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Accenture predicts holiday cheer for retailers: 1-in-4 consumers plan to spend more this year

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Accenture on Thursday released its annual holiday shopping survey, finding that consumers are expressing increased optimism about their personal finances this year. One-in-four U.S. consumers plan to spend more on holiday shopping this year compared to 20% in 2013, and spending on holiday gifts is expected to average $718. 
 
The survey also found consumer enthusiasm for Black Friday shopping has reached its highest level in eight years. Two-thirds of respondents (66%) said they are likely to shop on Black Friday, compared to 55% who planned to do so in 2013 and 44% who said the same back in 2007. In addition, 37% plan to shop online during that period using a desktop, mobile device or tablet, which is up from 32% in 2013. Plans to shop on Thanksgiving Day and evening rose to 45% from 38% in 2013. Of those consumers planning to shop on the holiday, 47% said that they will be shopping in a physical store between 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and 5 a.m. on Black Friday.
 
The Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey found that of those consumers planning to spend more this year, 28% said they have more discretionary income and 22% noted that they have greater job security, up from 15% in 2013. Additionally, consumers are planning to allocate a greater share of wallet to holiday shopping than in previous years. For example, of those planning to spend more this year, 47% plan to spend $250 or more compared to 40% in 2013. Of the 19% of consumers who plan to spend less this year, 41% said they will reduce the amount they spend by less than $100.
 
Even though they intend to spend more, holiday shoppers remain keenly focused on discounts and sales. Nearly all respondents (96% versus 94% in 2013) said that discounts will be important to their purchasing decisions, and more than one in four (29%) said that it would take a discount of 50% or more to persuade them to make a purchase.
 
Retailers could also see a shift in sales in the post-holiday season this year, as more than half (57%) of consumers plan to purchase gift cards (the top item on consumers’ shopping lists) this year and 17% will use gift cards to do their holiday shopping, up from 10% in 2013. For example, a gift card may prompt additional sales when the card is redeemed since it is likely that the recipient will spend extra money to buy an item of greater value, versus leaving a balance on the card.  Moreover, by offering an incentive for holiday gift card buyers to make additional purchases or to enroll in their loyalty card program, retailers might be able to convert holiday enthusiasm into a brand relationship that extends throughout the year. 
 
“The holiday shopping season is one of the most competitive times of the year for retailers, but they also have a big opportunity to drive sales and acquire new customers,” said Dave Richards, global managing director, Accenture’s Retail practice. “The majority of retailers look for ways to extend the holiday season as late as possible, but can face challenges in delivering a physical product in time. Personalized promotions and pushing gift cards are a good way for retailers to continue momentum and stretch this success into the post-holiday season.”
 
When asked how likely they would be to share more of their personal information, such as contact details and preferences, in order for retailers to be able to provide them with personalized and customized offers during the holidays, one-third (33%) of consumers said that they would be likely to do so.
 
As consumers continue to make greater use of laptops, smartphones and tablets, as well as social media, for  online shopping, these advanced technologies will play a more prominent role in holiday shopping this year. More than half of consumers surveyed (63%) indicated that they will use a laptop or home computer to make purchases or assist in their holiday shopping this season (up 16 percentage points from last year), and 24% plan to use a smartphone, up from 18% last year. In addition, 13% of respondents said that they intend to use social networking websites to assist them in their holiday shopping, up from 11% in 2013 and 8% from 2012.
 
Furthermore, more than one-third of shoppers (36%) said that they would shop this year using a mobile phone, smartphone or tablet in-store in order to compare prices, and 21% said that they believe that the technology to do that has improved significantly. Additionally, half of survey respondents said that they would be willing to try, would definitely use or are using a service that would enable them to pay using their mobile phone at checkout. At the same time, 44% of the survey respondents said that an easy-to-use website would make them more likely to buy holiday gifts online.
 
 
When doing their in-store shopping this holiday season, many consumers say that they would be willing to use new digital tools. As many as 71% of respondents said that they are using, would definitely use or are willing to try out a mobile tool that scans products as they’re placed in a shopping cart and keeps a running tab of the total amount spent. Additionally, 76% said that they would definitely use or would be willing to try mobile services that provide them with real-time promotions and offers as they shopped in-store, if those services were offered.
 
“Mobility is having a dramatic impact on retail shopping as customers are walking into retail stores with their own smartphones and tablets, which provide them with complete product and pricing transparency,” said Richards. “With over one-third of survey respondents saying they would shop this holiday season using a mobile device in-store in order to compare prices, it is critical for retailers to make it seamless for consumers to trade on mobile applications by incorporating social media and mobile technologies into their stores and multichannel environments. It is more important than ever that retailers switch from a mass-marketing approach to promotions and embrace mobile and other digital tools to deliver more targeted one-to-one offers.”
 
