As consumers are urged to start Christmas shopping early this year to support retailers, new research examining seasonal shopping behaviour has found that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of consumers are happy to shift to online when it comes to buying gifts this year.
A third of consumers (33%) are worried about shopping in-store because of other shoppers not following social distancing measures, and 1 in 4 (25%) are concerned about others not wearing face coverings. As such, festive traditions are unlikely to be front of mind for consumers this year and providing a seamless eCommerce experience more important.
Only 5% will be influenced in their purchasing decisions by the ability to see Father Christmas with their kids. Alongside this, just 12% say they are put off purchasing gifts online because it lacks the Christmas spirit, indicating that the vast majority are happy to shift their festive shopping to online as a result of COVID-19.
“The New Normal Festive Shopping Report” from Fresh Relevance, the real-time personalisation and optimisation platform, examines seasonal shopping habits, and reveals that safety worries are the biggest factors putting consumers off completing their gift-buying in store this Christmas. One third (33%) of consumers are concerned by others not following social distancing and a similar proportion (31%) by crowds driving a spike in the virus. While one in four (25%) are apprehensive about in store because of others not wearing face coverings, conversely 18% of shoppers are put off the in-store environment by having to wear them. However, online tactics can be one effective way to help omnichannel retailers drive traffic to their bricks-and-mortar locations. Almost one in five (19%) state that the option to check the product in-store availability online beforehand would encourage them to purchase in store.
The study, which surveyed 2,000 UK consumers in collaboration with Censuswide, suggests that while 30% of shoppers feel nothing would put them off doing their festive purchasing online, there are several factors that would encourage more people to do so this year. Delivery and returns are key factors for eCommerce brands and retailers to consider. Providing delivery for free (41%), making it fast (35%) as well as offering clear and simple returns policies (24%) are influential purchase decision drivers for consumers.
The survey also reveals that the Black Friday shopping weekend offers brands a prime opportunity to acquire new customers, with a quarter (25%) of shoppers saying they will use the discount event to buy from retailers they haven’t purchased from previously. In terms of marketing around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers expect a tailored experience. Almost half (47%) only want to see deals for products that are relevant to them. 45% even state that they are put off by marketing tactics around the sales event, demonstrating the detrimental effect that repetitive, one-size-fits-all campaigns can have on shoppers.
Mike Austin, CEO & co-founder of Fresh Relevance, comments: “With safety still a big concern and the situation surrounding the pandemic continuing to evolve, some of the festive in-store shopping traditions and experiences may not be front of mind for consumers this year. Catering to these evolving consumer preferences both online and offline will be key this year. To encourage bricks-and-mortar Christmas sales, providing consumers with online information about product availability in stores and highlighting what’s done to keep shoppers safe will help shoppers plan their trip to their local high-street more confidently.
Retailers and brands also need to be prepared to welcome more shoppers into their eCommerce stores than ever before this festive season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday present prime opportunities to reengage customers and acquire new ones. This means marketing and eCommerce teams need to have strategies in place to provide a relevant and seamless experience at every stage of the customer journey. The existing customer base should be targeted with tailored campaigns based on preferences and behaviour to stand out from the promotional onslaught that most consumers will experience during the shopping event. Additionally, organisations need to provide the new customers they acquire with a relevant post-purchase experience in order to turn them into repeat purchasers. This will put brands and retailers in a strong position to secure sales and long-term loyalty this festive season and beyond.”
The research was conducted by Censuswide, an independent market research consultancy, with a sample 2,000 respondents aged 16+ in the UK between 29.07.20 – 31.07.20. The survey was conducted from a nationally representative of UK adults. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.