This year saw a backlash against the recent trend of Black Friday holiday shopping creeping into Thanksgiving day. According to CNN Money, “opening on Thanksgiving does little to boost sales, according to the data from recent years. Instead, it merely shifts some shopping that would have been done on Black Friday to Thursday….On top of that, more people are shopping online, and brands now have deals all week to lure shoppers. Waiting for a certain day — whether it’s Thanksgiving or Black Friday — to start deals is becoming outdated.”
In a 2013 survey, “Growing skepticism toward Black Friday bargains is a likely reason behind the rise in online holiday shopping. Among shoppers who do not plan to shop on Black Friday…half of them (50%) believe that the same deals will be available at a later date, up from 42 percent” the year prior.
And USA Today reported, “Cyber Monday proved just as big a draw as ever after a weekend that saw fewer people shopping in stores. Sales grew 8.5% for the 24-hour period, according to IBM Digital Analytics, solidifying (Cyber) Monday as the largest online shopping day of the year…” Meanwhile, more shoppers than ever are using their smartphones and tablets to browse for deals. “Online sales over Thanksgiving weekend were up 17% vs. last year and mobile accounted for more than half of all online traffic, according to IBM.”
Despite the always-on availability of online shopping, shoppers still want an in-store experience, with the ability to touch and interact with products. However, in a phenomenon trend watchers have dubbed “showrooming”, many are then leaving the store and ordering online, hoping to find the best bargain.
Does this mean brick-and-mortar holiday shopping is a thing of the past? We don’t think so—there will always be products that need close examination, and shoppers who want to touch and experience items before they buy. We’ve worked with a number of retailers to help them better understand their customers, and reported some interesting findings.
We helped Linens n Things understand that they had specific customer types: those who came in with a goal and those who came to enjoy the browsing experience. Signage and consistency in how products were grouped was more important to the goal-oriented customers, while lush visual and tactile displays were most important to browsers.
When we worked with The Home Depot to help them understand the customer experience inside the store we found that the products which were displayed in context, such as mounted lighting fixtures and swatches of carpet that you could touch, had a big impact on customers’ store experience because they could visualize these products in their home and this motivated them to buy.
When talking with shoppers inside Banana Republic and Gap we discovered the importance of lighting and music to set the tone of the shopping experience—engaging the senses in a way that can’t be replicated online. The brand personality is articulated through the experience shoppers feel while they’re in the store environment, strengthening the customer’s sense of intimacy with the brand.