Nearly 75% of consumers say they plan to do the majority of their holiday shopping in physical stores, according to a new survey emailed to Retail Dive of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers from global business-advisory firm AlixPartners, which is forecasting a potential increase in U.S. holiday sales of between 3.5% to 4.4%. Some 71% of consumers say they plan to do half or more of their holiday shopping in stores and the vast majority (88%) plan on at least visiting stores this season, Alix found.
Still, mobile, e-commerce and increasingly voice remain critical channels, considering technology has enabled shoppers to exist in a perennial “buy” state, and successful brands and retailers have become experts at seizing the moment of influence, market intelligence solutions Market Track told Retail Dive in an email.
Ninety-two percent of respondents to the Alix research said they plan to use online sources to research their purchases during the holiday shopping season, with 38% saying they’ve conducted online research before buying consumer electronics, while apparel and footwear have the highest online sales penetration, with 37% saying they’ve bought those items online.
Several organizations are predicting healthy holiday sales this year, thanks to a robust macroeconomic backdrop that has brought on "the most favorable [time] for consumer spending in the post- Great Recession era," according to Retail Metrics president Ken Perkins.
“The housing market is in decent shape. Consumer Net Worth hit another record in [the second quarter this year] and is on track to do so once again in the third quarter,” he told Retail Dive in an email.
Unemployment stands at 4.4%, job openings are at record levels, employment gains are solid and the most recent Atlanta Fed Wage Tracker reading marked a solid 3.4% wage growth, Perkins noted, adding that Target’s recent announcement that it would boost hourly wages and aim for $15 per hour by 2020 is another sign of income momentum for lower paid workers.
The presidential election, which was a major distraction for holiday shoppers last year, is well behind us, though savage hurricanes and other political news are dominating headlines, Perkins said. This year, retailers will have more selling days, thanks to Thanksgiving’s (and Black Friday’s) earlier landing on the calendar; shoppers will have 31 days to shop post- Thanksgiving, compared to 30 days last year and just 26 days in 2013, which Perkins said "should provide a modest lift to retailers." But the widespread use of e-commerce and mobile shopping, combined with more rapid delivery windows, will likely have an even greater impact, he said.
“We have witnessed a significant spike in e-commerce/mobile sales gains over the past few years, with 2017 marking a real turning point in our estimation,” Perkins said. “Retailers as a whole must show that they can hold their own this Holiday season in terms of growing their ecommerce business, expanding click & pick sales, and driving foot traffic.”
Amazon remains a concern for department stores, discounters, big-box and specialty apparel chains, though, he also noted, because it could be a go-to destination for holiday e-commerce purchases. According to Market Track, Amazon’s Prime Day "provided an early look into the direction of voice commerce, as Amazon educated Prime Day shoppers on how to turn Alexa into their own personal shopper. Look for Amazon, Walmart and Google to integrate voice commerce into their holiday shopping experiences, offering deals that can only be unlocked by first stating 'Alexa' or 'Ok Google.'"
Walmart and The Home Depot have already paired up with Google for voice assistance for their customers. Some 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month this year, according to research released in May from eMarketer. If that forecast proves correct, it would be a 129% jump in voice engagement with virtual assistants over last year.
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2017 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page and sign up for our holiday newsletter for more stories.