In the race to find the lowest prices of the holiday shopping season – something some customers are willing to undertake, as proven by the hordes of shoppers who show up at the crack of dawn for Black Friday (News - Alert) sales – it’s easy to forget that low prices aren’t the only factor customers consider when it comes to seasonal shopping. According to a new customer retail behavior study from customer experience management solutions provider SDL, 60 percent of global holiday shoppers stated that they will pay more for a positive customer experience. The annual report, called the “Holiday Shopping Preferences 2013 Study,” surveyed over 4,000 consumers across the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
The National Retail Federation and Verdict has predicted that consumer spending will increase this year in both the U.S. and the U.K. That doesn’t mean, however, that the customer support practices of five years ago are still relevant, and it’s critical that companies wishing to reap these sales understand how best to support today’s customers.
One of the most interesting findings from the report is that formerly critical key dates – “Black Friday” in the U.S., for example – have lost some of their importance. Critical shopping dates matter less to consumers worldwide, and a large majority of shoppers in the U.S. say they will not waiting for Black Friday or Cyber Monday (News - Alert) (the Monday after Thanksgiving) to begin their holiday spending (82 percent and 80 percent, respectively). Shoppers in the U.K. and Australia also report that they do not plan their holiday shopping around a specific day.
Another critical finding of the survey is that brick and mortar stores are still important, despite the rise in online shopping. Consumer preferences of online against traditional "brick and mortar" stores continue to experience slight growth, compared to 2012. In the U.S., the preference towards brick and mortar stores increased from 51 percent to 53 percent; in the U.K., the preference increased from 43 percent to 45 percent. And while customers are using their mobile devices to research purchases, most are still not using them to make actual purchases.
The holiday shopping rush isn’t only a necessity to customers and businesses who do the lion’s share of their purchasing in November and December. It’s also an opportunity for brands to build up their reputation when it comes to customer care, which can sow the seeds for repeat purchases and better customer loyalty.
"The holiday shopping season is a critical time for brands to provide a positive customer experience," said Mark Lancaster, CEO of SDL, in a statement announcing the study. "Our study shows that consumers' preferences and behaviors can shift considerably from year to year, from country to country. Organizations that are able to consistently deliver compelling and engaging experiences, across media and geographies, are those that are poised to be successful this holiday season."
In the U.S., retailers have already begun to ramp up their holiday hiring in both brick-and-mortar stores and in contact centers that support online sales.
Edited by Alisen Downey
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