What does a good shopping experience look like for Christmas 2020?

Discussion
Photo: Target
Oct 27, 2020

Consumers want to go shopping in stores. Of course, that comes with caveats, according to the results of a new survey from Oracle.

The research found that only 20 percent of shoppers plan to shop exclusively in stores during the holiday season and 47 percent expect to split their purchases between physical locations and e-commerce sites. Sixteen percent plan to shop online and pick up their orders at curbside. Regardless of where and how their holiday shopping takes place, 58 percent plan to spend the same or more this year than they did in 2019.

Safety is the primary concern for those consumers who plan to venture out to shop in stores.  Eighty-two percent said it was important to see visible cleaning efforts taking place in stores and shopping centers. Seventy-nine percent wanted to see staff and customers wearing face masks. Reduced store occupancy levels were important to 76 percent and two-thirds wanted contactless checkout options.

Home delivery remains the preferred method of receiving products for 66 percent of consumers going online to shop. Transparency is the key to delivering for customers, with increased volume expected to result in longer shipping times during the season. Seventy-three percent of customers want to receive real-time updates on progress through the delivery path to their doors.

“Every parent nervously waiting for their child’s holiday gift to arrive will attest that transparency from retailers is an absolute must,” Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Retail, said in a statement. “Brands have to have the systems in place to communicate with customers every step of the way — from ordering through to delivery.”

Out-of-stocks remain a major point of unhappiness with consumers. Forty-seven percent said out-of-stocks are the definition of a bad shopping experience. Sixty-three percent were unwilling to wait for a retailer to restock, choosing to seek the merchandise elsewhere.

One thing that consumers don’t want to have to deal with — good news for retailers — are returns. This year only 38 percent plan to return holiday purchases, down from 77 percent who said they expected to return at least one item in 2019.

“With more consumers avoiding returns, redeeming gift cards will be the next big opportunity for retailers to engage customers and extend sales post-holiday,” said Mr. Webster.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What does a good, perhaps even great, shopping experience look like to you for the 2020 holiday season? What retailers are in the best position to deliver the shopping experiences that consumers want in this tumultuous year?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Traditionally, I prefer to shop online rather than body surf through Christmas crowds. Now the pandemic makes fast, reliable home delivery an even bigger competitive advantage"
"I am not traditionally an early shopper but if anything motivates me to plan ahead it’s 2020."
"Don’t be optimistic about deliveries. Every warehouse and carrier is going to be swamped."

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22 Comments on "What does a good shopping experience look like for Christmas 2020?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

A great holiday shopping experience will mean you got what you expected – nothing more. There will be a profound amount of turmoil shopping during this holiday season as the pandemic rages on and retailers as well as shoppers navigate the uncharted waters.The retailers who have already made investments in online and ship, BOPIS and curbside will significantly outperform others this holiday season. You can count Target and Walmart to be leading the pack – and of course Amazon will be omnipresent.

David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
9 months 7 days ago

Many brands are currently limiting the number of customers that can be in their stores at one time. While it isn’t too inconvenient now, it may become intolerable with an increase in shoppers during the holidays. Last weekend I waited 30 minutes to get into an apparel store and was disappointed when I got inside.

We will see a huge increase in online shopping and if the pandemic continues to become worse, many families will not have large gatherings in their home. Expect to see a lot of Amazon boxes under Christmas trees this year, as extended families will have gifts shipped to their loved ones.

Brett Busconi
Guest

I think the article stated the most important things here – for in-store, people want to feel safe, and for alternative methods to in-store, accuracy, in-stock, and consistent communication on actual order status are the three things I believe are most relevant to shoppers this holiday.

The usual suspects (Walmart, Target, etc.) are best positioned this holiday season, because they were out in front of this through investment in tech and process pre-pandemic. This is going to be a tough end to a difficult year for small retailers. Hopefully people will be patient and try to shop with local/small retailers now in advance of the December rush.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

A good shopping experience is one that keeps consumers and retail staff safe. That means social distancing, mask wearing, limiting capacity, plenty of cleaning and sanitization, and good communication about all of these things. None of these points were on the radar last year, but they are now top of mind for many shoppers. At the same time, retailers will still have to provide an interesting, engaging and relatively friction-free experience. That’s a very difficult balancing act and it will require some creative thinking as well as superior execution. Fortunately, I think a lot of retailers have plans in place and are ready for the challenges ahead!

