This holiday season will test retail supply chains as consumers “reimagine” their celebrations and intensify pandemic-driven changes in the way they shop, according to a holiday retail survey from Deloitte, released this week.
The consulting firm published its 2020 Deloitte Holiday Retail Survey: Reimagining Traditions report Tuesday, offering insights into how Covid-19 is affecting the 2020 holiday season. The firm surveyed more than 4,000 consumers nationwide in early September and found that online shopping growth will intensify through the end of the year, as will related demands for a “contactless” experience and free shipping and returns. Supply chains that can capitalize on those trends will be best positioned for this year’s uncharacteristic holiday shopping season, the researchers said.
“The key for retailers is to stay flexible and offer options that appeal to consumers’ changing behaviors and address their evolving needs,” Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and U.S. retail, wholesale, and distribution leader, said in a statement announcing the survey findings. “Those that do will likely be better positioned for a bright holiday season.”
Among the key findings, “home” will take on new meaning for shoppers this season, as consumers cut back on travel and other holiday experiences and instead focus their spending on non-gift items such as home, holiday furnishings, and non-gift apparel. Consumers are expected to spend 34% less on socializing away from home this season and 12% more on non-gift purchases, for example. Spending on gifts and gift cards is expected to fall 5% compared to last year.
How consumers shop will also change. Continuing a pandemic-driven trend, more than half of those surveyed said they remain anxious about in-store shopping due to Covid-19 and 49% said they won’t return to pre-Covid shopping behavior until a vaccine is developed. Key survey statistics include:
Among those who plan to shop predominantly online, nearly two-thirds of consumers will do so to avoid crowds (65%), because they prefer the convenience of shopping at home (64%), and they want to take advantage of free shipping or delivery options (60%).
More than two-thirds (69%) of consumers said they prefer shopping at a store closer to their home, and that 64% of their shopping budget will be spent online during the holidays.
As consumers seek out safe and convenient options, 35% of shoppers indicated a preference for buy online and pick-up in store (BOPIS), and the use of curbside pick-up (27%), which is expected to more than double from last year.
Free return shipping is expected to be in high demand, as 70% of consumers said they prefer a retailer that offers this option to make product returns most convenient.
While safety and convenience are important, a “great deal” continues to win the day, with 61% of consumers noting its relevance in selecting a retailer.
Retailers with strong omnichannel and last-mile delivery strategies will be in the best position to deliver on those requests, the survey also found.
“More than ever, shoppers are looking for safe and convenient ways to keep the season fun and festive. As a result, more shoppers are turning to contactless shopping options like home delivery and curbside pickup for safety and convenience,” said Stephen Rogers, executive director, Deloitte Insights Consumer Industry Center. “This holiday season is going to test even the best supply chains and logistics.”
A study from Austin, Texas-based e-commerce shipping solutions provider ShipStation, echoes some of those findings, especially when it comes to last-mile delivery. The firm's mid-October report Last Touch, Lasting Impact: The 2020-2021 Edition shows that pandemic-driven increases in online shopping have made the delivery experience more influential than ever, with 84% of shoppers saying it stands out most in the e-commerce customer experience, up from 80% in 2019, according to the research.
“As the pandemic forced nearly every industry to shift to digital operations, the retail industry saw a massive surge in e-commerce purchases followed by major strain on the supply chain,” Cindy Schulz, general manager at ShipStation, said in a statement announcing the survey results. “Our data shows that while consumers have become a bit more patient as a result, shipping still plays a critical role in converting and retaining customers. In fact, 92% agree that knowing their order will arrive when expected is a key factor in their online purchase decisions.”