Digital Transformation Retail Social Commerce

Here are the consumer holiday behaviors that are critical to 2022 retail strategies

By Holden Bale | Global vice president and head of commerce

December 2, 2021 | 5 min read

Marketers are throwing out the book on how to market to customers during what is traditionally the busiest shopping period of the year. Not only have consumers experienced behavioral shifts in shopping habits due to the pandemic, but we’re in the midst of a historic and ongoing supply chain crisis at a crucial influx period. Here’s what to expect this month, and how it will be critical for informing 2022.

Gift

What can marketers expect in the run-up to Christmas?

Whether you’re a chief marketer or an avid shopper, it’s time to take stock of the retail landscape to see what prominent trends are not only shaping holiday shopping, but also the future of how people buy and engage with brands.

Huge’s Commerce practice surveyed over 1,000 respondents in North America, Canada and Mexico to identify key drivers of purchasing behavior and what kind of experiences consumers are looking for. We found what can make or break an online sale, who consumers listen to when it comes to reviews, the benefits of social as an e-commerce channel and the reasons why you should invest in video content. Here’s some actionable insights you can take before the ball drops.

For brands, when it comes to converting sales online offering free shipping – while still a major driver for consumers – may not be enough anymore. Almost 46% of consumers we surveyed in North America and Latin America had at one point stopped a purchase because returns weren’t free, or a return policy was unclear or difficult to follow. In many cases, even if a digital experience is usable or well-designed, many brands are failing on basic fundamentals such as clarity on shipping and especially returns, which can lead to a lack of certainty for consumers that they’re not getting the best price directly. As a result, these experiences can subsequently drive them to marketplaces including Amazon and Mercado Libre.

Today, product content and storytelling have become highly-ranked criteria for what makes an ‘excellent online shopping experience,’ only second to financial and accessibility considerations, such as free shipping, easy-to-use checkout and a broad assortment. Brand community matters, too. Written reviews were the No. 1 decision criteria by far for over 33% of consumers when comparing multiple like products side-by-side, more than star ratings (~17%) or curated rankings (~14), and even more than price (~24%). But there is a trust gap in reviews. The consumers we surveyed trust reviews on multi-brand and marketplace sites such as Amazon, Walmart and Target substantially more than on brand-owned properties. Yet consumers still trust brands for product reviews more than influencers or media reviewers.

More social and video? Yes, please

Another trend we’re seeing is that social is emerging as a strong channel for commerce due to its unique combination of reach, retention and product category focus. Almost 70% of consumers have bought at least one product through various social channels, showing that the share of wallets and eyeballs is shifting from brand-owned .coms and apps to distributed, third-party touchpoints, such as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and messaging apps. There’s an opportunity here, because over 45% of consumers ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ make returns bought from social media – a major criteria for profitability for brands. Further, the price point most consumers are comfortable with (breaking 50%) is under $100, which is directly applicable to many apparel, beauty and accessory brands.

The emergence of video-based consumption and livestreaming is a great place for brands to double down their investment. While many consumers engage with some form of video content in their commerce journey, we were surprised to already find that over 70% at least ‘sometimes’ watch livestreamed content, with the primary platforms for consumption being YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Of interest, the most important form of livestreamed content for consumers was tutorials, which far outpaced all other categories of commerce-related content.

For brands looking to make an impact through the holiday season and into the new year, keeping these retail trends and consumer habits in mind will allow you to reach your target audience and stay ahead of the curve. By making huge moves today, you have the chance to deliver quality customer experiences that can result in true, transformational growth.

Holden Bale is global vice-president and head of commerce at Huge.

Digital Transformation Retail Social Commerce

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