More holiday shoppers will head to physical stores this year — 88% of consumers overall (88% of women and 85% of men) — a six percentage-point increase from last year, according to the annual "In-Store Holiday Shopping" survey from cloud-based retail execution and workforce platform Natural Insight which was emailed to Retail Dive.
The trend spans generations, according to the report. Some 88% of 18 to 29 year-olds say they will shop in stores this season — an eight-point increase from last year, and 92% of 30 to 44 year-olds say they will, a six-point increase.
Shoppers will also be out earlier this year, according to the report. Nearly half (47%) of holiday shopping will happen before December, a 10-point increase from Natural Insight's 2017 results. In a five-point increase from last year, 20% of November shoppers will shop on Black Friday. Just over half (51%) of those Black Friday shoppers will be between 18 and 29 years old.
With holiday shoppers looking for inspiration and an enjoyable experience in stores this year, a trend seen last year as well, retailers need to be enticing.
Natural Insights' findings jibe with other research from market intelligence solutions firm Market Track, and Ryne Misso, Market Track's Director of Marketing, noted in an email to Retail Dive that he expects retailers to use "their physical store locations as value differentiators."
"We expect to see more in-store events (like Walmart's holiday parties in 2017), more opportunities for shoppers to demo new products (like Best Buy's VR demos in 2017), and other creative experiences that shoppers can only enjoy by visiting a store location," he said.
While holiday songs are full of cheer and there's a lot of extra sparkle during the season, it's also traditionally a time of angst. And shopping, according to Natural Insight's research, is the number one source of stress for a quarter of those surveyed. Of those, a great majority (65%) said crowds fuel that, while about half (49%) said the inability to find a gift within their budget is a top-three stressor.
"Today's consumers exist in a world that moves at an unparalleled pace and retailers need to embrace changing consumer needs and be prepared for early holiday shoppers to remain competitive," Natural Insights CEO Stefan Midford said in a statement, noting that means "providing an exceptional in-store experience to drive foot traffic and sales this holiday shopping season."
The utility and convenience of e-commerce can help ease some of that stress. But holiday shopping, particularly in stores, can be enjoyable, and more than a third (36%) of women say they do enjoy it. More than half of those surveyed said a major reason they head to stores rather than shopping online is the ability to browse and discover gift ideas, nearly a third (30%) said they head to stores for the decorations and the holiday atmosphere, and a third of younger shoppers (18-29 years old) say it's a social activity for them.
There will also be more men in stores this year, and they'll spend more than women: 19% of men plan to spend more than $500, while just 12% of women have that budget. More women (57%) plan to spend less than $250 in stores, while half of men will stick to that. Overall, 54% of shoppers expect to spend less than $250 in stores this year, according to the report.
The survey of more than 1,200 consumers across the United States was conducted by Survey Monkey and Survey Monkey Audiences between Aug. 21 and Aug. 22.