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Bargains matter most to holiday shoppers

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

While the shopping experience is important to consumers, most holiday shoppers are still motivated by a good deal.

This was according to “Holiday Shopping 2018: Nothing Beats a Bargain, the Consumer Beat Survey” from BDO. The study revealed that consumers are more likely to write off a retailer that doesn’t offer sales or discounts and bad customer service (22%, respectively).

According to the study, price remains a main focus when shopping across many retail categories, including jewelry (64%), food and grocery (59%), home goods (58%), shoes and clothing (54%) and beauty products (47%).

Consumers are equally mindful when it comes to paying sales tax online. For example, nearly one in five consumers shop online specifically to avoid paying sales taxes. They are so serious about this fee that 46% said change their shopping habits if e-tailers began collecting sales taxes. This is especially true among younger demographics, as more than half of Millennials’ buying behaviors would change, compared to 35% of Baby Boomers.

For retailers that can’t compete on price, they should put more attention on the service they provide. For example, consumers are bee-lining for one-stop destinations that guarantee good value. However, more consumers would be primarily shopping at discount retailers if what constitutes good value only meant the lowest prices, the study revealed.

That said, 31% of consumers are shopping in-store at big-box retailers, 29% shop at Amazon, 15% shop at online retailers other than Amazon and in-store at department stores and malls, respectively. A mere 5% head to local stores or shop in-store at discounters, respectively.

Other factors that will influence customers to cut ties with retailers include a lack of inventory (20%), long wait times (18%) and bad return policies (8%). This is especially true when shopping for clothing and apparel, as 7% of consumers will choose where to shop based on a brand’s ease of returns.

Interestingly, product reviews and speed of delivery do not highly persuade customers where to shop. In fact, the most consumers influenced by reviews are shopping for beauty products (17%) or electronics (17%) respectively. Similarly, the highest number of consumers influenced by a brand’s speed of delivery are shopping for groceries (8%).

“Our findings show that while experience is important, it doesn’t trump a good bargain,” said Natalie Kotlyar, partner and leader of BDO’s Retail & Consumer Products practice.

“Flashy perks and overnight delivery won’t necessarily mean consumers are willing to break the bank. They purchase with intention. Smart retailers will do the same: With pressure from all sides heading into the most critical season, it’s easy to make investments in pursuit of following the leader,” she added. “But retailers can only stay viable if investment decisions are aligned with their core purpose and made with equal weight given to maintaining financial stability.”

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Survey: Politics/social issues will influence holiday shopping

BY Marianne Wilson

U.S. consumers are paying closer attention to social issues and politics than ever these days, and it may be changing the way some of them plan to shop for the holidays.

In The NPD Group annual “Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey, 52% of consumers said that a manufacturer’s or a retailer’s position on social or environmental issues would impact their holiday buying decisions, up 3% from last year. Among the Generation Z cohort (born after 1997), that number rose to 65%, followed by Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, at 55%.

“In this mid-term election year, political polarization and activism is on the rise in this country, and it’s bleeding into the upcoming holiday season, especially among younger consumers,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor, The NPD Group. “While many might disregard the social and environmental views of younger consumers, they do so at their peril,” After all, the oldest Gen Z consumers are just now entering the workforce – and the purchasing power of this generation will increase significantly in the years ahead.”

NPD noted that Gen Z will account for 40% of all consumers in 2020.

“Younger generations want – and will pay a premium for — brands that stand for something and those that have corporate social programs that are aligned with their values,” Cohen said.

Political issues are also influencing consumers. Nearly half (47%) of all U.S. consumers indicated that general political issues would play a role in their purchases, three points higher than last year. Nearly half (49%) of Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, reported that a company’s politics would affect their buying decisions, followed by Generation Z at 48%, and Millennials at 47%.

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Starbucks comes out of holiday starting gate early, debuts cups and beverages

BY Marianne Wilson

Starbucks Corp. is getting a jump on the holidays with cups that are sure to please even the most ardent holiday enthusiast.

The coffee giant’s holiday cups and beverages will be available in stores on Friday, Nov. 2, which is anywhere from seven to 10 days earlier than in past years). Starbucks first debuted its holiday cups in 1997 and, over the years, some of the designs have sparked controversy among critics on the right for not being Christmasy enough.

This year, as in the past, the company debuted four unique cup designs, including one with red holly-like berries, one with green stars, and one with a red stripes. Notably, all designs strike a more traditional note than some of Starbucks’ past holiday cup designs and are unlikely to raise any criticism.

“We listened to our customers,” Roz Brewer, Starbucks’ COO told USA Today. They said they “loved the tradition of Christmas,” she added.

Starbucks is giving customers who order a holiday beverage on Nov. 2 a free, limited-edition reusable red cup, while supplies last. Customers who bring the cup to a participating Starbucks store in the U.S. or Canada after 2 p.m. Nov. 3 through Jan. 7 will get $0.50 off a grande holiday beverage.

In addition to the cups, Starbucks is launching an array of seasonal beverages and food items that range from gingerbread latte and eggnog latte to cranberry bars and snowman cookies.

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