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Retail Industry Updates

Consumers Are Ready to Shop for the Holidays. Are You Ready?

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Retailers may already know this, but just in case they don’t: Holiday shopping will start early and be dominated by digital.

Those are findings from Service Management Group (SMG), a global customer, patient and employee experience management partner, which has published new research that underlines how the pandemic is impacting consumer confidence, holiday shopping trends and the continued growth of digital sales. Kansas City, Mo.-based SMG used BrandGeek, its market intelligence tool, to collect feedback from nearly 10,000 respondents to help retail brands understand consumer expectations and prepare for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

According to SMG, it’s not surprising that three of four respondents plan to do most of their holiday shopping online this year, considering the double-digit growth of digital holiday sales in 2019 and how the pandemic is impacting the in-store experience. When asked to compare the timing of their holiday shopping to last year, 42% of respondents said they’ll start shopping earlier. With 61% of respondents planning to do most of their shopping before Thanksgiving, SMG found just 15% of respondents plan to stock up on Black Friday, and only 7% plan to take advantage of Cyber Monday.

“When we compare the timing of the two groups of shoppers, 62% of online shoppers plan to start shopping earlier whereas 44% of in-store shoppers indicate they’ll take advantage of Black Friday sales or do most of their shopping in December,” according to the report.

SMG also learned in its research that “financial concerns are looming” for consumers. But although 58% of respondents are concerned about their financial situation due to the pandemic, 59% of respondents indicated they plan to spend about the same on holiday gift shopping as they did last year, and 20% indicated they plan to spend more. To quantify holiday spending, respondents were asked how much they plan to spend: 47% of respondents plan to spend $499 or less on holiday gifts whereas 24% plan to spend more than $1,000.

SMG said another key takeaway from its research is that “value will be key this shopping season.”

When asked about the most important factor when deciding where to shop for holiday gifts, nearly one third of respondents chose value for the money (32%), followed by selection of merchandise (14%) and convenience (12%).

Despite the ongoing financial concerns created by the pandemic, 91% of respondents plan to shop for others this holiday season, with 31% of respondents shopping for 10 or more people. When asked about the most important factor when deciding where to shop for holiday gifts, nearly one third of respondents chose value for the money (32%), followed by selection of merchandise (14%) and convenience (12%). The four most popular types of gifts selected were clothes (63%), gift cards (56%), electronics (51%) and toys (49%). The least popular gifts were experiences (16%), fitness (12%) and automotive (8%).

“While the pandemic will certainly impact retail’s most important quarter, it’s reassuring to see the vast majority of consumers still plan to shop this holiday season,” said SMG Senior Vice President of Research Paul Tiedt. “Brands that take the time to understand evolving consumer preferences, online shopping behavior and trip motivators will be well-positioned this holiday season.”

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