Holiday Shoppers Will Move Between Online and Offline More Than Ever Before

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Woman handing over shopping bag at cash registerBelieve it or not — the holiday season is right around the corner. For retailers, it’s a time to show off the best new products and emerging technologies in hopes of luring shoppers online and in stores. In two new studies, the Gannett-owned digital marketing company G/O Digital took a look at the capabilities and offerings that will drive shopper behavior during the holidays for national and smaller retailers respectively.

For both national and local retailers, the fight is mostly against Amazon — and it’s a fight they can win. When given a choice, 75% of shoppers said they preferred to shop, either online or offline, with an established brick-and-mortar retailer. Meanwhile, 65% of respondents in a separate survey said they planned to complete three quarters of their shopping at small local businesses.

Even if those consumers shop offline, they’re mostly starting their shopping online. According to the study, 84% of online shoppers said they planned to use an online channel to help decide where to shop before purchasing a gift in store at a small business. And mobile is as important as ever: 45% of shoppers in the small business survey said they planned to use a mobile device for shopping-related research during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Among national retailers, there’s an opportunity to drive users in-stores using incentives. The study found that more than a third of shoppers believe that an in-store only coupon would drive them to go to a store to buy a product from a national retailer.

But in terms of marketing, local search remains king. Nearly four out of five shoppers said they were inclined to visit a search engine when searching for holiday gifts from a small business. Among national shoppers, 37% named local search as the most effective tactic with a holiday offer from a national retailer.

Both studies add up to the fact that the relationship between online and in-store shopping will incredibly important this holiday season. The numbers indicate that having a great web presence will not drive revenues without a great in-store operation and vice versa. G/O Digital CMO Jeff Fagel explained just how important both aspects will be for retailers who want optimum returns on their holiday marketing investment.

“The consumer is different, but in many ways the same — as digitally savvy as she may be. She still prefers to shop in store 90 percent of the time within three to five miles of her home,” said Fagel.

To an extent, the study found that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Although people have more digital options than ever before, shopping habits are not all that different according to Fagel.

“Physical retail is that necessary point of differentiation for businesses to win against pure play threats like Amazon,” he said. “So for businesses big and small the challenge centers on activating local marketing across multiple touch points and stages of the buying journey. After all, consumers don’t have a channel strategy; they have a shopping strategy.”

 Mason Lerner is a contributor at Street Fight.