The season leading up to Christmas is crucial to retailers in every market where it’s a holiday. In fact, language reflects its importance. They call it the Golden Quarter in the UK. In America, the season starts on Black Friday because that’s when holiday shopping pushes retail ledgers out of the red. No matter the market, though, analysts predict modest to significant sales increase, with one surprising forecast. People may spend more online than in stores pointing to a shift in omnichannel Christmas retail.
The New Reality of the Omnichannel Christmas Season
With so much sales happening in the lead-up to Christmas, the season seems to serve as a crucible of retail strategies. Because analysts expect consumers to do more holiday shopping earlier and online, rigid, siloed channels won’t do. In fact, US consumers may spend more online than in store for the first time ever, but only by a little. This shift to omnichannel Christmas buying patterns emphasizes the need for retailers to adopt an omnichannel strategy.
Will Online Overtake In-Store Sales in the US?
We’ve probably buried the lead in this post, but if a bombshell report bears out, some rigid department store models may be in trouble. For the first time ever, an annual report predicts that customers will spend more online than in stores this holiday season. The survey of 4,000 Americans shows they plan to spend 51% of their holiday budget online and 42% in stores. Last year, they split their budget evenly between the two. The bad news is that only 28% named department stores as their top shopping destination. Miracle on 34th Street never seemed more out of date.
Time Makes Omnichannel The New Normal
Generally speaking, time is the critical factor determining the new normal. Specifically, shoppers want to buy and receive products whenever and however they want. That’s what makes the omnichannel model imperative. And if 2017 is the year of the “omnichannel Christmas”, then time is a driving factor there, too.
While not all research predict consumers moving primarily online, they do confirm online shopping’s importance. This, in turn, renders physical store hours and traditional holiday season nearly meaningless. Consequently, shoppers start buying before Black Friday in America. Meanwhile, consumers in the UK will finish their Christmas shopping before December even begins, with only 9% leaving it to the last minute.
The Mechanism for the Omnichannel
The best news may be that consumers expect to spend more this year than they did in 2016, regardless of the channel. But, every year, we see the same thing. People will still shop in stores, but the accelerated growth goes to online channels. This points to the increasing importance of retailers to adopt an omnichannel approach. To capture as much business as possible, you want to integrate your online and in-store channels. You’ll need to present customers consistent branding, pricing and product availability. And you’ll do best to offer flexible shipping and fulfillment options. That seamlessness and flexibility form the core of the omnichannel approach. You just need to plan, prepare and bring your channels together in a way that makes it easier to manage.
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