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ThoughtWorks Retail today announced results of its inaugural holiday shopping survey of more than 500 U.S. consumers —51% female and 49% male.* The results revealed new insights into five key areas of interest to retailers: loyalty, fulfillment, mobile, consumer behavior and customer service.

Below are key findings from the survey:

Loyalty: A New Opportunity To Earn It

Retailers spend much time talking about loyalty but the reality is, most consumers feel pretty lukewarm about all those loyalty cards taking up space in their wallets: only 9% of those surveyed limit their shopping to retailers with which they have loyalty card or rewards memberships and only 25% say a store or website’s loyalty program is important to them and will influence whether they shop there. But new customer acquisition can be the gift that keeps on giving if retailers are ready for it: 77% of consumers say they will shop stores or websites during the holidays that they don’t usually shop. This important finding represents an opportunity for retailers to earn new fans – that is if retention strategies are in place now.

Fulfillment: Retailers Better Be Prepared for the Holiday Shipstorm of 2015

The survey revealed that 58% of consumers plan to have some or all of their holiday shopping shipped this year. Couple that with another recent survey of more than 200 U.S. retailers where 68% admit they're not well-prepared to provide shipping choices such as same-day, express, guaranteed-delivery and weekend or after-hours deliveries and you've got the makings of a Holiday Shipstorm.

Mobile: “Apps” Have a Different Meaning During the Holidays

When it comes to apps, most consumers are thinking about chips and dips, not shopping. More than half (51%) of those surveyed said they will not use mobile apps to help them shop during the holidays. However, 20% indicated they have Amazon’s mobile app, 15% have Google and 15% have Target’s Cartwheel app on their mobile devices.

Shopping Behavior: Consumers Are Spreading The Wealth

Nearly 60% of consumers say they “shop all throughout the holiday season”; good news for retailers whose Black Friday sales fall short of expectations. In fact, only one-third of shoppers say they always shop on Black Friday. Another reason for retailers to remain hopeful: 1 in 4 shoppers save their shopping until the last minute. Perhaps less surprising, men are almost twice as likely as women to procrastinate. Further:

• 20% of consumers never shop on Black Friday

• 31% always shop on Cyber Monday

• 9% don’t know what Cyber Monday is

By leveraging this knowledge, retailers can develop online and in-store personas to best support behavior, providing resources to consumers such as click and collect, last minute deals or quick check outs. When considering POS, retailers can rest assured knowing credit is still king, especially online: 50.5% prefer to pay with a credit card.

Experience Wanted: Retailers Have An Opportunity to Wow Customers

Consumers appear to have low expectations and seem to be anticipating aggravation when it comes to holiday shopping, leaving retailers with ample opportunity to make a positive and lasting impression.

• 58% dread the “crowds of people”

• 53% feel annoyed by items, colors, and sizes being out of stock

• 45% feel frustrated by long lines to pay

• 33% anticipate poor customer service

• 33% walk out when stores are a mess or picked over

Across the board, women were significantly more likely than men to notice these common retail complaints but the biggest gender disparity had to do with customer service. Women were nearly 10 times more likely than men to cite poor customer service as the “worst part of holiday shopping.” As well, 46% of women were most annoyed by waiting in long lines to pay, making them possibly more likely to walk out of a store instead of ringing up.

“When you combine consumers’ generally low expectations with the fact that 77% of them will shop stores or websites that they don’t usually shop, retailers have tremendous opportunity in the next few weeks to really wow new customers. By leveraging more advanced clienteling solutions, order management, point of sale and analytics, retailers can provide better customer service leading to improved customer loyalty and retention.” said Robin Copland, VP of Retail, Americas at ThoughtWorks Retail.

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