Here’s how to connect with consumers during this weird holiday season.
In helping small business owners, our goal was to reveal consumer perceptions and behavior to help merchants, like you, prepare as we head into the unusual 2022 holiday season.
We worked with Retail Economics to conduct consumer surveys in August 2022. This report includes answers from a sample of more than 8,000 nationally representative consumers across the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.
Key insights presented within this report can inform, and potentially help improve, retail strategies to address current conditions for this holiday season and beyond.
This blog will serve as your go-to resource for understanding the landscape with supporting data and, more importantly, how to interpret the key takeaways to ensure you’re ready for what’s ahead.
Understanding the financial landscape
Consumer spending may decrease by $46 Billion globally this holiday season.
The research shows that across all markets, inflation remains the biggest concern for consumers followed by uncertainty about the economy and lack of savings, which will undermine holiday spending.
Spending on non-food Christmas gifts over the festive season is expected to decline by $46 billion this year compared to the previous year, with consumers (across all the markets analyzed) set to reduce spending.
With such expected cutbacks, we examine how retail merchants can adapt to the unique changes and continue winning customers despite uncertainty.
Given the state of the global economy, there is uncertainty from all sides when it comes to gauging how successful the holiday shopping season will be this year. Households facing financial pressure will cut back on non-essentials and merchants are looking for ways to cut back on their overhead costs.
We project consumers will spend billions less this holiday season. And 91% of businesses expect to be impacted by rising costs this holiday season.
This rings true across most retail categories (excluding food) with the primary exception of electronics and homewares
One contradiction to point out is that 50% of merchants expect online sales to increase, while 58% of consumers plan to cut back. So despite consumers saying they’ll spend less, merchants expect sales to increase this holiday season.
An average of 34% of consumers are distressed and cutting back categorically across retail.
Research identifies four key consumer archetypes to measure consumer attitudes toward finances and financial security.
‘Undeterred’ [21%]: they worry about the economy, spending is at risk from a deteriorating economic outlook, and they have increased saving intentions.
‘Stretched spenders’ [12%]: consumers in this cohort like to spend but are on tight budgets, they are the most concerned about inflation going forward.
‘Secure but concerned’ [38%]: Display risk-averse attitudes towards spending as inflation and interest rates rise, and are often savvy, looking to switch shopping channels to save money.
‘Distressed’ [30%]: Financially vulnerable with significant concerns. They are most likely to be worried about a lack of earnings, savings, and credit availability. Considering switching preferred shopping channels to save money.
Download our easy guide: 4 Essential Ways to Meet Your Consumer Shipping Demands!
Expected Changes in Shopping Behavior
According to the research, household affluence is the key determinant for switching between shopping channels. The least affluent households are more likely to switch channels (looking to spend more in-store) compared to more affluent households; while the online shift is typically driven by more affluent consumers.
There are five principal reasons why less affluent customers show a greater propensity to shop more in-store than online during the holiday season:
1. Disciplined spending
2. Cash flow management
3. Local markdowns
4. Increased delivery and returns costs
5. Weaker online value proposition
Consumers & merchants are at odds on how to handle rising delivery costs
Successful businesses continually re-evaluate their propositions in response to emerging challenges. Some are already cutting back on previously free services such as delivery and returns and now charge for them. However, this comes at a time when consumers are demanding more value and are actively considering alternatives to stretch budgets.
Consumers value cost and speed of delivery when shopping online.
Yet, over a third of businesses plan to respond to the current climate by increasing delivery costs and timeframes.
As a warning, merchants need to proceed cautiously when increasing delivery costs and extending timeframes. Again, this clashes with consumer expectations where the research shows that delivery speed and cost are the two most important conversion factors. Frustration can also escalate when shoppers compare services with high-performance players like Amazon
Planning Schedules and Shopping Windows
Retailers typically plan for the holiday shopping season around the end of summer according to our research.
