Shop early, shop omnichannel

7 November 2014

NEW YORK: With the US holiday shopping season already getting into full swing, retailers will need to marry a winning in-store experience with mobile and digital outreach to achieve success.

Black Friday, the traditional start of the festive shopping period and the busiest shopping day of the year, may still be three weeks away, but Amazon and Walmart started offering Christmas discounts from the start of November.

"As soon as they put away their Halloween costumes, our customers start prepping for Thanksgiving, buying Christmas trees and shopping for gifts," Walmart's chief merchandising officer told Forbes.

A Brand Keys survey of 16,000 consumers confirmed this trend: more than half of respondents intended to start holiday shopping in November, with just 25% waiting until the Black Friday date of November 28th.

But few are likely to actively enjoy the experience according to a separate survey of 1,000 consumers from omnichannel specialist ACCENT, which found that 65% viewed the prospect of going to the mall during the holiday season as their "worst nightmare".

Around half (51%) said they shopped in-store in order to physically evaluate products, but free shipping would lure 88% into shopping online.

"Black Friday and Cyber Monday are less meaningful to consumers than in the past," said John Hoholik, chief engagement and solutions officer for ACCENT. "It's imperative that retailers have an omnichannel strategy to capture customers across devices and throughout the entire holiday season."

A third survey, for property group Simon, suggests that shoppers will seek to alleviate their nightmare scenario by using technology as a tool to help "enable, refine and focus the mall shopping experience", with millennials leading the way.

Fully 89% of 18-33 year olds said they would shop at the mall this holiday season, more than the overall figure of 83%. This age group was also much more likely than others to agree they "sometimes have a real sense of accomplishment after holiday shopping at the mall" – 80% of millennials vs. 73% of seniors, 72% of Gen X, and 68% of Baby Boomers.

Around half of all respondents said they would use mobile devices while shopping to compare prices (51%) while a similar proportion (53%) liked stores or malls with apps that could make the shopping process easier.

Data sourced from Forbes, PR Newswire; additional content by Warc staff