The holidays are upon us once again, and shoppers everywhere are scrambling to find the perfect presents for their friends and family. Busy consumers across the country are squeezing in after-work or weekend shopping trips and desperately trying to tick off the items on their list. The buying rush of the season isn’t new – it’s been happening for years. What has changed is the way people shop, and the experience they receive in-store. And it continues to evolve – the holiday shopping landscape of 2020 will likely look far different from today’s. As we close in on the peak of the holiday season, let’s channel the spirit of Charles Dickens and take a minute to think about what the ghosts of holidays past, present and future might say about their respective shopping experiences.
The Ghost of Holidays Past
The holiday shopping experience of old was centered around in-store relationships and good old-fashioned customer experience. Prior to today’s advances in ecommerce, mobile shopping and shoppable social content, in-store was the only way to go for consumers. And for retailers, the in-store interaction was the sole way to build strong, lasting customer relationships. If you were to take a Scroogian tour with the ghost of holiday shopping past, you’d see customers enjoyed a one-on-one interaction with a knowledgeable sales associate, specifically trained to assist in a particular department, be it cosmetics, menswear, home goods, etc. There wasn’t technology available to assist with wait times, but stores were well-staffed, which helped keep lines as short as possible. And the focus on customer service ensured that shoppers were assisted by a pleasant, informed associate who helped with their specific needs. The goal of every in-store interaction, as viewed on a tour of the past: produce a satisfied customer, build a relationship, and make a sale.
The Ghost of Holidays Present
Fast forward to today, and the holiday shopping experience has changed dramatically. Online, mobile and social shopping continue to grow in popularity. Despite this growing ecommerce share, the brick-and-mortar retail store remains number one in terms of revenue. Shopping in-store around the holidays, though, can come with some serious headaches. With images of Black Friday shoppers getting trampled and the aggravation of driving all over town to find that “hot item,” it’s not hard to tell why more and more shoppers are turning to digital channels. In fact, the ghost of holidays present might find the in-store shopping experience to be a bit lack-luster at times, but he’s also probably noting an increase in investments in brick-and-mortar technology and a more concerted effort from retailers to focus on the in-store shopping experience. Retailers know the power and the importance of the store, and the industry is seeing a returned focus on this channel, with many smart retailers already starting to pick-up on the power of tools like customer analytics and appointment setting.
The Ghost of Holidays Future
As we look toward the future, the face of holiday shopping is set to change even more. Future customers understand that online and social shopping lack the personalized, interactive experience that only a knowledgeable store associate can deliver. The ghost of holidays future will see consumers return to the store in a big way – but not in a disorganized way. With the new focus on brick and mortar shopping, retailers look to create a positive in-store shopping experience. Tools like mobile appointment-setting technology, for example, will help consumers know exactly when an associate will be ready to help them and ensure that the associate has the exact expertise they need. Waiting and customer aggravation will be a thing of the past, and big shopping days like Black Friday will be organized events, far different from the mad dashes we’ve seen in recent years. In addition, retailers will have consumer information at their fingertips, enabling them to personalize interactions with knowledge of previous purchases and preferences. The ghost of holiday shopping future will see online shopping decrease in popularity and the focus on the high-quality in-store experience revert back to what it was decades ago, but with a technologically advanced twist.
If you’re going to be in New York for NRF’s Big Show next month, be sure to stop by our booth, number 2235, to chat with the team about how to make the future of retail a reality – today. We’re excited to be exhibiting in New York, and we look forward to chatting with you about what retailers can do to take the in-store experience to another level, during the holidays and all year long. For more updates on NRF and improving the customer experience, be sure to follow us on Twitter at @timetrade.