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust
I still intend to do some Christmas shopping in stores, but like many other consumers I am not 100 percent sure that everything I order online will arrive as expected. I am not traditionally an early shopper but if anything motivates me to plan ahead it’s 2020. Since stores reopened my company has been speaking with consumers about their in-store experiences. Even those who are comfortable shopping in-person during the pandemic still expect that retailers will keep them safe by enforcing social distancing, the number of people safely allowed in the store, upholding masking mandates, sanitation, etc. They hope that other shoppers will follow masking mandates and wear their masks properly. It’s a lot to think about for the consumer and a heavy responsibility for retailers, some of whom seem to be letting down their guard when it comes to in-store safety. The other thing on consumers’ minds is the quality of interaction with store associates. A good in-store experience relies heavily on how associates interact with shoppers, combined with their knowledge of product and… Read more »
Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

“Consumers plan to shop in stores.” I’m with Oracle’s study, i beg to differ. Consumers SAY they want to shop in stores, but the COVID-19-related rise in and acceleration of e-commerce bears witness to the way consumers really want to shop. A good experience this holiday is like every other day; speed, convenience, selection and, oh yeah, on my door step. I’ll go to an outdoor center with the kids to look at the lights and get some lunch maybe, but not to shop/buy. According to many studies, I’ll be in good company.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

In-store consumers seek the comfort and convenience of safety, speed and terrific service. Target has an advantage in physical stores thanks to its customer-centric innovations like reserving a spot in line and in-aisle checkouts to minimize wait times.

Traditionally, I prefer to shop online rather than body surf through Christmas crowds. Now the pandemic makes fast, reliable home delivery an even bigger competitive advantage this year. Amazon has an enviable e-commerce advantage.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

We have been waiting for retailers to announce their plans for 2020 Black Friday. Last week Target came out with a plan that spreads Black Friday over the entire month of November. They’re also offering shoppers the option to check lines at their local Target and, if they’re long, they can book an appointment and then receive a notification when it’s their turn to shop. I’ll be curious to see how this works, but on the surface it seems very interesting. I would guess we’ll see announcements from other retailers about beefed up support for curbside pickup and faster level of service commitments for online orders. I’ll also be interested to see how they handle returns after the holidays, that’s also a pinch point in stores. Can there be touch free returns?

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Smart shopping will be as important as safe shopping. Shopping early to avoid likely shortages, so that when out-of-stocks do occur there are still options. And don’t be optimistic about deliveries. Every warehouse and carrier is going to be swamped.
Smart also means with an eye towards returns. If almost half as many people are prepared to return, then smarter choices up front matter. Does that hurt apparel, where sizing is always an issue?

Xavier Lederer
BrainTrust

This year’s holiday season will not be about a great consumer shopping experience; it will be about basic execution – all these things that consumers have taken for granted in the past. It will be about making sure that warehouses and retail locations are safe for employees so that they remain COVID-19-free, therefore avoiding quarantines – and therefore ensuring that products are on the shelves on time. Similarly for online, the ability of FedEx and UPS to keep their operations running when volume hikes up during the upcoming wave of the pandemic will play a major role.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

I would focus on three things heading into this unique holiday season:

  1. Do I have good COVID-19 protocols in place? This includes mandated masks for shoppers and associates inside the store, thorough cleaning processes, fixture placement and directional markers to encourage social distancing, and so forth.
  2. Do I have a robust omnichannel process? This will be more important than ever (although lasting beyond 2020). Stores will need to make sure their BOPIS process has been rethought to cover curbside pickup and home delivery.
  3. Do I have the right merchandise? This is the eternal question for retailers, but is especially tricky this year. Stores are understandably cautious about ordering goods, and allocating by location is tougher than ever. But retailers won’t want to show glaring stock-outs on sizes, colors and key items if they can avoid it — or at least provide an online solution for shipping from another location.

Not easy challenges, even if retailers have had most of 2020 to prepare.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

For those who step in a store, their experience must be safe and comfortable. They should expect associates to be on hand to help with their shopping. If so, the experience may actually be considerably nicer than the nonsense of crazy holiday shopping in season.

For me, I can’t remember when I bought a Christmas present in a store. All my (and my wife’s) Christmas shopping has been done exclusively online with delivery to our home (or for relatives who we don’t see personally).

David Weinand
BrainTrust

Consistent with our research. Convenience and safety will make for a good shopping experience. Multiple ways to order and pick up/deliver gifts in a safe way will be the bar for success. Oh and as the article stated – in-stock! I recently was shopping for a couch and was told “end of December” for delivery. Ten years ago that would have been OK. Today the expectation is that goods should be available within a week or two of ordering.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
Fundamental to a great holiday shopping experience for consumers is no out-of-stocks! Consumers want to see availability and have full transparency in the fulfillment of their purchases. That and flexibility in getting those purchases — by delivery or pickup — is what will define this holiday shopping season. Retailers who had already been investing in these capabilities pre-pandemic will be in the best position. Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, for example, should do well, as will other mass merchandisers and essential retailers. And of course Amazon, who already got off to a good start with Prime Day. “Shipageddon” hangs over the heads of most retailers not named Amazon, especially those that pure-play online retailers that rely almost exclusively on e-commerce vs stores. Those retailers will need to pull the trigger on Plan B with added 3PLs and 4PLs to augment their capabilities. Relying on UPS, FedEx, and USPS will not be enough this season to support the volume of package deliveries they need. The survey does predict good news post-holiday in the hopes of avoiding… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

