The holiday season is upon us and that means stores want us to shop till we drop.
Wandering through festive-frenzied malls, standing for hours in the cold for doorbuster deals, and running through a checklist for gifts is what marks the retail craze during the holidays. But is a family trip to the mall a thing of the past?
As with any industry that technology makes obsolete, eCommerce is the video that killed the radio star of brick and mortar retail.
“The Internet is now hollowing out the great American mall,” Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School told USA Today. Global financial services firm Credit Suisse predicts that up to a quarter of the nation’s 1,211 malls could shut their doors by 2022. In the first eight months of this year alone, 6,375 store closures were announced including mall regulars like Radio Shack, Payless Shoesource, Kmart and, JCPenney.
Today as consumers make majority of their purchases online, American malls are fighting hard to stay relevant and vying for other accolades— A Nashville mall became the first in the country to have a Madame Tussauds wax museum, Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack, NY boasts of housing the world’s tallest indoor ropes course, and Grapevine Mills in Texas became the first enclosed mall to feature Fieldhouse USA, a tournament space for activities ranging from soccer to cheerleading.
But it’s not just malls that are on the cusp of reinvention, retail giants like Walmart and Sears also realize the need to evolve with time and the changing consumer shopping habits.
In this post we look at how consumer preferences are changing the way big box retailers woo shoppers this season and if it’s in line with what shoppers want by looking at three holiday strategies:
- Walmart’s big party bash
- Sears’ iconic catalog relaunch
- Target’s no-frills deals
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Walmart: Party like it’s 1999?
This holiday season, Walmart not only wants to give shoppers a reason to celebrate, it wants to celebrate with them. To enhance the festive mood in stores, Walmart plans to hold more than 20,000 parties over the holiday months of November and December.
The retailer has plans to organize events called “Toys That Rock,” “Parties That Rock” and “Gifts That Rock,” where attendees receive gift guides and curated catalogs.
Even as the retailer plans to triple its online offering, with this marketing campaign termed, “Rock This Christmas,” Walmart is sending a strong message that high street retail is not dead yet. Walmart CMO Tony Rogers said that the company is equally focused on stores as it is on eCommerce. “We are investing in [stores] this year more than we ever have,” Rogers told CNBC. “It’s the most we’ve done in stores.”
Walmart is doing so by adding more holiday helpers, streamlining the shopping experience by adding more checkout lines, and opening additional registers during busy hours.
But what is Walmart’s reasoning behind this?
To answer this question,we turned to social media for clues on consumer preferences and found that consumers are overjoyed to welcome the holiday season and discussed in-store shopping more than online.
Bang on. It’s all too easy to overlook the customer-satisfying value that retail employees bring to the in-store shopping experience.
— Carmi Levy (@carmilevy) October 24, 2017
I hate shopping so whoever proposed online payment/processing & in-store pickup is a genius. I’m literally obsessed
— Jay Lou (@JayLou_) October 23, 2017
Walmart’s bid to keep its brick and mortar alive will be propelled by the success of an omnichannel strategy where customers order online and pick up at stores. Once in the store, they are ready to be lured again with yet another experience. Stores want to recreate a sense of nostalgia associated with holiday retail therapy. As behemoths go bankrupt and sales alone from online fashion alone predicted to double to roughly 35.7% within 15 years, retailers have to speak to shoppers in a language they understand and want to hear.
Yes, I’m going to party at Walmart😩https://t.co/TKNgJeejfJ
— Johnny THUNDER BEAR (@JohnnyGivesADam) November 1, 2017
Sears: Is old still gold?
Walmart might show shoppers a good time now, but Sears wants them know it was there first.
To take consumers down the memory lane, the 131-year-old institution will bring its iconic holiday catalog back. first rolled out in 1933 during the Great Depression.
Released first in 1933 during the Great Depression, the Sears Wish Book was more than 400 pages long designed for adults and kids to craft their holiday wish lists from. After being discontinued in 2011, the retailer is relaunching it as 120-page gift guide including holiday decor, home furnishings, games and toys, appliances, apparel, and more. There will also be a digital version available on the app as well as the website.
On the surface, it might seem like a curious strategy but diving deeper into social media data explains this further. The demographic discussing Black Friday shopping online has varied over recent years — this year however, it skewed above 25 — a stark contrast from last year when 63% of those discussing Black Friday were below 24.
Sad because my future kids are going to grow up without a Sears catalog
— Susan Love (@sulosumo14) November 3, 2017
Since sears is going bankrupt kids now won’t know the legit excitement we got when Recieving the Sears wishbook catalog at Christmas time
— Em Hatton (@emilyhattonxo) November 6, 2017
Am I the only adult who misses the Sears Christmas Catalog?
— FormerUSN80-86 (@JoniHPetSitter) November 2, 2017
For the beleaguered retailer, the holiday catalog may not be the savior it needs but it sure can spike up the holiday sales which is the most crucial part of the year for the industry.
Target: ‘Keep it simple, stupid’
While Sears and Walmart want to play to the festive beat, Target on the other hand, is keeping it rather simple this year by not inundating shoppers with non-stop deals. It even plans to close its stores for six hours on Black Friday.
Target’s lesson from facing a 1.3% decline in sales last holiday season was to streamline and limit the number of promotions offered and making it easy to understand with a clear focus on price and value.
This no-frills approach by the retailer is to avoid promotions fatigue and not to dilute the impact of value and price — so instead of drowning consumers in 10 days of deals, Target will focus on having special deals every weekend and free shipping, which is always a hit among consumers.
oh no. target has free shipping for the holiday season. this is bad. really bad.
— stephanie (@spectrosteph) November 5, 2017
When we looked at social media to gauge consumer sentiment regarding Black Friday, we found that consumers were overjoyed when discussing discounts and prices on social. What seemed to tick them off however was commercials and the general marketing deluge around holidays.
Thanksgiving is the best because:
1. Drinksgiving the night before
3. Capitalist af deals, finna get a 70 inch tv for 200$
— Pätty Miller (@pmmillerr) November 2, 2017
Do you guys have any deals or options for a couple that just wanna have a quiet Thanksgiving together? Lol
— Robert Castro II (@killer_hobo) October 24, 2017
The holiday season brings with it a retail frenzy where shoppers wait all year to make their marked purchases on deep discounts. As retailers scramble for consumer attention in the all-important months of November and December, it’s essential to make sure consumers are not drowned in a flurry of discounts-and-deals spam.
Online shopping has definitely changed the retail game, but if brick and mortar stores are to put up a fight, it’s crucial that brands understand what consumers want and tailor their in-store offerings accordingly. The important message to reiterate though: Stores are not dead. This should sound convincing after Amazon opened a physical bookstore in New York City earlier this year. And as always, social media is where shoppers flock to with great enthusiasm to verify and validate their purchase decisions and talk about what they want.
For more on consumer insights on holiday shopping, download our free guide Is This The End of Black Friday?