One of the most effective things retailers can do when planning their holiday strategy for the coming season is to look to the past – specifically, the 2016 holiday season. By understanding shoppers motives, habits, and expectations from last year, retailers can better understand their consumer and create a strategy that best fits their wants and needs. The National Retail Federation (NRF) did just this, surveying more than 2,000 holiday shoppers from the 2016 season to uncover how they plan and shop during this busy time of year. Here’s what we learned:

Omnichannel is the Only Channel

Omnichannel isn’t an option – it’s a necessity. The convergence between physical and online shopping was prevalent in the 2016 season and will continue into this year’s holiday season. While many shoppers will use their phones to browse the digital aisles, they’ll also be taking trips to the physical store to get their shopping done. Retailers would be wise to do as much as they can to blend digital offerings with in-store experiences to encourage shoppers to walk through their brick-and-mortar locations. For example, retailers should consider implementing buy online, pick up in store options during the holidays.

Consumers Are Getting Smarter

With so much information at their fingertips, today’s consumers are smarter than ever. This means that retailers need to focus on providing adequate and readily available information to customers at all times, regardless of where they are or what device they are using. Retailers can do this through the use of mobile-optimized websites and apps, as well as providing in-store, self-service systems that provide fast and accurate answers to consumer questions.

Wish Lists Have Gone Digital

Gone are the days of cutting out pictures from your favorite magazine to send to Santa. Consumers are using online wishlists and gift registries from retailers to aid in their path to purchase. Such a feature streamlines the shopping process, reduces friction, and increases the likelihood of conversation for consumers looking to get their shopping done as efficiently as possible. Retailers should consider how they could use technology to support wish list usage and product sharing, be it a self-service kiosk or in-store app functionality.

Holiday Shoppers Don’t Have Patience

Shoppers are much more likely to abandon a retailer at the last minute during the holiday season. Whether its frustration, stemming from long lines, or because they can’t find what they’re looking for, a potential customer can quickly turn into a missed opportunity if the right precautions aren’t taken. This means not only ensuring adequate inventory levels, but also providing staff with the technology necessary to maximize in-store conversions. Retailers can leverage mobile POS devices to help consumers find items and make purchases, as well as order out-of-stock items to ship to the consumer directly. By strategically placing associates throughout the store and equipping them with tablet technology, retailers can minimize line wait times. Enabling an easy checkout process is one of the most effective ways retailers can boost conversions.

There’s a lot to gain by analyzing what occurred last year and applying those insights to strategies this year. While technology is changing the retail landscape, the end goal has remained the same – consumers want exceptional customer service, and if retailers can provide this, the will reap the benefits this holiday season and well into the future.


This article is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2017 holiday shopping season. For more information, browse our blog articles and connect with us on Facebook!