Holiday Shoppers Still Prefer The Store Experience, SDL Survey Finds

Trends such as showrooming and online price comparison have caused retailers to adjust their strategies for connecting and engaging with shoppers across multiple channels.

While consumers may be turning to the Internet to research products and prices, a survey from SDL confirmed that holiday shoppers still prefer the brick-and-mortar experience. Results from the annual Holiday Shopping Preferences 2013 study showed that, overall, consumers worldwide prefer to purchase holiday gifts in stores (55%) rather than online (45%).

SDL surveyed more than 4,000 consumers in Australia, UK and U.S. to identify key holiday shopping trends and preferences. A webinar detailing key survey findings will be held on Nov. 20.


The ongoing favor for brick-and-mortar experiences may be due to retailers’ focus on implementing new technology in stores, according to Rusty Warner, SVP of Marketing at SDL. 

“Retailers are getting better at trying to give consumers an in-store experience online with interactive videos that provide a detailed view of products,” said Warner in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “But still, going and seeing products with your own eyes seems to be a big motivator. People still like to see and touch the product before they make a decision on purchasing it.”

The ability to take advantage of door busters, daily deals and other in-store offers also increases partiality for brick-and-mortar stores.

“One of the big factors to the customers overall experience, besides going into the store and taking a look at the product and having a great experience with an employee, is finding a bargain,” Warner said. “The feeling of going into the store and finding a deal that they believe wouldn’t have been available to them if they didn’t decide to go into the store greatly affects the customers overall experience and increases the chance for a purchase.”

Of all groups surveyed, consumers in the UK prefer shopping online than in a store (55% vs. 45%) because of “click-and-collect” features that allow them to shop online and pick up at a physical location. Among consumers who prefer to shop online, the top reasons given were it is easier to find products (40%), they can find the best deals available (39%) and they can avoid holiday crowds (34%).

Reconsidering The Role Of Mobile And Social

Although many sources are noting that mobile sales will rise during the 2013 holiday season, the SDL survey notes that mobile will primarily be used for researching rather than purchasing.

The majority of consumers surveyed — UK (68%), Australia (67%) and U.S. (64%) — said they won’t use smartphones or tablets to purchase gifts this year. However, 45% of all respondents are using mobile devices to research products before completing a purchase.

“Many retailers have a great mobile connection, but people are still adjusting to that form factor,” Warner said. “There also is an adjustment of trust that is needed in regards to performing transactions via a mobile device.”

Social media is not yet playing a significant role in holiday browsing and buying. Only 5% of respondents said they learn about products on social media sites such as Facebook and Google+, and less than 2% learn about products via Pinterest or Twitter. One of the factors for this outcome, according to Warner, could be that social media is seen more as an advertising tool instead of a way of showing products to consumers.

“I was surprised by the outcome of this question,” Warner said. “I was expecting that we would see a higher percentage of people that were turning to social to research products. Even though people are using social media, and there has been growth in usage of social media, they don’t look for recommendations from an extended network that is not their close circle of friends and family.”

Black Friday And Cyber Monday Lose Significance

For years, consumers waited for Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick off — and even complete — their holiday gift buying. However, the SDL survey shows that prevalent “shopper holidays” are losing significance in the U.S. The majority (82%) of respondents said they had no plans to shop on Black Friday, while 80% said they wouldn’t shop on Cyber Monday.

Shoppers worldwide shared similar sentiments regarding the importance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Consumers in the UK (63%) and Australia (73%) said they don’t plan to complete their holiday shopping on either day.

Warner noted that many consumers may be losing interest in Black Friday and Cyber Monday because they are looking to shop online to avoid the typically large crowds in stores. 

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