With all due respect to Oracle, I think they made a few critical mistakes. In most of the country the holiday season will look much different for three reasons the study doesn’t appear to address: the impact of local regulation; the actual (as opposed to projected) spread of the virus; and the fact that many nuclear and extended families will not be celebrating together. There is a difference in how I shop if I’m planning on shipping something to my son in Portland and how I shop if I’m handing him the gift in metro Detroit. There’s also an economic wild card here. i.e., a large portion of the population will have less disposable income this year — so will they splurge and overspend or shop wherever they can get the best deal? Only time will tell.

William Passodelis
Guest
For me it is all about execution. Retailers should be prepared in-store (I do NOT feel that is the direction of the momentum after speaking to anyone who would patronize me and answer my questions). Retailers should be able to deliver what was ordered in an appropriate time and have BOPIS available that works easy and quickly (Again from my interactions, it seems that most are relying on order and delivery to home.) It has to be made easy for the customer in order to keep them coming back. There has been MORE than enough time to at least try and get ready — we knew this was going to be different as early as the second quarter. There WILL be those hearty people who simply WANT to do the typical Black Friday type thing — for those, the store has to come up with some way to at least try and control the crowd. Also it is important to keep their employees safe as well. Target seems to be very active in planning for… Read more »
Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

A good shopping experience for consumers will be safely and conveniently getting the products they want the way they want it. For retailers, this means ensuring in-stock of gift products and efficient fulfillment through delivery, store stock, BOPIS or curbside. The problem with holiday shopping still resides in the fact that e-commerce is still for all intents and purposes just a catalog online while the stores still drive a special value for customers both in the discovery of the right gifts as well as the festive shopping experience. With the COVID-19 issues, safety becomes an inherent part of this fulfillment process for retailers and we’ll see retailers who’ve established the safety and convenience mindset as those that have a step ahead of others.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

The concepts in this article are a good start. The first step is that the retailer has what the customer wants. Then the customer has to decide, this store or another one that sells the same items? Why would you buy from one over the other? One word leads the discussion: confidence. Customers must feel confident the store will be safe, as in healthy. That includes the rules that govern a safe in-store experience. They must be confident that the employees will be knowledgeable and helpful. Online the confidence comes from communication in the form of verifying emails; your order has been accepted, your product has shipped, here are tracking numbers, and more. And then there are returns. Are returns hassle-free? Remove friction from all areas of the experience, especially if there is a return. And there you have some of the ingredients of a great shopping experience.

Verlin Youd
BrainTrust

In many cases, a great shopping experience will mean great execution of BOPIS and BOPAC, ensuring the customer gets what they purchased, when it was promised, and with a smooth and positive experience. Some have this figured out already – kudos to The Container Store and Tractor Supply. Many others have struggled with BOPIS for ages and don’t seem to be doing much better for curbside – I will spare the guilty this time, but you know who you are. This will require retailers to invest in the people, process and technology required to not only deliver the expected experience but to be able to do it without losing money.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest

Retailers need to be agile enough to serve all shoppers. That means keeping the store in-stock, and clean and inviting for in-store shoppers. That means eliminating any delays in the BOPIS process. This is all basic stuff. Easy to articulate, just not easy to execute.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Since March, consumers have been unable to spend on normal experiential experiences due to lockdowns, creating a pent-up desire to make the holiday 2020 season emotionally memorable for both family and home. Many consumers have money to spend, evidenced by a strong retail sector. The experiential holiday 2020 gift is creation of life memories, shifting the focus from masking to family and home as a means to exert personal control over one’s holiday happiness. Choose situational happiness over the day-to-day realities of COVID-19 and the loss of large family holiday gatherings.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

The concepts in this article are a good start. The first step is that the retailer has what the customer wants. Then the customer has to decide, “This store or another one that sells the same items?” Why would you buy from one over the other?

One word leads the discussion: confidence. Customers must feel confident the store will be safe, as in healthy. That includes the rules that govern a safe in-store experience. They must be confident that the employees will be knowledgeable and helpful. Online the confidence comes from communication in the form of verifying emails; your order has been accepted, your product has shipped, here are tracking numbers, and more. And then there are returns. Are returns hassle-free? Remove friction from all areas of the experience, especially if there is a return.

And there you have some of the ingredients of a great shopping experience.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Traditionally, I prefer to shop online rather than body surf through Christmas crowds. Now the pandemic makes fast, reliable home delivery an even bigger competitive advantage"
"I am not traditionally an early shopper but if anything motivates me to plan ahead it’s 2020."
"Don’t be optimistic about deliveries. Every warehouse and carrier is going to be swamped."

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