Retail

The Coming Online Retail Crush — And Can Retail Keep Up?

The digital shoppers are coming, the digital shoppers are coming!

It may not have quite the kick that the pronouncement about the arrival of the British had during the 1770s, but according to the latest Deloitte annual shopper survey, it does have the advantage of being pretty darn accurate. The 31st instantiation of the the annual poll of consumer desires indicated that retailers should be getting ready to batten down their eCommerce hatches, because a wave of customers will soon be upon them.

Around half of customers plan to shop online this year — more than the proportion that intended to visit discount/value department stores. Consumers are also planning to spend more of their budget online than ever. Forty-seven percent reported that they intended to do the bulk of their budget-blowing on the web — an almost one-to-one match with those planning on spending in physical stores.

And it will be a decent season for giving, as shoppers, on average, will be purchasing 14 gifts this year and will spend about $426 on gifts.

 

Avoiding The Mall (And The Rest Of The Real World) 

But the time is now to show off on digital, since the Deloitte data also strongly implies it is not going to be a banner year for foot traffic to physical stores. Last year, 63 percent of consumers planned to visit a big-box store; this year, that fell to 59 percent. Malls will also take a small hit, as one-half of all consumers will make the annual trek, as opposed to 53 percent last year. If the trend continues, 2017 could be the first year that fewer than half of all Americans go shopping at the mall during the holiday season.

The parking lots will still be full for some reason.

Also possibly having a tougher year will be smaller Main Street retailers and merchants — down from 42 percent to 38 percent.

In total, shoppers plan, on average, to shell out $998 for the holidays this year.

 

Embracing Digital 

According to Deloitte’s data, the retailers with high hopes for this holiday season will be best served by an extensive and well-run menu of omnichannel options. Particular favorites seem to be in-store pickup of online orders (43 percent).

Consumers are reserving most of that spending love for gift buying, as opposed to other holiday spending (travel, dining), which have become increasingly popular holiday season spending categories over the last four to five years. This year, consumers plan to cut back on travel, dining out, entertaining, non-gift clothing for themselves or family and home/holiday furnishings and decorations, which will total $572 per household this year.

That is a particularly eye-catching result, given how much ink has been spilled about the great consumer preference sea change for experiences over physical things.

Mobile will be a crucial commerce tool this season — a finding we’re seeing now in a few surveys — but its primary use in retail transactions will like carry on as a research tool, as opposed to a go-to for directly transacting. Two-thirds of consumers note they actively plan to “webroom” (viewing items online before making an in-store purchase), while about half will “showroom” by looking at items in-store, then searching online for the best price. A whopping 86 percent will research online, and of that group, 78 percent plan to use their mobile phone for at least some of the data. That information includes getting store locations at 61 percent, checking prices at 57 percent and browsing online at 56 percent.

As for actually finishing off the purchase? Well, mobile phones are gaining ground rapidly. Forty-three percent of consumers will make a holiday buy on their smartphone this year, a big jump from last year’s 35 percent — but still not quite the majority of shoppers just yet.

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