Even though the 2021 holiday shopping season is off to an earlier start than ever, there’s no room for complacency. As new data becomes available, retailers must remain responsive to changing consumer behavior in order to maximize profitability.
Recently, Narvar released its 5th annual consumer study on the state of online returns, which surveyed shoppers on their return policy preferences and the role technology plays in their return behaviors.
As part of the study, we looked at how consumers plan to shop this season, and what learnings or takeaways retailers should keep in mind. What follows are three key trends to expect this holiday season.
First, of the 1,040 U.S. shoppers surveyed by Narvar, more than half (52% in total) expect to shop online more than in-store during the 2021 holiday shopping season.
Retailers should respond by ensuring their online shopping experience is as close as possible to what consumers would find in-store. Sure, online shoppers can’t physically pick up or try on items the way they would in-store. But since issues with fit, size, or color remain the #1 reason for returns amongst shoppers surveyed by Narvar, it’s worth providing consumers with as much information as possible on your website—both to help them make better decisions with confidence and to minimize the burden of returns on your end.
Any or all of the following options can help:
DSW, for example, features customer images on its product pages to give shoppers a better feel for what their purchases will look like in-person.
M.M.LaFleur gives website visitors the ability to chat live with a stylist for help selecting the appropriate size, in addition to offering size charts and specific details on pictured models’ sizing.
Top carriers have been explicit about the challenges they’re facing, from increased demand to ongoing driver shortages. And fortunately, the message appears to have trickled down to nearly half of consumers—49% of Narvar’s survey respondents reported expecting shipping to take longer than usual this year, compared to “normal.”
But while this figure may provide some measure of relief to retailers, it’s worth noting that more than half of Narvar’s participants didn’t acknowledge longer shipping times. Explicit communication is the key to managing expectations for both groups of shoppers—even consumers who are already expecting delays will appreciate extra communication around the status of their shipments.
Here’s how you can give customers peace-of-mind (and save your support team):
More than one-third of the consumers surveyed by Narvar plan to shop earlier this holiday season—likely in response to retail’s overwhelmed supply chains and slower delivery time predictions.
As noted, many retailers have already adapted their promotional calendars to accommodate proactive buyers. You’ll also want to make sure you prep the post-purchase process to make sure the experience is positive for customers. For example, make sure your return policy is temporarily extended well past the end of December to allow earlier purchases to be received as gifts, tested, and potentially returned, if needed.
To ensure you’re ready for the longer selling season, check out all of our tips for prepping your fulfillment process for early demand.
Andria is Global Director of Marketing & Communications at Narvar. She grew up in entertainment at iconic brands like EMI & MTV before pivoting to ecommerce, most recently at Walmart.com.