The holidays have always been crunch time for retailers but holiday 2019 is shaping up to be particularly challenging.
A new survey commissioned by CommerceHub, a provider of cloud-based e-commerce fulfillment and marketing solutions, found that a shortened holiday season has compounded the risks for online retailers and that many consumers—64 percent of the 3,000 surveyed—would likely not order from the same website again if faced with a delay during the holidays.
“It’s clear from my perspective, there’s really no room for error for retailers. They’ve got to get the preparation right because they really only have one chance because it’s such a short holiday season,” Erik Morton, senior vice president of product and strategy for CommerceHub, told Sourcing Journal. “From the perspective of consumers, they are anchored to those deal days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so they really become more important in a shortened season.”
With six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, 68 percent of those surveyed said they plan to do a portion of their holiday shopping on one of those deal days, up 25 percent from the previous year. In total, 96 percent said that they planned to gather at least a portion of their gifts and other seasonal goods online.
Morton and CommerceHub believe that recessionary threats are not likely to have much of an effect on holiday sales.
“There’s an argument that tariffs really haven’t had an impact,” Morton said. “Consumers are very strong. With low unemployment, I think a lot of folks are coming into the holidays with a lot of confidence.”
Earlier in the month, Adobe Analytics predicted that Cyber Monday would set records again this year, expecting $9.4 billion in sales and 18.9 percent growth year-over-year.
In order to attract their share of that pie in 2019, retailers online and offline will need to offer consumers the most important product available this year, Morton said: choice.
“We think the focus is now more around certainty and consumers having options…consumers want the ability to decide if it’s something that they want to pick up in-store, same-day, or if it’s something they can wait two to three days for,” Morton explained. “Maybe two years ago, everyone was talking about how people had to match what Amazon was doing. Not surprisingly, retailers like Target are taking a different path.”
Retailers should take a cue from Target and leverage their physical footprints to bring buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) capabilities to the forefront, Morton said. CommerceHub believes BOPIS has finally reached full maturity—and consumers agree. Of those surveyed, 93 percent said they intent to pick up purchases in-store this holiday season.
CommerceHub’s survey found that the urge to use BOPIS typically comes from two mindsets. Either consumers would like to get a product sooner than if it had to be shipped to their doors (49 percent) or the cost would be less compared to having orders delivered (44 percent).
Unfortunately for retailers that have the advantage of a large brick-and-mortar footprint this holiday season, Amazon has also begun to expand its BOPIS capabilities. It’s possible their in-store advantage may be short-lived.