By Brian Byer, Blue Fountain Media
It’s no question that consumers have embraced online holiday shopping. This year, for the first time, they’re expected to do more shopping online than at the mall and other brick-and-mortar retailers. Our own recent survey on holiday shopping confirms this, with almost 30% of respondents claiming they’d do all their gift shopping online this season, not setting a foot inside traditional retail outlets.
What our survey also showed, however, is that the online holiday shopping experience is evolving, with retailers, advertisers and even the government greeting this year’s wave of buyers with a host of innovations, not all of which will be readily accepted. There’s a lot to grapple with, but here’s what we found out about some of the most important changes.
Some good news first. Shoppers seem to have grown accustomed to, and even value, the ads popping up in their social media feeds — most of which are based on information garnered from their web searches and other online activities. While these ads were once considered creepy and invasive, 60% of our survey respondents report they regularly click through on these ads, especially if it’s a pitch for a product or service they’re curious about.
Similarly, innovations like voice assistant shopping, through interfaces like Siri, Alexa and Google Home, also are gaining increasing acceptance. While not everyone is running to make use of these aids, a slow but steady stream is adopting them, with our survey suggesting some 55% would be taking advantage of new features, like augmented reality sizing tools and customer service chatbots, this holiday season.
Also new on the online shopping scene is a growing consumer awareness of sustainability. Only 14% of those polled indicated sustainability would not be part of their seasonal strategy. However, an overwhelming majority were going to combine shipments at Amazon, plan retail trips with fuel economy in mind, and recycle or just not use wrapping paper in their attempts to reduce the holiday’s overall carbon footprint.
If there is a Scrooge character this year, it’s the recent implementation by many states to collect sales tax on all online retail sales, even those being fulfilled in other states. Reacting to the sales tax revenue loss from brick-and-mortar retailers, states have turned to online sales to make up for the shortfall. 75% of those polled were aware of the ubiquitous sales tax, with 35% saying it’s made shopping online less advantageous than it used to be, but some 20% are resigned to its inevitability given the shifting retail market from Main Street to online.
Security remains an issue, with almost half feeling their personal information is shared with far more entities than they can imagine, and with a whopping 70% claiming that they’d be uncomfortable if they knew for sure their info was being shared with five or more other companies.
Retailers that are busy trying to improve the customer experience may find that innovation is slow to catch on with consumers, but we believe that this year, over most others in recent memory, the public will understand the online shopping market is growing and changing, for the better in most cases, and that they ultimately will determine which features stick and which will fall to the wayside.
Brian Byer is Vice President and General Manager of Blue Fountain Media, a Pactera Company, which is a full-service digital marketing agency. He has over 20-years’ experience helping businesses navigate major technology trends to create a competitive advantage and ultimately transform their organizations.