There has long been a goal among sophisticated retailers to gain a 360-degree of the customer. Understanding who they are best positions retailers to tailor shopping experiences to meet their needs.

It’s that time of year when fall sports have ended, and I’m starting to think about the holidays. With a chill in the air, the neighbors are packing up their Halloween decorations. For me, that means holiday shopping is on the horizon.

0219_Views_LaurenFreedman

Lauren Freedman, senior consumer insights analyst at Internet Retailer

Digital Commerce360 in conjunction with Bizrate Insights conducted a holiday shopping survey in October. I was curious how my approach to the holidays stacked up with 1,055 online shoppers. Over the next 8 weeks, I will use The Shopper Speaks column to share reflections on the upcoming season, including my personal behavior and perspective, along with interesting trends from shoppers and the retail community.

There has long been a goal among sophisticated retailers to gain a 360-degree of the customer. This emanates from the fact that every shopper is unique. Understanding who they are best positions retailers to tailor shopping experiences to meet their needs. With that in mind, I will start with my shopper profile.

Who I am: Single mother on a budget
On my list: Clothes for my daughter, trip for February break, Blackhawks tickets, something “wow” (tbd)
Retailers I favor: Urban Outfitters, American Eagle Outfitters, Zara, Target

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Getting ahead of other retailers, American Eagle Outfitters’ website played right into my hand. As one of my usual go-to’s, they had a creative Mad-Libs-like quiz offered on the site. I was able to have recommendations tailored based on recipient, style vibe (chill and neutral), what they’re all about (soft and cozy life) and how much I was looking to spend ($-$$$ dollar signs). The choices were a much better fit than shopping by category and spoke directly to my needs.

Gift buying

For starters, I expect to purchase about the same amount of gifts as last year, as do 68% of those surveyed. Our survey found that 62% of shoppers intend to complete more than half of their holiday gift purchases online. I’m in line with the 31% who indicated they will be digitally purchasing 50-75% of their gifts. Normally, I might purchase less than half online, but my experiential items tip the scales digitally.

Given all of the uncertainty in our country with the tariffs, trade war and economy, I’m certainly a bit nervous about my budget, but my desire to be frugal more relates to my daughter who will be headed to college next year. Our survey suggested that despite half of consumers being worried about recessions and other economic factors, they don’t anticipate making any changes to their behavior. I stand with the 33% who are in fact nervous but still won’t make any changes. Of course, I’m looking to save money when shopping this year, so I will be on the lookout for promotions from retailers I favor. Email is usually a prompter for me and just today, The Home Depot headline shouted, “Black Friday prices start now.” I will share that with my daughter as she usually buys her dad something there.

Retailer selection

I’m beginning to think about where I will shop as that will shape my behavior over the next few months. While I have my favorites, I’m in full agreement with 91% of those surveyed who believe that the quality of a retailer’s website experience is the No. 1 factor causing them to shop from a particular retailer. The store comes in second at 39% and, for me, both will be important. A bad website customer experience can be a quick deal-breaker, so I caution retailers to ensure their site is optimized and in working order for the holiday season.

For me, Amazon is not my preferred shopping destination. That’s not to say I don’t shop there. 40% of shoppers intend to make half or more of their online holiday gift purchases at Amazon, and I will come in at under 10%. Like 62% of those surveyed, my spend will be about the same as last year. I try to support specialty retailers, favor Nordstrom as my department store of choice and, when I go mass merchant, will direct my business to Target as I can always find something interesting at a good price, particularly in store.

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Beyond that, there are many factors that will come into play. Topping my list of how I choose a retailer starts with the product; yet ironically, only 25% of survey respondents saw this as one of the top five factors in retailer selection. Contrary to my behavior, for our particular group, the No. 1 factor for 72% in selection of retailers was competitive prices. The remaining elements I found myself aligned with participants. Past experience was my No. 2, as I’ve learned that a bad experience often foreshadows future issues so buyer beware.

I want free shipping, but I’m crafty in finding it, so its ranking was somewhat lower than the aggregate (70%). Good customer service is something I won’t often use, but when I need it, I absolutely want it to be available as did 48% of those surveyed. Given my cost conscious scenario, I spend my time keeping abreast of promotions and then taking advantage of them, always hoping to couple them with free shipping.

My holiday shopping experiences

My holiday shopping will be multi-dimensional and will evolve with the season, my needs and whims, as well as those of my family. First and foremost, I will do my homework and research gifts, like 53% of those surveyed. As I was writing this column, Urban Outfitters shared their holiday gift edition, helping me ensure I nailed my daughter’s selections. I will do some price comparison for travel and tickets but am less likely to compare prices on products as I tend to have specific items in mind.

58% indicate they will shop from a marketplace. For me, that will be circumstantial. If the item I want is on a marketplace, that’s fine, but I certainly won’t seek it out. In keeping with my money-saving mindset, I will be on the hunt for free shipping, as are half of those surveyed. Gift cards always come into play, particularly as the season winds down. Plus, they’re ideal stocking stuffers and teacher gifts. As teenagers are brand conscious, I’m very likely to purchase directly from a brand, as the experience, product selection and exclusive product offerings make it a worthwhile stop on my shopping journey. It’s surprising to see that only 25% of those in our survey report that they will be making brand purchases this holiday. And lastly, along the way, I will treat myself if the item and the offer seems right for me, as 38% of shoppers can’t resist the chance to self-gift.

Researching online for in-store purchasing is still standard fare and a frequent year-round behavior I’m likely to continue over the holiday season. Getting ahead of the curve, 30% of shoppers will research half of their gift selections online but still buy in store. As a seasoned online shopper, I will do my homework but am much more likely to consummate my purchase online. Sometimes, I just can’t help myself as I enjoy being part of the festivities given the convenience.

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Getting to know me

Shopping is about individuals. Research educates and inspires shoppers as they learn the cadence of the seller’s season. Certainly, getting a good price, ideally with free shipping, will serve as a recurring theme. Retailers must sweeten the pot to keep me converting and those where I rarely shop must put forth a compelling reason to give them a try. From there, they’ve got one shot at getting it right, with strong service as part of their value proposition.

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