Holiday Spending Surprises
So far, the holiday shoppers have been happy to open their wallets this season. And while the overall spend is up, retailers have experienced some unhappy surprises in just how and when consumers are buying. The Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend used to be the pinnacle of the purchasing frenzy. This year it was an unqualified bust.
Most estimates say sales for the day dropped about 11 percent over last year—which wasn’t a great Black Friday year itself, with those sales declining for the first time since 2009. The trend seems clear: Consumers simply aren’t as interested in participating in what had become a mass shopping event.
What’s Holding Black Back?
Many in the retail industry have theories about why shoppers aren’t jumping into what used to be the most beloved of all shopping experiences. Some say the economic recovery is partially to blame; now that shoppers have a little more money in their pockets, they feel they don’t have to fight the crowds to get that discount. Others say shopping fatigue has set in, with online deals, one-day only sales and all other manner of discounts happening throughout all of November and December. Or maybe Black Friday is being pushed aside for the shiny new Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas, expected to be filled with all sorts of last-minute deals for procrastinating shoppers.
In sum, consumers are still happily spending. Overall retail sales for November were up about 5.5 percent from last year. People aren’t shopping less and spending less money, they just aren’t doing it en masse like they used to.
What the Shoppers Are Saying
As a Customer Experience company that serves some of the best retail brands in the world, we wanted to understand the “why” behind the numbers, so we conducted a survey to see how consumers actually feel about shopping over the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend. Here is a sample of what we found:
- A whopping 62 percent of shoppers think that Thanksgiving/Black Friday shopping is harming family traditions.
- Even more than that, 65 percent said they won’t shop on Thanksgiving Day, no matter what the deals may be.
- As is probably expected, the No. 1 motivator against shopping on Black Friday was the crowds.
- On the flipside, for those who do shop on Black Friday, the deals were, unsurprisingly, the biggest motivation. However a fun experience and family/social traditions were close behind.
- And here’s where it gets really interesting: Nearly 90 percent of shoppers said that their customer experience over the weekend was the same or worse than any other time of year. It just stands to reason that a consumer is less likely to shop somewhere if they know they are going to have a bad experience doing it.
Help Them Shop the Holidays Their Way
There may not be an easy solution to getting consumers to return to “shopping holidays,” and, with overall holiday sales rising, maybe the bigger question is whether this strategy is as critical to retailers as we once thought. Considering the response, maybe opening your store’s doors on Thanksgiving to get a head start on Black Friday is actually not the way to go. Both this year’s sales figures and this survey seem to say that approach may actually hurt your brand.
What we learn from this can be applied to shopping not just around the holidays but throughout the entire year. If you want to drive sales, you have to give your customers what they want, when and where they want it. This could be an online promotion for those who want to avoid the crowds or a more pleasant in-store experience for those who value the tradition of shopping events. But how do you know what your customers want if you aren’t already engaged with them?
That’s why always keeping the customer experience in mind is so important. It’s not something you can just trot out during the holidays either. Meaningful engagement with customers should be happening year round, so when it comes time to make plans for Holiday Shopping 2015, you already know what your customers want and can give them the most positive experience possible.