How retailers can answer shoppers’ more disciplined approach

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This holiday season, shoppers are getting organized. How can retailers respond?

With the peak holiday season fast approaching, rising prices and fluctuating stock levels wouldn’t have been on any shopper’s — or any retailer’s — wish list. However, while U.S. consumers are undoubtedly taking steps to organize their seasonal shopping more carefully this year, retailers can take heart from the fact that consumers’ desire to enjoy the holiday spirit is as strong as ever.

Shoppers are getting organized

Jill Standish Accenture

Jill Standish

Accenture’s latest annual Holiday Shopping Survey finds that a huge majority (84%) of consumers are looking forward to this year’s holidays. At the same time, the “organized consumer” is set to be a key shopping trend this year, as shoppers look to stretch their budgets and sharpen their focus on making sure they get what they need.

This tempered optimism is influencing not only how much people are spending but also when they’re doing their shopping. So, while over a third of survey respondents said they plan to stick to a fixed budget for the holidays, more and more are also shopping earlier to spread the cost out over a longer period.

For instance, 42% of consumers said they started holiday shopping as early as August. And one in six were true early birds, beginning right back at the start of the year in order to take advantage of post-holiday sales and discounts.

There’s also evidence organized consumers are getting creative about their gift giving. The survey shows, for instance, that more than one in five shoppers plan to spend more on materials for crafting homemade presents than they did last holidays.

Retailers need a data-driven response

With budgets tightening, the good news for consumers is that many retailers have excess inventory they need to shift, making promotions and deals more likely. Accenture’s separate survey of U.S. retail executives found, for example, that over a third of companies are taking special measures or deep discounting surplus stock.

A similar number are re-optimizing their pricing and promotions, recognizing that this year’s trend for more organized and cost-conscious customers requires extra precision in response. This means paying even closer attention to customer data, ensuring marketing and promotions are targeted on the customers and products for which they’ll have maximum effect.

With an extended holiday shopping season, timing is also key. And having a dynamic marketing and promotions plan is critical. This should be anchored around existing inventory where needed. But it has to also be able to adapt quickly to changing consumer needs over the longer run-up to the holiday season.

Physical shopping is front and center again

As consumers look to put recent years’ pandemic-related disruption behind them, stores are once again central to their holiday shopping plans. Shoppers plan to make around half their holiday purchases in-store this year.

However, savvy retailers recognize this desire to shop in-store is more than purely transactional. Growing numbers of consumers are looking for more from the experience, which highlights the need for services that bring something extra — whether that’s the ability to eat before/after shopping, get a treatment at a beauty salon, or simply pick up purchases made online.

In fact, as consumers start to notice the rising costs of home delivery, in-store pickup is becoming increasingly differentiating for retail brands. Almost seven in 10 shoppers told Accenture that having a dedicated collection space in-store would now influence their choice of retailer.

Leaning in to live-streaming

This blurring of the boundaries between online and physical shopping is leading innovative retailers to think creatively about store layouts and make better use of digital technologies to help their employees deliver superior experiences.

A great example is the trend for live streaming directly from stores. Already, around half of retailers in Accenture’s survey said they’re planning to use a store as a live-streaming studio or to create a virtual shopping space especially for the holiday season.

Nordstrom, for example, has been offering live streams in categories like beauty, home and apparel since last year. It has also run holiday-themed beauty trend shows with experts from leading brands, including a personal appearance from leading makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury.

Similarly, Avon is using live-streaming, including video-chat, live selling, consultations and virtual services, as a high-touch means of educating and engaging with consumers.

Examples like these are not only a fun and engaging way to support online sales channels, they’re also a fantastic opportunity to invest in and leverage the talent of the frontline workforce, giving employees a completely new avenue to find their voice, display their expertise and advance their careers.

Targeting the organized consumer

With shoppers organizing their holiday spending more carefully, and for longer, this year, retailers looking to maintain profitability need to get smarter about the way they target their promotions and customize their retail ­experiences.

Finding fun, exciting and innovative tech-driven ways to satisfy consumer needs and augment shopping experiences across all channels is going to be central to delivering those experiences, satisfying consumer needs, and delivering a healthy bottom line this holiday and beyond.

Jill Standish is global lead for Accenture’s Retail industry practice.



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