Two takes on Black Friday/Cyber Monday

With Black Friday looming, the results from two studies give a glimpse into what retailers and shoppers can expect when the turkey’s gone and the malls open their doors. As taken from the respective companies’ press materials, the first entry examines the role of the smartphone and the second charts the emotional undercurrents of the day’s extreme bargain-hunting and also touches on the impact of Cyber Monday.

Despite the hype surrounding Black Friday, less than one-fifth (19 percent) definitely plan to hit the stores that day, according to the second annual PeriscopeIQ Retail Intelligence Survey. Additionally, consumers nationwide report that they will spend less on holiday shopping this year in overall expenditures, in amount spent per gift, and with fewer gifts given, indicating weaker holiday sales

The bad news is that, even prior to Hurricane Sandy, nearly a quarter (24 percent) plan to spend less on holiday shopping this year. Nearly three-fifths (58 percent) say they will spend the same overall and only 14 percent say they will increase holiday spending from 2011 levels. Moreover, the “Grinches” (17 percent) plan to purchase fewer gifts than last year while more than a fifth (22 percent), are planning on reducing their expenditures per gift.

“Even before the disastrous hurricane, the PeriscopeIQ Retail Intelligence Survey results suggested a weak holiday season, resulting in a one-two punch for retailers who are already dealing with margin erosion due to showrooming, price matching and pre-shopping with mobile and online technologies,” said Pawan Singh, CEO and chief scientist at Philadelphia-based PeriscopeIQ.

“With more than half of our respondents equipped with smartphones, the multichannel world is a boon to holiday shoppers but it can also be an advantage to retailers who address physical, mobile and online customer experiences with equal diligence. However, retailers will have to start pricing more aggressively earlier to bring storm-impacted shoppers back to stores in the Mid-Atlantic region.”

PeriscopeIQ conducts the representative survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers age 18 and older annually on behalf of its retail clients. Among the noteworthy findings in this year’s poll:

QR-code red!

While retailers and marketers are printing QR codes on ads, point-of-sale items and price tags, the PeriscopeIQ study revealed that nearly three-fifths (59 percent) of shoppers don’t know what they are or what they do. Further, 18 percent said they had ever used one in a retail environment, although 60 percent own smartphones with built-in scanners or apps. “QR codes haven’t lived up to their potential as a way to access coupons or provide suitable product information, in part due to lack of understanding or because the experience is unsatisfactory,” said Mohamed Latib, COO of PeriscopeIQ. “We believe that QR codes will continue to evolve but the actual 2-D code will be transformed by a newer, more efficient technology in the near future.”

Work-a-shoppers

As many as 40 percent of those polled are shopping online at work during the holidays and year-round. The PeriscopeIQ Survey found that over a quarter of those polled shop more than 15 minutes daily. Half of respondents ages 18-34 spend as much as 20 minutes daily shopping online.

Free shipping

Virtually all respondents (95 percent) stated that free shipping is an important factor in deciding from which Web sites to make their purchases. “While the number of online shoppers in the survey is about even from last year, bricks-and-mortar retailers will need to continue to maintain this feature in their arsenals,” Singh said.

Black Friday more blue

Despite the hoopla about shopping on Black Friday, only a little more than a third (38 percent) will “definitely” or “probably” shop, while 60 percent won’t bother battling crowds the day after Thanksgiving.

Smartphones and smarter shoppers

According to the survey, consumers are becoming savvy shoppers, with more than two-fifths (41 percent) pre-shopping online vs. only 27 percent doing so last year. For example, 33 percent check prices at other stores or at Web sites. A similar number (36 percent) are using their phones to take pictures of merchandise, presumably for feedback from friends or family or for comparison shopping.

Fewer than five percent of respondents claim to use mobile wallets like Google Wallet or Passbook.

“Like” it or not

Another issue is consumer use of online reviews. Only 24 percent said they go online for reviews of products and services while shopping at a store. “This indicates that, while consumers rely somewhat on the Internet for information, if only a minority consult reviews while shopping, many buyers aren’t getting the full picture on positive and negative aspects of their purchases,” Singh said.

Black, white and read

Lastly, while much of the survey focuses on electronic shopping and innovative retail technologies, an interesting finding is that when it comes to product information, sales and other shopping information, nearly three-fifths (58 percent) still rely on print magazines and newspapers. This is more than twice the number who look at online reviews while shopping.

A second study, from Provo, Utah-based research firm Qualtrics, shows that most American consumers have a strong emotional attachment to Black Friday shopping – almost half say the hoopla of discounts and television ads gets them “excited to get holiday shopping underway.”

Only 15 percent of shoppers said they find the Black Friday experience “frightening” when it comes to the lines, stampedes and fighting in the aisles that typically make the news. Almost a third of those surveyed say they will be standing in line waiting for doors to open on Black Friday.

“American marketers have done a masterful job at crafting the traditional kick-off of holiday shopping into an event most shoppers revere,” said Danielle Wanderer, chief marketing officer at Qualtrics. “There’s no other single day of the year when American shoppers drop their mouse and head to their favorite brick-and-mortar retailer.”

Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday

In fact, 74 percent of shoppers surveyed rated their Black Friday experience as “somewhat satisfying” to “very satisfying,” proving most haven’t been put off by the hustle, bustle and scuffle inside stores. Overall, more American shoppers (56 percent) said they’d be standing in line or dropping by stores at some point on Black Friday versus those that will be shopping online only (28 percent).

But online shopping on Cyber Monday gets an even better customer satisfaction rating than that of Black Friday. Over 90 percent of shoppers rated their online shopping experience as “somewhat satisfying” to “very satisfying.” Only 16 percent of consumers say they won’t be doing any shopping at all on Black Friday.

Lose the holiday cheer

When it comes to in-store holiday cheer, American consumers turn into Scrooge, as only 5 percent say that improving the joyful holiday atmosphere in-store would get retailers more of their business. And like the cranky Scrooge, consumers really want to keep money in their pockets, with more than half of shoppers (52 percent) saying that discounts would be most influential when making decisions about where to shop during the holidays.

While discounts are the most critical influence on consumer buying decisions this holiday season, shoppers surveyed did say quality products, helpful sales staff and convenience can influence their decision of where to buy as well.

Mobile trails in the holiday shopping race

Mobile shopping is expected to surge this holiday season, but a quarter of shoppers surveyed say they’ll research gifts with their phone or tablet device and then travel to the store to buy. Only 10 percent of shoppers said they’ll be purchasing holiday gifts on their mobile device.

With the economic recovery still slow to take hold, what kind of bounty should most families expect under the tree this year? About two-thirds of shoppers, or 62 percent, said they plan to spend up to $600 on holiday gifts. Only about 14 percent say they’ll spend $1,000 or more this holiday season.

Qualtrics and Research Now surveyed 1,100 general consumers from November 2-November 5, 2012. The sample was drawn from a Research Now online opt-in panel of U.S. general consumers. The survey was conducted online via Research Now’s Valued Opinions Panel and social media sample. Respondents were provided with an identical questionnaire asking for feedback specific to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

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