But a quarter (24.3%) of businesses started planning earlier for the holidays than last year, reflecting greater uncertainty and supply chain issues. Less than one in 10 businesses (9.1%) are holding out on plans in light of a rapidly evolving economic backdrop, given heightened uncertainty around geopolitics, rising interest rates, and escalating inflation.
91.8% of merchants expect to have rising costs impact their business
These trends are projected to exceed the 2022 holiday season as the average consumer expects inflation to impact their spending for nearly 2 years.
So what can you do to prepare?
Adapting and Thriving
With this year’s holiday shopping season conditions influenced by economic constraints, retail brands must carefully consider how to define and communicate their value proposition.
Rising costs, ongoing supply chain disruption, and softer consumer demand necessitates smarter approaches in order to weather the storm.
Five key areas that retail brands need to focus on in the lead-up to holiday shopping (and beyond) include:
1. Defining a strong value proposition
2. Redefining customer experiences
3. Data, insights, and personalization
4. Evolving operating models
5. Flexible supply chains
ShippingEasy recommendations connecting you to consumer needs
Great customer service and experience
Play to your strengths as an eCommerce store owner and offer a personal and helpful shopping experience. During both Black Friday and Cyber Monday, be easily accessible to your customers. Consider integrating live chat into your website.
To help you create the best communication for your customers, we’ve created this handy guide to give you some ideas.
Being courteous and respectful is key. You may find that some people are rude or impatient. Just remember this is a stressful time of the year, and even though they might not tell you, your customer will appreciate the kindness given.
One final tip: make returns easy and hassle-free. This will help give your customers peace of mind and create a more enjoyable shopping experience for them.
Save on Shipping Costs
ShippingEasy is all about making order fulfillment as simple and straightforward as possible. You can achieve lower rates from ShippingEasy with carriers like USPS and UPS, and real-time tracking information is always available so you can make sure that you’re not falling behind on your promises to customers.
With inflation expected to impact the holiday shopping season, we’ve decided to round up our top blogs featuring free shipping supplies, tips for finding the cheapest shipping services, and some free features with your ShippingEasy account you may not be familiar with.
Offer Free Shipping
According to the Baymard Institute, 48% of customers won’t complete their purchase because extra costs like shipping and taxes are too expensive. Offering free shipping outright might not be feasible for your business. But, we have another option for you!
If you can’t offer free shipping for all of your orders, consider adding free shipping for customers who spend a certain amount of money.
If free shipping isn’t an option, it’s worth looking into other incentives for your customers. Sending out promo codes and/or offering free gifts to your repeat customers will add a personalized touch and keep your customers coming back.
Review Your Return Policy
Any confusion or vague understanding of your return policies could turn into a customer service nightmare and vastly reduce the likelihood of repeat business. 95% of shoppers who are happy with the returns process said they’ll purchase with the same retailer again. Those unhappy with the process are 3 times more likely never to return.
Offering an accurate and convenient way to return items showcases your commitment to great customer service.
The more established your business appears to customers, the more likely they are to order from you again.
Inflation combined with pre-existing industry disruption weighs heavily on both retail brands and consumers. As a result, merchants need to refine their marketing strategy while scrutinizing operating costs to remain profitable heading into the holiday shopping season. On the other hand, consumer behavior is rapidly shifting, primarily driven by value-seeking motivations and financial necessities.
Although there is a level of economic uncertainty going into this golden quarter, the above takeaways reveal how merchants can continue to grow and execute winning strategies to safeguard profitability and capitalize on emerging opportunities to promote sales this holiday season and well into 2023.
Making a merchant wish list and checking it twice is easier with the ShippingEasy team. If you wish to better connect with your consumers and meet your shipping expectations but need a little extra support – we’re here to help!
Our award-winning customer support includes live chat, email, and US-based phone support for all merchants. Unlike other platforms, help is free and you’ll always get a real, live human.
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