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What Shoppers Want This Holiday Season: Personalization

Posted by Sheila Shayon on December 19, 2012 12:01 PM

As the holidays are fast upon us, the brightest creative-commerce minds are devising promotions, deals and give-aways to snare the 2012 shopper wherever and whenever he or she may be.

The U.S. National Retail Foundation estimates that Holiday 2012 shoppers will spend $750 per family (up less than 1% from last year), with shopping smarter particularly important for higher-priced tech items that one-third of the population is focused on as lead gifts.

New research from Accenture shows a shift in consumer purchasing behavior and use of shopping channels, specifically online, regarding personalization vs. privacy, digital vs. in-store shopping and the rise of “showrooming.”

“Nearly three out of four (72 percent) of consumers aged 20-40 in the United States and the United Kingdom use mobile devices while in-store to compare prices, but the majority of the 2,000 in total surveyed leave before making a purchase. The Accenture Interactive survey shows that while consumers in this age group are concerned about online privacy, they will permit retailers to track their shopping behavior to personalize their shopping experience.”

The survey highlights that while 82% of US consumers are concerned about websites tracking their behavior, 80% are aware of online tracking and understand the trade-off. Furthermore, 61% of US respondents say it’s more important that companies present them with relevant offers as opposed to 39% who say companies should stop tracking their website activity.

In October, major retailers Target, Walmart, Best Buy and others made a move to start price matching the major online retailers - Amazon.com, eBay, Best Buy and others. The news spread virally on Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere: "check a price on your mobile, take it to customer service desk and get the price matched." Same-day delivery also became a battleground this holiday season.

While 65% of shoppers compare prices on a smartphone or tablet while in-store, according to Accenture’s findings, 55% of US consumers say online prices entice them into a store, but they still go home to buy the product online. Forty-six percent buy from that retailer online once home, but only 20% make their final purchase in-store, with 34% buying from a different retailer. 

For retailers, competing on price alone is passé. “You just can’t all keep competing on price all the time,” commented Barbara Kahn, marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania, to TIME. “Luring consumers outside major shopping days takes exclusive products or 'customer experiences' or 'gifts' that encourage people to come in.”

It’s the personalized offers that place POS in the palm of the hand. “Retailers understand the general ebbs and flows of holiday shopping and offer complementary deals,” said Patrick Stack, manager of digital strategy at Acquity Group, Chicago. “I expect we’ll see an uptick in mobile purchases around this time as on-the-go procrastinators turn to their tablets and smartphones to complete last-minute holiday purchases.” 

Accenture’s findings are that 75% of US consumers are more inclined to buy from companies that make use of mobile apps, and 93% of US consumers are more inclined to purchase from a company that makes use of social media channels. 

“Mobile is also a channel of innovation that allows us to explore new avenues in e-commerce, all with the end goal in mind of solving customer pain points at their time of need,” said Brian Tilzer, svp global ecommerce, to Mobile Commerce Daily.

“As the holiday shopping window expands, the most successful organizations will be structured to flexibly respond to cross-channel requirements at any given time and ensure primary customer tasks can be completed. This requires solid preparation on both the front- and back-end, taking note of changing consumer behaviors,” notes Mobile Commerce Daily.

Retail analyst Patrick Meyer, meanwhile, notes these five trends this holiday season:

1. Smartphones are the number one lifestyle accessory. 

2. The newest iPad will continue to be the sales leader with all others trailing in its wake.

3. The new class of “Mini-tablets” will be huge this Holiday. 

4. “Showrooming” will be a dominant behavior through the Holidays. 

5. New price-matching (response to showrooming) in 2012. 

Consumer behavior is changing so fast, fueled by technological ubiquity, it gives new meaning to the well-known lyrics: “He sees you when you're sleeping, He knows when you're awake, He knows if you've been bad or good, So be good for goodness sake!”

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