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Fourth of July spending to takes a slight dip

BY Marianne Wilson

The timing of the Fourth of July holiday — it falls on a Wednesday this year — will put a crimp on celebrations and spending this year, but not by that much.

Americans are expected to spend $6.9 billion on food for Fourth of July cookouts and picnics next month, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insight & Analytics. That’s down from last year’s record $7.1 billion as fewer people say they will turn out for the Wednesday holiday. But it is still the second-highest amount in the history of the survey and per-person spending is up.

According to the survey, over 216 million Americans 87%) plan to observe Independence Day, down slightly from last year’s 219 million (88%). Nearly 153 million (62%) are planning a cookout or picnic, spending an average of $75.35 per person, a new record topping last year’s $73.42. (The numbers cover only food items and not other holiday-related items.)

Other Independence Day celebrations include partaking in fireworks or a community celebration (106 million) and attending a parade (30 million). Fourth of July is also a popular time for traveling with 31 million planning to head out of town. That’s down from last year’s 33 million and 25% said higher gas prices would affect their plans, but the decline in travel could also be related to the timing of the holiday.

Over a quarter of all Americans plan to buy more patriotic decorations for the holiday this year, according to the survey. Only 27% plan to purchase additional patriotic merchandise, but the number jumps to 44% for those ages 18-24 and declines steadily for older individuals.

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Customer experience is ‘tipping point’ for choosing a brand

BY Marianne Wilson

One bad experience can turn off a customer.

Sixty-four percent of consumers said they have avoided a brand because of a bad experience they had within the last year, according to a global survey by customer experience management firm Medallia. The findings reveal that customer experience is the top reason consumers cite for choosing a particular brand when making a purchase.

According to the “Customer Experience Tipping Point” survey, the demand for a positive customer experience is especially high in the United States, and while loyalty is on the decline, expectations are on the rise, particularly among younger groups of consumers. For example, 30% of Gen Z and 22% of Millennials surveyed indicated that their expectations of customer experience in online retail are higher today than they were two years ago.

Also, U.S. respondents reported significantly higher expectations than European consumers for personalized experiences, real-time response, and ability to chat with a live agent.

“They [consumers] expect to have a seamless and positive experience and if those aren’t met, consumers know they have options,” said Rachel Lane, solution principal, Medallia. “For companies looking to create a competitive edge, having a strong brand recognition, or even stellar product isn’t enough. Customer experience is the tipping point, and without a strong plan to create and maintain a positive experience, businesses will lose out.”

The study also revealed that:

• A single bad experience can cost a brand a customer. Forty-six percent of U.S. mobile network customers said they are likely to switch brands after having one bad experience.

• Every touch-point matters. Customers expect their experience to be seamless and efficient on and offline. For instance, 56% of online retail shoppers and 49% of retail offline shoppers expect consistent levels of service across physical and digital channels.

• Customers don’t want to be responsible for fixing a company’s mistake. According to the study, 70% of consumers report that they expect an immediate response when they submit a complaint.

Further, when customers believe they have put in more effort than a company to resolve an issue, they are twice as likely to tell friends, family or colleagues about the bad experience, and four times more likely to stop purchasing from the company, switch brands, or use the company less frequently.

• Consumers expect a personalized experience. Thirty percent of customers expect call center agents to be instantly familiar with their contact history, and 40%, on average, expect to be offered personalized experiences based on their interests, buying behavior, demographics and psychographics.

• Brands may be forgetting an important group of buyers. Many companies tailor to younger generations, but the 55+ age group is the fastest growing adult demographic in the US. This group of consumers indicated their expectations were exceeded in the last 12 months at a lower rate than any other group surveyed.

• Women and younger generations are more likely to avoid a brand because of a bad experience. Sixty-six percent of women (vs. 62% of men) globally have avoided a brand because of a bad experience (with 64% being the global average for both men and women). In addition, this behavior is even more pronounced for Millennials and Gen Z.

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Walmart ‘shocked’ its former store is now detention center for migrant kids

BY Marianne Wilson

Walmart used social media to respond to the fact that one of its former supercenters in Texas has been converted into a detainment center for migrant children.

In a tweet, Walmart stated: “We had no idea our former store would be used for such a disturbing purpose, A.L. We are just as shocked and disappointed as you are.”

The retail giant’s tweet was in response to a tweet that said: “@walmart THESE CHILDREN ARE HOUSED IN @walmart !! #Boycott!!”

The 250,000-sq.-ft. facility, in Brownsville, Texas, formerly housed a Walmart Supercenter. The store closed in 2016. It houses nearly 1,500 migrant boys between the ages of 10 and 17, some of whom were separated from their parents at the Mexico border.

 

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