The Holidays, They Are a Changing

Customer Experience
Conventional shopping days are starting to feel the heat.

The annual phenomenon Black Friday has always been a mixed bag of emotions for shoppers. Many have all too fresh memories of bracing against the cold, pushing ahead of feverish crowds, and losing out on that last big screen TV. 

Yet for a growing number of consumers the traditional Black Friday experience is becoming a thing of the past. According to Accenture’s latest Holiday Shopping Survey, 52 percent of U.S. shoppers said they may not go shopping on Black Friday this year. Even its hipper cousin Cyber Monday had 42 percent of buyers possibly not taking part.

One of the more obvious reasons is the zealous crowds of shoppers. The survey stated that 64 percent of shoppers will not go out because of the large congregations. This was one of the initial appeals of Cyber Monday—you could find deals just as good as in stores from your couch, rather than race another person for that last Xbox.

This year, however, two-thirds of shoppers said they now shop for holiday gifts constantly because of the steady flow of deals online. And 44 percent revealed that they can find discounts on par with Black Friday throughout the year, for example during Amazon Prime Day. In fact, Amazon stated that it had 50 percent more Prime buyers compared to last year, which adds up to millions of shoppers.

A new path for traditional outlets

Retail now needs to dig a little deeper to win back its customers. 

“Rather than striving to win new sales through ever-lower discounts, retailers should see the holidays as an opportunity to define their purpose, engage in a way that is memorable, and be clear about the role they will play in their lives both practically and emotionally,” said Jill Standish, Accenture’s senior managing director of Global Retail. “Experiences that are worth sharing with others can be the foundation for a more-profitable, enduring, and year-round relationship.”

Across the board competitors will be slashing prices and promoting specials. Those who put in the extra effort will stand out amongst the rest. Standish asked that retailers create memories, not bargains, with buyers. She recommended three steps:

  1. Authenticity: Be consistent with your brand’s message during every interaction with customers – from the website, mobile, in store, and social media.
  2. Transparency: To win back the hearts of shoppers hold yourself to a higher standard of ethics that customers are becoming more aware of, or may not expect from you. Have an honest relationship with your shoppers such as being transparent with your prices.
  3. Humanize: Technology aside, keep in mind that human interaction and genuine emotions add incredible value to an in-store shopping experience.

“We believe there is a prize for retailers that identify their purpose, organize around experiences, make use of advanced technology, focus on being local and personal, reconsider their structure and reimagine their processes,” Standish said. “That will ensure consumers will shop from you regardless of what day of the year it is.

It’s the experience that counts

The survey revealed that buyers are moving away from traditional gifts and are now veering toward purchases that provide experiences. Thirty-four percent of consumers buy experiential items including concert tickets, restaurant gift cards, and travel excursions. People are looking for holiday ideas that cannot be found on a shelf or by the dozens, so they are going for unique and personal journeys.

In addition, customers now weigh in more on the practicality of their shopping experience. Forty-eight percent of shoppers said they will visit multiple stores instead of one for all purchases versus 25 percent who will buy them all in one place. More than half of survey respondents said they will wait longer for free shipping, while 5 percent said they would pay for quick shipping.

Although these findings don’t spell the end of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it foreshadows a changing consumer marketplace where shoppers are looking for more value in more places. These moments of extreme savings are no longer being funneled into individual days of the year. This demands that businesses that do capitalize on these occasions tinker with their approach.

“Friday still provides a social, fun event for the day and retailers can stand out by doing more than just discounting,” Standish said. “Events, classes, runway shows, etc. could be ways to lure consumers to come to their stores to enjoy some social shopping.”