Blending Experiences: The Secret To A Great Holiday Season

Consumer brands will be hoping for a strong holiday season as the economy continues to rebound from the pandemic. The good news: our annual Holiday Shopping Survey finds that, overall, seven in 10 U.S. shoppers are planning to spend as much or more than they did last year.

Bricks or clicks? It’s a question of age

It’s also clear that consumers are getting more comfortable with in-store shopping again. In fact, across all ages, more than half (54%) say they plan to use this channel for most of their holiday shopping this season.

But what’s interesting is how this breaks down by age group. A large majority of Gen Z consumers (70%) say they’ll favor bricks and mortar shopping this year. This may be a sign that younger generations, more than anyone, are tiring of the purely digital experiences of the past year or so, and are craving the more social, physically interactive, and fun kind of experiences they can get in store.

On the other hand, more than half (54%) of baby boomers anticipate doing most of their shopping online this year. That’s another sign that the pandemic-induced acceleration in ecommerce adoption is not going away.



Finding the right blend of experiences

The implication? Consumer brands need a more effective and seamless blend of physical and digital shopping experiences.

We saw a lot of successful experimentation with digital channels during the pandemic—think chat services, video tutorials, Zoom try-ons, and virtual consultations. The challenge is to now extend this kind of digital and augmented reality innovation to physical shopping channels.

For instance, about two-thirds of shoppers (and almost nine in ten Gen Z consumers) say they’d use a digital tool to see how an item they were browsing would look in a different color. About half would use a digital tool to test products without touching. And three in five would use 3D avatars to try on cosmetics.

Stores should also be thinking about the “extra” services that let consumers get more out of the physical shopping experience. For example, a sizable number of shoppers say that both salon treatments (30%) and how-to classes (23%) would entice them back into stores.

In responding to these needs, the industry can call on its strong track record of technology-led innovation. That will be especially important when it comes to implementing immersive digital experiences in stores. In fact, some brands are already starting to create what we calls “real virtualities.” These increasingly realistic digital environments provide much richer multisensory experiences, and can nurture an even greater connection with the end consumer.

Look beyond the holidays

This is challenging consumer brands to take a more holistic view of the holiday season—with implications for marketing and promotions as well as fulfillment.

Successful brands that take this longer view can use it to reset their capabilities across the business, focusing on blended digital/physical experiences, technology innovation, sustainable and conscious consumption, and stronger and more resilient supply chains, ideally placed to capitalize on returning consumer demand throughout the holidays and beyond.

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