3 Things Retailers Need to Know About In-Store Holiday Shoppers

By Steve Olenski, Senior Content Strategist for the Oracle Marketing Cloud. Steve is a highly accomplished blogger/writer who is a regular contributor to such respected publications such as Forbes, Business Insider, Social Media Today and Marketing Land, to name a few. He is a also a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Digital and Social Media Marketing and co-author of the book StumbleUpon For Dummies. Follow him on Twitter: @steveolenski

Retailers around the country and the world are well into their holiday planning for the coming 2016 shopping season. Yes, visions of record-breaking sales dance in their collective heads.

Understanding the habits of holiday shoppers can go a long way in ensuring those visions coming to life, which is why we asked that very question of holiday shoppers.

This past holiday shopping season, Oracle Marketing Cloud and Edison Research conducted a two-part holiday research study called Making Spirits Bright Increase Holiday Results With Retail Shopping Research. We conducted qualitative and quantitative studies of holiday shoppers during two distinct time periods:

  • October: When consumers are generally in the holiday planning stages.
  • Early January: When consumers have finished their holiday shopping.

The 3 Things Retailers Need To Know About In Store Holiday Shoppers

When it came to the in-store experience during the holiday season, opinions were mixed. We asked our 2015 holiday shoppers after the season was over to rate their in-store experience on a scale of 0-10. The average score was a 5.3, with 12% of respondents giving their experience a zero or a one.

For stores looking to improve their in-store experience, the challenge can be daunting given the crowds. We asked 2015 holiday shoppers to tell us the importance of a number of in store elements. Here are the top 3 things shoppers said were "very important" when it came to in-store holiday shopping:

  1. Availability of Sale Items
  2. Quality of Products on Sale
  3. Merchandise Selection/Variety
And here's the complete list:

These results are fascinating. While clearly price is important, and cleanliness/crowd control are also part of the overall experience, inventory issues were even more crucial. Retailers should focus first on the availability of items, and the quality of those items first— especially for time-crunched last minute shoppers, who are more likely to shop offline in the waning moments of December.

When asked to compare their in-store experience during the holiday season to the rest of the year 43% said it was worse and only 19% said better. Fair or not, there is a perceived degradation in the quality of the in-store experience during the holidays—even with many people actually enjoying the holiday shopping experience! We asked those that felt the in-store experience was worse to tell us how that experience would affect their likelihood to shop in those stores in the future.

Here's a video which is part of the qualitative research. You'll see the same shoppers being asked what their online vs. in-store plans were in October of 2015 followed by what really happened, in January 2016.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX03g9IuH6s&w=560&h=315]

Julie Lyle, former Chairman of the Board for the Global Retail Marketing Association and former CMO of hgregg, Prudential Corporation Asia, and Walmart, says many customers have come to expect a diminished shopping experience during the crush of the holiday season.

"While customers may have tolerated poor service in the past, there are growing competitive options that could lure them away in future, increased focus on UX year round–both online and in stores–will deliver big returns for the retailers that get it right, especially as millennials vote for friction-free experiences with their wallets."

Let's Jingle Some Bells

No matter where you are in your 2016 retail holiday planning you can benefit from all the findings from this extensive research.

(This post originally appeared on the Modern Marketing Blog.)

Grab our Holiday Planning eBook to see even more shopping trends that marketers need to know: CLICK HERE