TECHNOLOGY

The top destination for U.S. holiday shoppers will be….

BY Marianne Wilson

Expect an Amazon-dominated holiday retail season among U.S. consumers this year, with the e-commerce giant being the top destination for shoppers.

That's according to the first in a series of reports on "How the US Shops" from global think tank FGRT (Fung Global Retail & Technology). An August survey of more than 1,000 American adult Internet users found that three-quarters of all holiday shoppers and 83% of those expecting to shop online plan to buy from Amazon during the holidays. Target and Walmart are the second- and third-most-popular destinations, respectively, with each set to attract just under half of holiday shoppers.

Citing ease and convenience as primary factors, more shoppers (82%) expect to buy holiday gifts online than expect to shop in physical stores (77%) during the upcoming season. This is especially true among those aged 30-44, as nearly 85% of respondents in that age group plan to buy online compared with about 76% who expect to buy gifts in physical stores.

“Expectations of buying gifts online peak among holiday shoppers ages 30-44, likely reflecting a preponderance of busy parents in this age group," wrote FGRT managing director Deborah Weinswig. "This is significant in part because these consumers are of growing importance as holiday shoppers."

Product quality was the top factor for deciding where to shop, followed by low prices, location, good availability of products and breadth of range. With consumer confidence higher, more respondents (22.7%) say they expect to spend more on the holidays this year compared with 2016, while 21.3% expect to spend less. But those expecting to increase their purchases will do so only slightly, while those cutting back will be spending much less, according to Weinswig.

"The [survey] results suggest solid, though probably unspectacular, retail growth this holiday season," she noted.

The full report can be found here.

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Nordstrom’s app lets shoppers ‘reserve online, try on in-store’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

An upscale department store retailer has a new way to bridge the gap between its online and offline shopping experiences.

Nordstrom is rolling out its Reserve Online & Try In-store service to approximately 40 stores across the country. As the program’s name implies, the service allows customers to select items online and try them on in person at their nearest Nordstrom store.

While browsing merchandise through the Nordstrom mobile app, customers can select the "Reserve Online & Try In Store" option which appears on product detail pages. Customers receive a text notification when their items have been found at their nearest store, and are ready to try on. They will receive another text when they get to the store, directing them to a dedicated dressing room that features their name and chosen items.

The service is available at select stores across California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington. These stores join six Washington state locations where the program was piloted last fall. During the pilot, 80% of shoppers who tried the service have continued to use it multiple times. Nordstrom plans to continue expanding the service to more stores over the next year, the company said.

"We're thrilled to expand our Reserve Online & Try In Store service to provide a better experience for customers shopping with Nordstrom — whether that's online, in-store or a combination of both," said Shea Jen-sen, senior VP of customer experience at Nordstrom. "Many of our cus-tomers like to feel and try on clothes and shoes before they purchase them, and we're excited to offer them a more convenient way to do so."

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Walmart, Toys ‘R’Us and Target going all out for ‘Force Friday II’

BY Marianne Wilson

Disney's marketing firepower will be on full display starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 1, when it launches a global merchandise promotion — complete with augmented reality — of toys and products inspired by its upcoming film, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

Walmart, Toys "R" Us and Target are among the U.S. retailers whose stores will participate in a pop-up AR "treasure hunt" event that will debut on Sept. 1 — dubbed "Force Friday II" — and continue over the weekend at more than 20,000 retail locations across the globe. Using their smartphones, consumers will be able to activate in-store augmented reality experiences featuring Star Wars characters, including familiar favorites and new surprise additions from the film.

To participate in the Find the Force AR event, consumers must download the latest version of the Star Wars app, and visit one of the participating retail locations to find in-store displays that feature graphics containing the Find the Force logo. They can scan the graphic using the Star Wars App, which will reveal a character, who through augmented reality, will appear in the room. Participants will have the opportunity to take photos, record videos and share the experience on social media. New characters will be revealed each day (15 in total across the program’s three-day run).

More than 4,000 Walmart stores will participate in the AR treasure hunt. In addition, Walmart will host #BeJediReady events in stores in select cities over the Force Friday weekend. The events will feature Jedi training games with lightsabers, tents with Star Wars themed games and activities for children, and in-store toy demos with new exclusive product. Also, shoppers can have their photo taken with Star Wars characters in select Walmart stores.

Toys "R" Us stores throughout the United States (with the exception of a few locations) will open at 12:00am local time on September 1, to host Force Friday II celebrations. Customer attending the midnight openings will receive special giveaways, including a t-shirt and an exclusive collectible Star Wars: The Last Jedi poster.

Target is also getting into the spirit. It will open more than 500 of its stores at midnight on Sept. 1, with special activities for kids and adults.

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" opens in U.S. theaters on Dec. 15. It is the eighth installment in the "Star Wars"franchise.

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