Report: Holiday Shoppers Prioritize Speed in Retail Experience

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What causes shoppers to stay or stray from their favorite retailers during the all-important holiday season?

That was the key question posed by Aptos, the retail technology solutions provider, in a recent survey of 4,000 consumers.

Holiday shoppers expect to spend 4% more this year than last year—reaching an average of $1,047 per person—but competition among retailers has never been greater. Amazon and other pure-play e-commerce businesses are eating up an increasingly large share of the holiday shopping pie. Retailers with physical stores are fighting back by focusing on the basic fundamentals of customer experience and taking a closer look at how their brands, products, staffs, and stores make customers feel.

For its Golden Quarter Consumer Survey—named for the period that includes Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and post-Christmas—Aptos looked at the other side of the coin, asking consumers what they want to see from the retailers they patronize.

Among the survey’s most surprising findings is how quickly shoppers are willing to abandon their favorite retailers when those stores don’t have the items they want. Aptos found that 47% of shoppers will start looking elsewhere if their favorite retailer runs out of an item they’re looking for during the so-called Golden Quarter. Additionally, Aptos found that more than half of consumers (60%) say they will abandon their baskets if they find their items for cheaper elsewhere.

That finding, in particular, should be a wake-up call to retailers, since it appears that showrooming—that is, testing products in-store and then buying them for cheaper online—is becoming a more serious threat.

Aptos’ Director of Retail Industry Insights, Dave Bruno, sees an even larger challenge coming down the pipeline for retailers, based on the survey’s finding that 83% of shoppers have an “intolerance” for retailers that are slow to market with new, on-trend merchandise.

“Clearly, the influence of fast fashion is permeating retail,” Bruno says. “Fast fashion players are influencing shopper expectations for fresher, more relevant and more localized assortments in every category.”

Shoppers in the survey indicated that messy, crowded stores are a turnoff, as well. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they would go elsewhere if a store was too crowded, and 44% said they would leave a messy store.

It should come as little surprise that Aptos, as a provider of cloud-based retail management solutions, found that technology can help brick-and-mortar stores combat some of the largest obstacles they’re facing during the holiday shopping season. One channel shoppers indicated they are especially eager to embrace is Buy Online, Pickup in Store, especially for last-minute purchases. Bruno says stores need to be prepared to capitalize on those visits, and to be wary of presenting empty shelves when shoppers looking to check the last few items off their lists arrive to pick up their orders.

Aptos’ survey results indicate that technology innovation needs to be utilized across all areas of the retail business, from how retailers manage merchandise and how they engage with customers, to what it takes to seamlessly connect in-store and digital touchpoints.

“Only with technology can we effectively analyze all the data now available to us. The survey also makes it clear that consumers won’t wait for us; consumers value speed, including speed to market,” Bruno says. “Processes that used to take months need to take weeks, and what took weeks needs to take days.”

For example, Aptos found that in-store offers topped its list of what encourages shoppers to buy in physical stores. In order to power those offers, retailers need the right technology. The company also found that pop-up shops ranked second for increasing customers’ in-store interest. For pop-ups to be successful, retailers need the right technology, once again.

Despite anticipated gains in digital commerce, Bruno says the results of this Aptos survey—along with other industry research—make it clear that the vast majority of gift shopping will still happen inside physical stores this holiday season.

“I expect the store to thrive,” he says. “And as the season draws to a close and shipping windows shrink, the store will play an ever-more important role.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.