Black Friday Trends Signal Brick-And-Mortar Not Dead Yet

by Trefis Team
American Eagle Outfitters
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Black Friday, the busiest holiday shopping day in the US, is now behind us, and with shopper traffic data streaming in, we can safely say that physical retail is still very much alive. There has been a significant amount of talk, signaling the death knell for brick-and-mortar stores, as a result of the rise in e-commerce and a change in consumers’ shopping habits. Furthermore, the presence of the Amazon giant is ever-looming over the battered industry. However, news that should bring holiday cheer to this blighted sector is that for the second year in a row, Black Friday (i.e., 11/24/17 12 AM – 11:59 PM) brick-and-mortar retail traffic has held steady YOY, as ShopperTrak data shows a less than -1% decrease in shopper traffic numbers. Apparel companies have had to adapt to the digital marketplace, with many who have failed to embrace the integrated omnichannel environment suffering as a result.

Make-Or-Break Holiday

With unemployment levels at their lowest levels in 17 years and consumer confidence on a high, shoppers had been expected to spend more this Thanksgiving weekend, through a motley of channels. The increased desire on the part of shoppers to make purchases through a variety of different channels was reflected in the results of the Holiday Shopping Intentions Survey conducted by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) prior to the start of the holiday shopping season. It was revealed that 96% of consumers planned to make a purchase through a retailer that has both a physical store, as well as an online presence. Moreover, 40% of the shoppers intended on buying online and picking up in-store. A benefit of such a feature being offered by stores, through their omnichannel strategy, is that the buyers can look at the other products available in stores when they come to collect their purchase. Consequently, they end up shopping more than just for the original item bought online. As per the survey, of the consumers that planned on picking up their items in the store, 81% expected to make additional purchases.

This relevance of the physical storefront was confirmed with the in-store traffic data supplied by ShopperTrak, as mentioned earlier. The 2017 numbers were similar to those in 2016 when visits remained relatively flat. Two consecutive years of minimal declines indicate stabilizing holiday shopping trends. About five years ago, many retailers started keeping their stores open on Thanksgiving night. While initially, the excitement surrounding this attracted a flood of customers to such shops, over time this enthusiasm has waned, and instead of resulting in an upsurge in traffic, it was actually driving traffic away from Black Friday. This year, a greater number of stores decided to stay closed on Thanksgiving, enabling them to redistribute their customer visits to days following it.

Importance Of The In-Store Experience

While retail store visits have fallen considerably in recent years, it is imperative for such companies to leverage their store presence as a driver for customer acquisition in the digital space. It has been estimated that digital interactions influence 56 cents of every dollar spent in the retail store. Of the 56, 37 points are contributed to by the shopper’s use of mobile devices. While shopping online provides customers with product insight and options for customization, in-store experiences need to leverage the technology to help buyers make more informed decisions. Hence, features such as picking up online orders in-store, creating mobile apps to scan barcodes to gain access to product information and reviews, and accepting mobile payments through the point of sale system are vital to driving customer engagement.

The chart above has been made using our interactive platform.

It has been estimated that omnichannel customers tend to shop more frequently and end up spending 3.5 times more than other shoppers. Moreover, during this Thanksgiving weekend, it was revealed that multi-channel shoppers spent $82 more on average than the online-only shopper, and $49 more on average than those shoppers who only shopped in stores. Hence, it is imperative for apparel retail companies to find new and better ways to combine their online and offline channels and enable customers to have a convenient and personalized experience in order to emerge stronger. This should be kept in mind by retailers for the remainder of the holiday season, as eight of the ten anticipated busiest shopping days still remain, including Super Saturday, which will fall on December 23.

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