’Twas The Season Of Omnichannel

It’s Christmas Eve — have consumers gotten all of their holiday shopping done?

Regardless of shoppers’ individual situations here at the eleventh hour, it’s fair to say that — with less than 24 hours to go until the big day — the overall trends of the 2015 holiday shopping season have gone on the record.

Earlier this month, Discover released an article with information outlining industry observations (and remaining expectations) with regard to omnichannel shopping this holiday season, which the retail sector has continued to see bear out … all the way up to today, the last shopping day before Christmas.

One area of analysis and perspective came from SPS Commerce’s 2015 Retail Insight report: That study showed that 37 percent of U.S. retailers lacked a long-term omnichannel strategy, even though more than half of U.S. Internet users have mixed both online and offline shopping for multiple product categories, including consumer electronics (65 percent), apparel (64 percent), toys (63 percent), and home appliances (58 percent).

True to form, the most successful retailers this holiday season have been those that not only implemented an omnichannel strategy, but also did so in a way that made the shopping experience seamless for their customers across all channels.

“In the past 15 years, we’ve moved from one channel—brick-and-mortar—to three, and the increase brings a greater challenge for merchants to ensure the shopping and payment experience remains seamless,” states Soumya Chakrabarty, Director of Research & Development at Discover, in the article.

“While more shopping channels have emerged over time,” Chakrabarty continues, “consumers don’t want a different experience between those channels, but instead a seamless experience across all three. Having an omnichannel environment that seeks to ensure the experience remains continuous and consistent for consumers is critical, as they interact with merchants through their mobile device, in the store, and when they visit the retailer’s website.”

Here’s how the holiday shopping season has shaped up, matching the insight Discover shared with regard to expectations of three key trends:

Retailers Offering a Range of Fulfillment Options

With free shipping and returns over a set dollar amount no longer an effective differentiator (because so many merchants offer those options), what the retail industry saw this year was the expansion of delivery options.

Discover shares data from a PwC Total Retail Survey showing that, this year, online holiday shoppers in the U.S. were interested in same-day delivery (61 percent), a specific, agreed-upon delivery window (43 percent), and 90-minute delivery for in-store purchases (37 percent).

The Growth of Hyperlocal Messaging

While the use of beacons was a minor aspect of last year’s holiday shopping season, experimented with by just a handful of major retailers, the numbers took off this year.

According to the information shared by Discover, the retail industry is on pace for more than $4 billion in sales that are initiated by beacon-triggered messages. And the trend will only continue to grow, as the $4 billion number is projected to grown tenfold by 2016.

“One main benefit of the current mobile landscape is that electronic devices are already Bluetooth-enabled, and beacons capitalize on this functionality to easily communicate with mobile devices,” says Chakrabarty. “This offers merchants a simple channel through which to reach consumers and reduce friction in terms of consumer adoption, as it is already integrated into their phone or tablet.”

ECommerce Has Come to Brick-and-Mortar

While the phenomenal success of eCommerce has seen more and more physical retailers try their hand in the space, the industry is starting to see — to a smaller degree — a move in the opposite direction.

Given statistics such as those from an October 2014 PwC poll showing that 40 percent of respondents said they purchase items from a brick-and-mortar store weekly while only 27 percent shop at that rate online, it follows that a handful of successful online retailers — such as Bonobos, Warby Parker, Rent The Runway, and Amazon — decided to try their hand at physical “pop-up shops” this holiday season … and it’s a trend that other eCommerce merchants are likely to follow, for many more holidays to come.

(That is to say, if consumers are really behind on their shopping for gifts expected tomorrow … there will be more omnichannel opportunities for them next Christmas.)



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.