By Jennifer Sikora
Call it a chicken-or-the-egg debate: Is the rise in online shopping the result of consumers getting more turned off by hitting the physical stores, or are more consumers disliking in-store shopping due to the convenience afforded by online shopping? This article doesn’t seek to resolve that, but it does report on data relevant to bricks-and-mortar retailers that experience holiday season traffic.
Since October 2015, CivicScience has been studying our polls that ask shoppers to identify their biggest likes and dislikes about holiday shopping in stores. Here’s what we learned:
Shoppers More Likely Than Not to Gripe About Store Shopping
The overwhelming majority of U.S. holiday shoppers (92%) have something they dislike about going to stores for that seasonal spend, while fewer (61%) can identify something they enjoy about the experience.
Throngs of people seem to be by far the biggest aversion, with 61% of holiday shoppers selecting either crowds (the #1 dislike) or lines as their primary turn-offs. Another 17% most dislike the attitudes of those around them, whether other shoppers or even store staff. Clearly, the “human factor” needs to be improved.
Generation X shoppers are very crowd-sensitive (41% of 35-44 year-olds picked this answer), and overall, shoppers who most hate crowds are more likely than the other respondents to conduct over half of their shopping online. Younger Millennials are most likely to get irritated by lines.
Turning Complaints into Opportunities
It’s helpful to look at the dislikes along with what consumers do like about in-store shopping during the holidays. Retailers should definitely double down on the “likes” to offset or even address the things that bother shoppers.
Holiday music, décor, and that festive vibe is the big leader here, with 25% of shoppers (especially women) picking this as their most-favored aspect of store shopping this time of year. That’s followed by the more practical aspects of the shopping experience: being able to spot deals and to interact with the products in person. Deal-seekers are more likely to be Millennials, have a lower income than average, and tend to use coupons more heavily.
Knowing this critical information about holiday shopper tastes can go a long way for retail stores. Clearly, better crowd control and line reduction could have major payoffs. Perhaps amping up the in-store “holiday entertainment factor” can increase crowd tolerance and improve the mood among shoppers and employees alike. Some tactics to try: have a local choir group sing during peak hours or on major sales days, or have interesting decorative displays that shoppers can view while waiting in lines. Involve the community to contribute to displays too – giving folks a reason to visit (vs. click) and could generate buzz.
For the more practical shoppers: Offering in-store coupons, deals, and bonus rewards for loyal customers, and/or even exclusive “after-hours” shopping events could be a draw.
Thanks to modern consumer research methods, it’s good to have these insights in hand to better understand consumer sentiment so that action can be taken to make this season a bit merrier.
Jennifer Sikora is Chief Marketing Officer of CivicScience