Season’s fleeting: Why in-store holiday shopping didn’t live up to the hype

The five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday are among the busiest shopping days of the year. 2021 was no exception.

Roughly 180 million Americans shopped during this period, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Unsurprisingly, this number is down compared to each of the past two years – 186 million in 2020 and 190 million in 2020 – as consumers began shopping much earlier because of global supply chain issues.

But where things get interesting is when you look closer at how folks are shopping.

Online vs. in-store shopping: What direction is traffic flowing?

It’s common knowledge that most customers prefer to do their shopping online, and the numbers reflect as much.

This year, there were 130 million online shoppers over the five-day period. However, that’s 10% less than 2020 when 145 million bought goods online. Brick-and-mortar, on the other hand, saw traffic move in the other direction.

In 2019, just 90 million Americans went to the stores. This year, 105 million did their shopping in person. While it’s considerably less than the 124 million in-store shoppers from back in 2019, it’s a step in the right direction. 

Of course, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Which begs the question: How satisfied were these individuals? That’s a different story.

Swing and a miss for in-store shoppers 

Malls across the country prepared for shoppers to return on Black Friday. Some went bigger than others.  

New Jersey’s American Dream – the country’s latest and largest mall – was promising gifts worth as much as $800 to the first 500 shoppers. The Irvine Spectrum in Southern California tried to entice customers with free valet parking, carousel rides, and ice skating.

When they arrived, however, many customers were disappointed – especially in the “deals.” 

Shoppers found the bargains were no different than the ones offered online. For example, at Tysons Corner Center in Northern Virginia, stores like H&M and Abercrombie & Fitch were advertising “30% off everything” – which you could get without venturing to the stores.

Once in the store, shoppers had to decide whether buying an item was worth it. At that point, it was often better to take the plunge than risk losing on a desired product. Not an ideal situation. Fortunately, brick-and-mortar stores are evolving.

A modern in-store experience can change the game

The Macy’s and Toys R Us partnership could flip the script on the “shop-in-shop” model. Bloomingdale’s is creating smaller, curated, tech-friendly versions of itself, dubbed “Bloomie’s.” Amazon is bringing the “Just Walk Out” technology to full-size supermarkets. Philly-based delivery service company Gopuff is adding physical locations to its portfolio.

Each of these endeavors are incorporating various elements that have made online the preferred path for shopping. If brick-and-mortar becomes faster, more efficient, tech-centric, and user-friendly, people will be more inclined to step away from their screens and into stores.

While this wasn’t the case this holiday season, there’s always next year. Stay tuned.

How shoppable content is taking customers by storm this holiday season

Christmas is right around the corner, but for most customers, the holiday shopping season is already well underway — and has been for quite some time.

Thanks to global supply chain issues, limited inventory, and the fear of missing out on hot-ticket items, many consumers began shopping much earlier this year. As a result, brands had to adjust.

Enter: shoppable content — a digital asset – such as video, social media post, advertisement, etc. – that lets customers purchase products directly from the content. 

While this might not be entirely new, brands are leaning into it and finding creative ways to reach, appeal to, and intrigue their customer base. If done correctly, it could pay dividends now and in the future.

Here are some notable examples of how companies are utilizing shoppable content to entice customers during the holidays. 

Pinterest does TV

Pinterest already leads the social media industry in customer satisfaction with an ACSI score of 78, per our most recent E-Business Study. Now, it’s trying its hand at livestream shopping.

Introducing Pinterest TV – “a series of live, original and shoppable episodes featuring creators right on Pinterest” that was launched back in November.

Pinterest will release new episodes every weekday and record them for users to watch on-demand later. Every Friday, there will be exclusive, live product drops from brands like Allbirds, Outdoor Voices, Crown Affair, Mented, and more. 

According to Coresight Research, the livestream market is estimated to reach $6 billion this year and grow to $25 billion by 2023. With this latest endeavor, Pinterest is making its presence known and positioning itself to be a major player. 

Walmart looking to connect through ‘Joy’ 

At the end of October, Walmart announced its “Joy. Fully” campaign, which will embrace multiple “content-to-commerce” pathways. 

Walmart plans to offer holiday shoppable livestreams with numerous publishers and popular influencers, including a large-scale launch of shoppable recipes on Pinterest – where shoppers can effortlessly add ingredients to their Walmart carts for purchase – and a “first-to-market AR lens retail experience” through a partnership with Facebook. The lens uses facial expressions to detect which products “spark joy” for the customer. From there, they can visit Walmart’s “gift finder experience” directly from the AR lens to buy those products.    

Walmart has struggled to satisfy online customers. This year, it sits near the bottom of the internet retail industry after slumping 1% to a score of 73. Perhaps it needs a little “Joy” to turn things around this holiday season.

Dress like your favorite TV show character? Yes, please

It’s true that “Squid Game” took the world by storm after 111 million viewers watched the Netflix original series in under a month. But the streamer also struck gold with “Emily in Paris.” 

Back in October 2020, the story of a young American who lands her dream job in Paris debuted to over 58 million viewers in its first month. Not only did many folks fall in love with the romantic comedy series, but they also fell head over heels for the fashion. 

If only there was an easy way for them to get their hands on the stylish wardrobe. Well, now they can.

Ahead of Season 2’s premier on December 22, ViacomCBS is launching a show-inspired shoppable content pop-up, where customers can purchase curated luxury items on Saks.com and the luxury brands’ e-commerce sites (and select retail stores). Netflix.com will even make some merchandise available for sale as the release date approaches.

The marriage of entertainment and retail through branded merchandise is not uncommon. However, luxury brands aren’t typically at the center of it. This drop changes that, offering fresh and exciting ways for brands to connect to consumers. 

If this succeeds, other retailers and companies may take similar routes.

Curating the online shopping experience

Most consumers prefer to do their shopping online, opting for the speed and efficiency they likely can’t get when shopping in stores. 

Yet, we’ve seen that, compared to other retail industries, online retail is experiencing the biggest satisfaction slump, down 3.7% year over year to a score of 78. As these retailers work to sustain the relationships they’ve built with their customers, they must always be thinking ahead. 

Creating an experience that engages and connects with shoppers directly is one way to keep their attention. Curating that experience to meet them on a personal level is even better. 

Through shoppable content, companies are doing just that. Don’t be surprised if this becomes a more regular part of the shopping experience moving forward.