The survey revealed that 49% of consumers had already started, or planned to start, the majority of their shopping in September, well in advance of Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Nearly one-fifth of survey respondents (19%) said they had already spent between $100 and $500 on holiday gift purchases by mid-September of this year. One contributing factor could be that over the past three years, the number of consumers who believe the best discounts of the season can be found before Thanksgiving and Black Friday has been rising steadily — to 18% in 2014, compared to 14% in 2013 and 12% in 2012.
 
The results of the survey further showed that despite some consumers seeing an increase in discretionary income,  rising prices — specifically for food, gas and home energy bills — remain a concern among some consumers and will affect some spending this holiday season. The survey results do indicate, however, that many consumers are planning ahead to pay for their holiday shopping: 57% of respondents say they will pay for their holiday purchases with cash they have put aside, a small increase from 52% last year.
 
This holiday season, a growing number of consumers (71%) plan to participate in “webrooming” — browsing online and then going into a store to make their purchase. While researching online offers consumers many conveniences, checking online to determine if a product is in stock was selected by respondents as their top reason for webrooming (48%, up from 42% in 2013), followed by being able to touch and feel a product before purchase (46%) and the desire to avoid shipping costs (45%). At the same time, more shoppers (68%) say they are likely to participate in “showrooming” — going into a physical store to see a product and then searching online for a better price and making their purchase online, which is up from 63% in 2013.
 
Driving consumers to a store through seamless, omnichannel offerings could lead to more sales, according to the survey results. In fact, 57% of respondents said that they would likely buy items that were not part of their original purchase when they go into a store to pick up merchandise they purchased online and had shipped to the store or use an in-store pick up option.
 
Shipping issues during Christmas week last year have raised concerns among consumers this year. Nearly half of the survey respondents (49%) are concerned about receiving their deliveries from online purchases on time this year, and of those, nearly one out of five (19%) are “very” concerned.
 
“Most retailers are making strides in the order management and fulfillment space, but the concept of flexible fulfillment is not yet mature,” said Richards. “In order for retailers to win over today’s multichannel shoppers, they need to offer personalized interactions and a consistent multichannel experience, including flexible fulfillment options. The critical next step for retailers is to figure out how to manage their inventory holistically, and the challenge lies in operating at scale across all channels.”
 
Among the additional trends highlighted by the survey:
 
  • Discount retailers continue to be the top destination for shoppers this holiday season (71%);
  • 58% of respondents said they will shop at online-only retailers, compared to 50% in 2013 and 44% in 2012;
  • Nearly half (47%) of consumers plan to buy gifts at department stores this year, up 12 percentage points from 2013;
  • Gift cards (57%) apparel (56%) and toys (42%) top consumers’ holiday shopping lists this year;
  • In the electronics category, 13% of respondents plan to buy wearable technology such as fitness bands, 24% plan to buy home electronics such as a TV or Blu-ray player, 14% plan to buy smartphones and 13% plan to buy tablets;
  • 54% of respondents plan to spend between $11 and $50 on a gift card. Gift cards for restaurants, discount retailers and prepaid, multiuse cards are the most popular;
  • Overall this holiday season, more than half (51%) of shoppers plan to spend 50% or more of their total holiday gift dollars online;
  • Free shipping is still the number-one incentive for buying holiday gifts online (69%), followed by finding products that are discounted compared to in-store prices (51%) and avoiding the crowds and long check-out lines (50%);
  • If a retailer sells products both online and in physical stores, consumers prefer to shop online in order to avoid the crowds and to shop around for the best deals. They prefer a physical store in order to touch and feel a product before they buy it;
  • Competitor price-matching on the spot (40%), loyalty programs for exclusive deals (35%) and purchasing online with in-store delivery/pickup (32%) are the top holiday programs and benefits offered by retailers that consumers plan to use, while 19% also plan to take advantage of loyalty programs;
  • Of the 61% of consumers planning to shop in a physical store on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, the majority (56%) are planning to go to three or more stores;
  • 38% of shoppers would shop in-store on Black Friday to take advantage of doorbuster deals;
  • Nearly half (49 percent) say they believe that the best deals of the season are on Thanksgiving, Black Friday or Cyber Monday; and
  • Fewer shoppers than last year (32%, down from 41% in 2013) said that interfering with family time was a reason to not shop in a physical store on Thanksgiving.
 
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CEA study: There is an unmet demand for OTC hearing devices due to regulatory uncertainty

BY Michael Johnsen

 

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Consumer Electronics Association on Thursday released a new study of adult Americans with hearing loss, finding that only 1-in-25 of those surveyed now own personal sound amplification products, and nearly 40% are interested in over-the-counter products to help them hear better. Additionally, more than two-thirds of those consumers want a more streamlined process for purchasing hearing assistance products.
 
The study reported that nearly half of U.S. adults — 98 million Americans — have some degree of hearing loss, ranging from a little hearing difficulty to being diagnosed with hearing loss by a medical professional. While both hearing aids and PSAPs can help consumers hear better in many scenarios, a pair of hearing aids can be cost-prohibitive, ranging in price from $1,000 to $6,000. PSAPs, however, offer consumers an entry point at about one-tenth the cost of hearing aids, from $100 to $600 for each device.
 
