There are a number of trends that will define the holiday season this year, as well as a whole host of challenges and opportunities that will mean retailers must stay constantly on top of things in the lead up to the end of 2021.
Online vs In-store: Trends Pushing Customer Behaviors
The increase in e-commerce shows no signs of slowing down and online sales are expected to be high this holiday season. In July 2021 global e-commerce sales were 24% higher than in 2019, comprising a 35% increase in the Americas, 18% in EMEA and 22% in Asia Pacific.
Brick and mortar shops have traditionally been at war with online retailers. Recently, however, the two have put aside their weapons and begun working in harmony. One interesting pandemic consequence was the role reversal of online and instore shopping, since being in a physical store was not allowed, digital shopping adapted to help consumers replicate the in-store experience at home. Customers enjoyed features such as augmented reality fitting rooms and customised virtual recommendations from sales associates via retailers’ increasingly sophisticated apps and websites. Shops, on the other hand, became the site of one of 2020’s biggest retail trends, Buy Online Pick Up in Store.
Curbside Pickup and ‘Buy Online Pickup In Store’ (BOPIS)
Convenience has always been a priority for consumers, a fact that has been reinforced by the lasting popularity of the curbside pickup and BOPIS pandemic trends. As restrictions limited in-store shopping throughout 2020, Click and Collect sales almost doubled last year compared to 2019. The trend is predicted to keep growing in 2021 even as pandemic restrictions ease, as consumers continue with their newly developed shopping habits. National Retail Federation data showed that 70% of customers said that this style of shopping improved their experience as it was more convenient. As a consequence, however, consumers are often extending their holiday purchasing until just days before Christmas, with last-minute gift buying peaking on December 23 of last year, putting extra pressure on retailers to have their websites running smoothly and their logistics ready to adapt.
With a new reality blossoming, both online and in-store shopping have an important part to play in the customer experience. With pandemic consequences still having serious effects, customer behaviour is reflecting the unpredictability of the times and, as a result, having an omnichannel strategy is increasingly vital for retailers.
The ‘Phygital’ Trend
The 2021 holiday season is expected to show an increase in the ‘phygital’ retail trend, aka using technology to bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds, primarily via omnichannel experiences. Incorporating ‘phygital’ technology in-store allows customers to have the best of both worlds: the convenience of online shopping combined with great in-store experiences, and is being employed by some of the key industry players as a strategy to get customers back into shops. Examples of the new technology include in-store QR codes to help customers learn more about the products in-store, smart self-checkout, which allows them to skip paying with a cashier altogether, online inventory checks and even queue monitors, which let people book their spot in the line to pay before they’ve even entered the store.