Holiday consumers continue to prefer offline purchasing.
Posted Dec 7, 2004
Retailers are already well on their way to knowing if Santa will be leaving candy or lumps of coal in their sales stockings, even with about two weeks of shopping days left till Christmas. According to a survey recently released by Accenture, however, retailers might have done well to forgo price cuts and promotional efforts to focus instead on product quality and customer service.
Accenture's Global Holiday Shopping Report, finds that 91 percent of respondents cited product quality and 85 percent said customer service when asked to select reasons for choosing one retailer over another.
The results of the telephone survey of 800 U.S. adult consumers over the age of 18, also suggests that the offline world continues to dominate the landscape, with 42 percent of all respondents saying they would be most likely to shop for gifts in department stores this season, compared to just 10 percent who claimed to be headed to online destinations. Only 5 percent said catalogs would be their first stop.
Some trends revealed by the survey hew closely to demographic lines, but not in the way retailers might have predicted. For example, half of the 18-to-24-year-olds--certainly the survey's most Web-savvy segment--said they would most likely shop at department stores. By contrast, only 34 percent of middle-age consumers (45 to 54 years old) said department stores were their most likely stop. In fact, the age range that indicated it would be most likely to shop online were the 25-to-34-year-olds, 14 percent of whom said they'd be more likely to click for their gifts. Only 4 percent of respondents over 55 years old were likely to shop online.
"In terms of where [consumers] would go, the continued commitment to department-store shopping is a surprise," says Janet Hoffman, a partner with Accenture's Retail and Consumer Practice. Even so, Hoffman says online shopping is picking up, a fact she attributes in part to vast improvements in usability.
Shoppers' interaction with the real world, however, is what Hoffman says will play a considerable role in retailers' seasonal revenues. "A new finding this year is the focus on the in-store experience," Hoffman says. "In recent years price has been such a driver and this year it's good to see [consumers] being more holistic in their approach."
Retailers need to be mindful that their year-end customers comprise a different set of individuals from ones they face the rest of the year. "As opposed to everyday shopping, holiday-season shopping is about having a vision in mind about what you expect to have happen within the store--expectations [that] are different than they are year-round," she says.
Hoffman says retailers should focus on the intangibles. "The consumer is now interested in a different experience and they're calling that out," she says. Most of all, Hoffman says, the survey reflects "the value that the consumer is placing on the level of service and the importance of the experience--over and above price."
After all, she says, "the holiday season is more about the shopping experience than [it is] about buying party supplies."
Businesses gear up in the hope that shoppers soon will be there.
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