“The high cost of hearing aids, the inconvenience and the cost of doctor appointments mean most adults with hearing problems don’t get the hearing assistance they need,” stated Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA. “People with hearing loss deserve more options than just expensive hearing aids. PSAPs are affordable, readily-available and much more in line with what American consumers are willing to spend to hear well.”
 
Among the key findings of the study:
 
  • There is demand for PSAPs among consumers with trouble hearing. While only a fraction of those diagnosed with hearing loss (6%) and those with some or a lot of trouble hearing (4%) currently own a PSAP, nearly two out of five would be interested in purchasing an “over-the-counter” product to help them hear better;
  • More than two-thirds (69%) of adult Americans with hearing difficulty who responded to the survey want the ability to purchase hearing assistance products in the same ways they now buy reading glasses. At the same time, a significant majority (84%) of Americans with hearing difficulty would go to a medical or hearing health care professional to obtain advice;
  • Retailers are the preferred purchase channel for non-prescription hearing devices. Among consumers interested or very interested in purchasing a non-prescription hearing device, three-fourths (73%) are willing to purchase from a drug store, more than half (55%) from a big-box or discount store and almost half (48%) via online channels;
  • Among those interested in purchasing PSAPs, two-in-five (41%) are likely to use the devices every day, in any situation; and
  • Half of PSAP owners use the devices to listen to TV, a quarter use them in other situations and a tenth use PSAPs every day, in any situation.
 
Earlier this year, CEA urged the Food and Drug Administration to take steps to ensure regulatory clarity between hearing aids and PSAPs to enable PSAP manufacturers to effectively market their products to Americans who can benefit from sound amplification.
 
“Federal marketing restrictions have remained mostly unchanged since the late 1970s, despite advances in PSAP technology,” Shapiro said. “The FDA’s proposed PSAP guidance in its current form blurs the distinctions between hearing aids and PSAPs. Without regulatory clarity, the millions of Americans who could benefit from affordable and readily-accessible hearing solutions will remain unaware of the valuable help PSAPs can provide. Those suffering from hearing loss should be able to decide for themselves what technology will give them the most freedom to live — and hear — as they choose.”

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Giant Eagle brings Market District to the west side of Cleveland

BY Michael Johnsen

 

CLEVELAND — Giant Eagle on Thursday celebrated the grand opening of its newest Market District in Strongsville, Ohio. The Strongsville Market District will be the first Market District location serving the west side of Cleveland. The 107,000 square foot Market District is open 24 hours a day, and will offer restaurant-quality dishes, as well as unique meat, produce, cheese and grocery selections from around the globe.
 
“As a company we are excited to be expanding our Northeast Ohio presence. The addition of the Strongsville location marks our third area Market District in just 15 months,” stated Giant Eagle spokesperson, Rob Borella. “The newest location showcases our unique passion for food, with expertly trained Team Members who will help customers to unlock their own culinary potential”.  
 
Star of ABC’s The Chew, culinary expert and restaurateur Mario Batali participated in the grand opening celebration of the Strongsville Market District. Batali was in-store for a pre-registered customer appearance, book signing and cooking demonstration in Market District’s cooking school, promoting his specialty Spicy Ricotta and Tomato “In Corozza” sandwich. This sandwich will be for sale exclusively at the Strongsville Market District during the grand opening weekend with proceeds benefiting the Mario Batali Foundation. Batali joins a long list of the world’s most prominent chefs who have been wowed by the Market District experience, Giant Eagle noted. Martha Stewart called Market District a “veritable retail wonderland,” and Guy Fieri called Market District “the Disneyland of grocery stores”.
 
The Strongsville Market District is the first Cleveland location to offer a state of the art, hands-on cooking school. The cooking school, located on the mezzanine level of the store, provides a place for cooks of all levels to explore new food ideas, share food knowledge, learn techniques, and take a range of classes taught by Market District and celebrity chefs and cookbook authors.
 
The new Strongsville location showcases an in-store restaurant area that combines a modern dining experience in a contemporary rustic atmosphere. A unique highlight of the full service restaurant area is a new electronic direct table delivery system where Market District Team Members deliver meals directly to customers’ tables. The restaurant also offers a full service wine and beer bar that seats 12 and features wine by the glass, microbrews, specialty beers, as well as 18 craft and local beers on tap.
 
In addition, the store offers a wealth of freshly prepared foods including stone hearth-baked pizzas and fresh hand-rolled sushi. The Strongsville Market District brings unique culinary elements to consumers, including an expanded selection of international grocery items, a wide array of conventional, organic and specialty produce, and a vast variety of bulk foods. Customers will be educated and entertained by the ongoing cooking activities and interactive events at the demonstration station. 
 
The new Market District also features an expanded health, beauty and wellness department filled with natural and organic cosmetics, vitamins, supplements and personal care products, and staffed with a licensed skin care professional and a registered dietitian conducting ongoing wellness events and activities.The pharmacy offers free blood pressure medications and free Prenatal Plus vitamins.
 

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