Believe it or not, the holiday shopping season is just around the corner. It won’t be long before airwaves and screens are filled with advertisements for big sales and seasonal promotions, all looking to entice shoppers to spend their money. As we explain in our latest report, “Capitalising on Local Marketing during Peak Season”, this year will prove which companies have adapted to the new retail normal, and which are stuck in the past. In which category is your business?

The return of brick-and-mortar shopping

The retail shopping experience has been changing rapidly, especially over the last two years as the pandemic has accelerated burgeoning trends like the use of omnichannel strategies and more frequent, direct online communication. The ongoing evolution of physical retail necessitates the mastery of digital tools, there’s no question. Yet, despite these changes – or, perhaps because of them – in-store shopping is predicted to be massively popular during the upcoming holidays.

Percentage of consumers planning to shop in-store this holiday season

That’s the findings of our latest report, which relies on surveys of over 600 consumers and retailers across the UK, US, and Spain. Nearly 3/4ths of our consumer respondents said they were looking forward to returning to brick-and-mortar stores this year. The in-store shopping experience remains an integral part of the holiday season – and not just on Black Friday.

As we discuss in “Capitalising on Local Marketing during Peak Season”, retailers need to get out of the mindset that the holidays are about one or two big days. Black Friday (and to a lesser extent, Cyber Monday) will continue to be a major moneymaker for the retail sector, particularly as the day grows in popularity in the UK and Spain. But most consumers don’t limit themselves to a single day of shopping. It’s the holiday season after all: from 1 November to mid-January, there’s a lot of money on the table.

In fact, nearly a third of our respondents across all three countries (including 45% in the US alone) said they do their holiday shopping whenever they see a good deal. That’s a demographic retailers should be focusing on.

What are consumers looking for?

In the first section of our report, we look at the key factors that motivate consumers when they’re making their shopping decisions.

It’ll surprise exactly no one that consumers rate good deals and promotions as the overall main motivating factor. Anyone who has ever worked a Black Friday knows just how frenzied a crowd can get in the face of a great sale. As the day has grown in popularity, though, it’s grown into a kind of Retail Cold War where businesses must unleash ever more dramatic promotions just to stand out. It’s unsustainable.

Thankfully, stores don’t have to put all their eggs in the Black Friday basket. That’s because consumers are actually motivated by more than just price tags, and that’s where savvy retailers separate themselves from the competition.

Amidst the pandemic, consumers have indicated that safety precautions and more convenient check-out options are things they look for when deciding where to do their shopping. While COVID-19 won’t always be a concern, the conveniences it has necessitated – contactless payment, curbside pickup, BOPIS, etc. – are the new normal. They’re here to stay because consumers like having options.

Beyond convenience, consumers are also increasingly looking to online reviews and ratings. Roughly 60% of our respondents said they would rely on reviews to decide where they will shop this year. That should be an eye-opening stat for any company that isn’t actively engaged with its customer base online.

The challenges for retailers

Type of promotions retailers are planning on doing this holiday season

In the second section of “Capitalising on Local Marketing during Peak Season”, we examine the key challenges that retailers are facing this year and look at the tools and strategies they can use to overcome them.

On the top of the list of challenges for retailers (44% in our survey) is understanding the specific needs and preferences of their local customers. Far too many retailers feel they are increasingly disconnected from their base.

Another 40% say that running effective store promotions is one of their biggest challenges, which probably explains why most retailers are planning on running company- or region-wide promotions this holiday season. Hyperlocal promotions just seem like too much work. But they don’t have to be.

Having a more robust online presence can help you address these challenges, but it’s not merely a matter of having accounts on various platforms. Active engagement requires an organized strategy and the right tools for implementing that strategy in a way that’s both timely and manageable to deploy. At no time in history have retailers and consumers had a greater means for two-way communication.

The most successful retailers understand that the greatest asset of the internet is not the increased global reach. It’s the ability to reach customers where they are.

The holiday season and beyond

The key to successful customer enticement – during the holidays, as well as year-round – is being engaged. There are numerous ways for retailers to reach their customers, many of which we discuss in greater detail in “Capitalising on Local Marketing during Peak Season”. But at the core of the issue is a new reality of modern business: consumers will support the companies that understand their needs and preferences. The consumer is speaking. Are you listening?