Last year proved to be a challenging one for consumers and retailers alike. Retailers had to quickly adjust their brick-and-mortar framework to continue serving customers through virtual and contactless delivery services, while providing an innovative and redefined shopping experience as preferences and guidelines evolved. Even with the roll out of vaccines, COVID-19 variants are creating concern and could impact customers’ shopping decisions yet again this year.
Research findings from WBR’s “The 2021 Future Stores Holiday Report” reveal that 60% of retailers still expect consumers to spend conservatively in-store as they did last year. Conversely, 31% anticipate that consumers will spend more in-store this year than in 2020. To help consumers feel comfortable and safe, 72% of retailers are considering maintaining in-store safety, security and sanitation measures, and many plan to continue implementing technologies and alternative shopping solutions such as curbside pickup, buy-online-pick up-in-store (BOPIS) and virtual consulting.
[See also: 2021 Holiday Retail Forecasts and Predictions]
Conducted by WBR Insights, this research surveyed 100 leaders from B2C retail brand manufacturers and multi-brand retailers, representing organizations that operate physical retail stores in various sectors, including hardware, electronics, and appliances (12%), apparel (12%), department stores (11%), sporting goods (11%), and grocery (11%).
Below are the key shopping trends these retailers anticipate this holiday season.
Consumers Will Research First, Then Buy.
With the ongoing uncertainties of the pandemic, 46% of retailers believe consumers are currently searching for more information online before shopping in stores. Many consumers will continue to shop consciously, taking the time to research products, especially before making big purchases.
Retailers are Providing a More Personalized Experience Through Appointment Scheduling Tools.
Consumers don’t want to be in crowded stores or wait in long lines like they used to in past holiday seasons. About half (48%) of respondents claim customers will most likely shop in their physical stores this year via pre-arranged appointments, with 66% of retailers reporting that they plan to use an appointment scheduling or booking platform to manage in-store customer experiences. This strategy will not only provide customers with a safer experience, but also a more personalized one, as sales representatives will be able to dedicate their attention and guidance to individual customers, resulting in increased spending opportunities.
Weekday Shopping Will Become More Common.
Retailers are likely to see an increase in weekday in-store shopping, a typically slower shopping time, as consumers are looking to shop in less crowded stores. Weekday in-person shopping is much more accessible today than ever before, as more people are working remotely and – in some cases – flexible hours.
Online Shopping Will Be the “Gold Standard.”
Although there is an anticipation of consumers wanting to shop more in-person this year than last, about half (42%) of retailers believe shoppers are transitioning to shopping mainly online, including BOPIS and curbside pickup.
Consumers want to shop when and where it is convenient – and safe. Retailers are getting more creative with their online offerings, providing virtual consulting with sales representatives to help consumers find and make the best purchasing decision for them – whether it’s home furniture, a new car, outfit, etc. – creating a more personal digital experience and providing a human element to a historically transactional process.
Although many things have changed since the last holiday shopping season, there are many late-2020 retail trends expected to continue into the 2021 holiday shopping season. While retailers expect consumers to be conservative with their spending, due to the economy’s current state, consumers are eager to get back to in-store holiday shopping but want to do so safely. To accommodate consumers’ needs, retailers will continue to apply updated sanitation protocols and technologies, placing the safety of their employees and customers first.
Digital online shopping is not expected to go anywhere, as this continues to be the first choice for many. BOPIS, deliver-to-home services and curbside pickup will continue to be provided across many retailers, including grocery stores, clothing stores, and others. For those who wish to conduct their shopping primarily online, retailers will continue to adopt appointment scheduling and virtual queuing software to manage the in-store shopping experience. As consumers regain their traditional holiday shopping experiences, it is up to retailers to implement the best strategies to provide a safe, convenient, and personalized shopping experience, wherever their customers decide to shop from.
-John Federman, CEO of JRNI
About the Author
As CEO, John Federman is responsible for JRNI’s strategic direction, growth, and corporate vision. Prior to JRNI, he served as CEO of Webcollage. He has also served as CEO of Dailybreak, Searchandise Commerce, eStara, Dotomi, Newmediary, and AdSmart. Federman began his career at Ziff Davis Media, the world’s number one trade journal, where he held a number of positions culminating as publisher of PC Week. He also serves as an advisor to Boston-based Salsify and sits on the Board of New York’s Touchcode. He is a regular contributor and industry speaker covering omnichannel, customer experience, and e-commerce strategies.