The No. 1 Thing Holiday Shoppers Care About

November 23, 2014

Do you know what holiday shoppers care about the most? A trio of new reports lend insight into 2014 holiday shopping trends and make it possible to deduce what shoppers value the most – and how you can cater to customers and boost holiday sales. With holiday retail sales expected to increase by as much as 15 percent in 2014, it pays to know what customers want. The following reveals results culled from surveys, compiled independently by Deloitte University Press, G/O Digital and the National Retail Federation; and attempts to identify the No. 1 thing holiday shoppers care about so you can meet and exceed their expectations as well as your own earnings this holiday season.

Notable holiday shopper survey results

  • Predictably, price is important: 46 percent of customers search for products based on price.
  • Customers want to buy local: 84 percent research products from local sellers online before making purchases in-store.
  • Customers far prefer to shop in stores versus online: Deloitte surveyed customers to find out which shopping experience they preferred more than 17 different shopping categories, and in-store shopping won every time. For example, 54 percent of customers would prefer to shop at department stores versus 12 percent who would rather shop the same stores online (the remaining respondents had no preference).
  • Customers are far more likely to “webroom” than “showroom.” Webrooming refers to the practice of researching products online and then buying in-store; showrooming is the opposite, when customers research in-store and then buy online. One survey found that 68 percent of customers are likely to webroom versus 48 percent of those who are likely to showroom.
  • What keeps customers home instead of in stores? Not pricing; long lines and too much traffic top the list of reasons to stay home and buy online.
  • On the other hand, the No. 1 reason customers prefer to shop in stores is knowledgeable sales staff.
  • Why do customers prefer to buy local? In order: to support the local economy (62 percent), to find unique gifts (53 percent), convenience (43 percent), and customer service (38 percent).
  • Mobile is huge: 72 percent of customers plan to use their smartphones to assist with holiday shopping this year for purposes such as checking prices, finding store locations, and reading product reviews.
  • Customers love free shipping: 68 percent plan to take advantage of this feature for holiday purchases.
  • Finally, here’s why customers say they choose to buy from one retailer over another, in order of importance: sales and price discounts (75 percent), quality of merchandise (61 percent), selection of merchandise (59 percent), convenient location (48 percent), free shipping and other shipping promotions (42 percent), low prices (41 percent), and knowledgeable customer service (30 percent).

It’s interesting to note that even though sales and price discounts top the list of reasons to buy from a given retailer, low prices has less weight than quality, selection, convenience, and free shipping. This might mean that though customers value a deal, they don’t necessarily gravitate toward the lowest possible price. So, what’s theNo. 1 thing holiday shoppers care about? At the end of the day, it seems customers are most interested in getting a good deal – but how can you give customers a good deal when big box stores make it practically impossible to compete on price and shipping? The answer lies in other insights gleaned from the surveys. For example:

  • Offering unique gifts the big box stores don’t carry can help you compete, especially when it comes to customers who are seeking “the perfect gift.” This is especially true for 2014, when shoppers are expected to splurge on family and friends.
  • Knowledgeable sales staff and excellent customer service can set you apart from competitors; they can help customers find just the right gifts, and customers will leave your store (or website) feeling confident they’ve made a good purchase.
  • Discounts and sales can help you attract customers to your shop, but you don’t necessarily have to offer rock-bottom prices – especially if your merchandise is unique.
  • Gift cards represent another great way to compete: 62 percent of shoppers say they prefer receiving gift cards. When you operate in a special niche, gift cards make it easy for customers to buy the perfect gift.
  • Quality is another great differentiator: If you sell higher-quality items than the big box stores, you can attract specialty shoppers. If you sell some of the same items, you might be able to offer higher-quality add-on services. For example, a small electronics store might be able to offer expert home theater or car stereo installation. Even though some big box stores offer these items, they’re often performed by low-wage employees who do not have the years of experience your trained staff has. Look for unique selling points such as this to leverage your company against the competition.

Ultimately, your customers aren’t the same as “all customers.” It’s important to find out what they care about most. Conduct your own survey, or use your experience to develop deals your customers will love. Discounts might be the most important thing to the masses, but if you operate a special niche shop, your customers might care more about quality. For example, the big sporting goods store at the local mall might have the cheapest kayaks; but if you cater exclusively to kayaking enthusiasts, the people who buy holiday gifts for them (your holiday customers) might be far more concerned with buying the best kayak, not the cheapest. Offer a modest discount, and you’ve suddenly created a great deal on the perfect gift. The surveys quoted here offer a glimpse into the overall psyche of all holiday shoppers – the masses – but they don’t cover your specific customers. Find out what the most important thing to your customers is, then create deals that cater to them. This is the best strategy for increasing holiday sales this year and every year.

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About Brian Morris

Brian Morris serves in various capacities as a freelance writer, content developer and public relations specialist for growing small businesses. When he’s not writing, he can be found on the racquetball court - usually getting his tail kicked by guys 20 years older.

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