Holiday Retail Rumble: Brick-and-Mortar Stores Brace for Phygital Shift as e-Commerce Climbs
As the holiday season descends, traditional brick-and-mortar stores and online marketplaces prepare to go head-and-head in a retail rumble. However, the playing field seems to be shifting remarkably quickly with the rising popularity of ‘phygital’—a curious blend of physical and digital—shopping experiences. The challenge for brands then becomes a strategic one: do they focus on solidifying their online, offline, or hybrid engagement? The answers may rest in analyzing recent consumer behaviors and attitudes.
A closer examination of the market paints a narrow preference gap between brick-and-mortar stores and online commerce. An impressive 81% of customers still prefer the tangible shopping experience offered by physical stores—thumbing through clothing on hangers, taste-testing gourmet chocolates, or trying out the latest tech gadget. However, not far behind, a robust 72% of consumers favor the convenience of online shopping, where options abound, arguably at lesser hassle and in some cases, lower prices.
Adding another layer to this retail puzzle, a significant number of consumers (58%) prefer making holiday purchases from small, local businesses over online-only retailers (55%). This intriguing twist positions local businesses in the advantageous spotlight and presents an untapped opportunity for them to maximize their reach and customer engagement, leveraging their unique, ‘physical’ shopping experiences.
The discussion becomes even more intriguing when we delve into the nature of these online-offline shopping preferences. The buyer journey is increasingly becoming a ‘phygital’ one—a curious blend of digital and physical experiences. For example, a customer might browse for gift ideas online, then visit a physical store to make the actual purchase. Brands navigating this complex landscape need to strategically balance their online and in-store experience to cater to this rising trend.
Delving deeper into shopping preferences, data shows us that the most popular categories for holiday gifts include clothing (70%), games/toys (51%), electronics (47%), and food/beverages (40%). Not to be left behind are the beauty and personal care sector (37%) and the glittering world of jewels (36%). As such, brands across these sectors need to prepare for the holiday rush, ensuring sufficient inventory, maximizing visibility through smart marketing strategies, and offering seamless, positive shopping experiences.
The holiday mad rush has also adopted a surprising early bird characteristic. Data reveals that a good chunk of customers start their shopping spree well in advance, with 11% kicking off in July, 14% in August, and a high 19% in September. Brands hence need to gear up much earlier than traditionally expected, optimizing their marketing and sales efforts to attract these early shoppers.
While physical and online experiences are important, social media’s role in influencing shopping decisions proves to be quite significant. Nearly 49% of shoppers follow brands on social media, looking out for juicy Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals. A sizeable 25% even prefer shopping on social media platforms during these discounted shopping blitzes.
That said, reviews have emerged as a vital game-changer. Irrespective of the platform, 75% of consumers say product reviews significantly impact their Black Friday/Cyber Monday purchases. It’s even influencing social media shoppers, with around 59% indicating reviews affect their purchasing decisions on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.
Based on this rich tapestry of consumer behaviors and attitudes, one could say that the holiday retail landscape is getting more complex and layered. Brands have to navigate not just the basics of online or offline retail, but also master the art of blending the two seamlessly – the so-called ‘phygital’ experience. They need to tap into the potential of local shopping preferences, understand product-specific trends, be ready for early shoppers, and make the most of the influential power of social media and reviews.
In this dynamic and highly competitive retail rumble, strategy, adaptability, and deep consumer understanding will be the deciding factors for success. Brands must cling to these golden keys as they usher into the holiday retail season.
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