots. And last year, we found that shoppers were fighting back during the holidays. In droves, they were avoiding shopping in physical stores.
Last year, we commissioned our first Connected Shoppers Report to answer why consumers were avoiding the store. Based on the positive feedback from this report, we decided to update this report and expand our audience from the United States to include respondents from the United Kingdom and Canada. As a result, the 2016 Connected Shoppers Report uncovered some interesting insights. To boil it down, the research revealed shoppers are more empowered than ever and they’re growing more receptive to sharing data in exchange for personalized offers. In addition, retailers should take note that shoppers are growing more skeptical of store associates. To stay competitive, retailers must continue to refine their marketing to deliver the right offer in the right channel at the right time to the right shopper and supercharge their associates to ensure that they are meeting or exceeding the service expectations of today’s sophisticated shopper.
According to the report, shoppers are more empowered than ever. Eighty percent (80%) of shoppers research products before making a purchase. These shoppers use multiple channels to conduct research, including accessing social media and mobile apps to evaluate pricing, promotions and product features.
Like the tradition of the elf on the shelf, today’s shopper knows all. They are aware of inconsistent offers across various channels of engagement. They desire personalized shopping experiences, and 79% expressed a desire for complementary products and promotions based on purchase history. But perhaps more important, 47% felt annoyed when they purchased an item in-store and received an online offer via another channel for the same product.
Even though all we hear about is the rapid growth of ecommerce, shoppers still enjoy shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, largely because of the ability to touch and feel the merchandise (66%). But these same shoppers avoid store associates. In fact, just 12% always or often ask a store associate for his or her opinion on a product before purchasing it, and less than one-third who do so trust that the store associate is always or often telling the truth when asked (30%).
Pre-modern shoppers went to the mall. They flocked to Black Friday specials, forcing retailers to come up with more compelling doorbuster promotions to drive traffic. But according to this year’s Connected Shopper Report, mobile has changed everything. Over a third of Millennials have researched a product online via a mobile device while in a store (38%), and nearly one-fourth have even purchased a product online from a mobile device while in a store (23%). Retailers must grapple with the fact that shoppers have access to information everywhere and will take advantage of the best offer when they need it.
This year, retailers cannot solely rely on doorbusters to drive sales. More than ever, retailers, like REI last year, must take a stand and determine what will endear their brand to their target audience. Like REI, is a brand proposition? Or is it a commitment to customer service or everyday low prices? In most cases, this depends on the retailer and their brand promise.
Although impressing today’s shopper is harder than ever before, it’s not impossible. Read up on this year’s shopper research to obtain insights on today’s shopper and how they intend to shop during this holiday season.
REI rocked the boat during the last holiday season. Which brand will rock the boat this year? Only time will tell.