40% of shoppers plan to spend more this season, mostly online

Holiday shoppers are expected to spend more this season, but it's where or how they plan to spend that should interest retailers, as Thanksgiving Day shopping and social media gain in popularity, according to a new study from Accenture.

Some 40 percent of shoppers said they plan to spend more this year, compared to just 25 percent in 2014, according to the Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey.

Thanksgiving Day shopping, while controversial, is clearly growing: 50 percent of consumers said they were likely to shop on that day, up from 45 percent in 2014. The number of those shopping on Black Friday is expected to remain flat from last year.

It's not just when they'll shop, but how that is changing, particularly on Thanksgiving Day. Shoppers are split evenly between planning to shop online or at the mall. Younger shoppers, especially males, are the most likely to shop on Thanksgiving day or night. Less than one third (between 28–32 percent) of this group will purchase between 50–100 percent of their items in-store or on a computer on Thanksgiving Day itself.

"With consumers willing to spend more on holiday purchases again this year, this holiday season represents a strong opportunity for retailers," said Patricia Walker, North America retail practice lead at Accenture. "However, in order to capitalize on the opportunity, retailers need to focus on offering a seamless experience for shoppers who will be shopping both online and in-store. As consumers make digital technology a natural part of their lives, their shopping habits have evolved rapidly. If they experience personalization on one channel, they start to expect it across all channels. This represents a great opportunity for retailers who take advantage of new and emerging digital technologies to enhance the shopping experience."  

Personalization is now expected by the majority of shoppers and just over half (51 percent) said they are willing to share personal information to get more targeted offers from retailers. That's a 33 percent jump from 2014.

"What we see is that consumers are prepared to share personal information in order to get personalized benefits. Fifty-six percent of respondents prefer discounts or deals to be proactively sent to them, with those aged 18-35 wanting these discounts to be highly personalized and relevant," said Walker. "For retailers, it is important that they strike the right balance in the customer relationship to create trust, engagement, affinity, desire and delight. Retailers must be able to adapt their approach to address the privacy needs of each individual customer."

Online is the preferred shopping option for 54 percent of respondents compared to brick and mortar stores for retailers with a presence in both channels.

Social media will wield big influence this season too, as 61 percent said it would have some influence on purchasing decisions and not just with millennials. Shoppers from 18-44 years old are the most influenced by social media where they appreciate finding real-time trends and getting hyper-relevant and personalized offers.

"Retail is everywhere, and no longer about a location or a channel. Today's on-the-go nature of consumers has influenced shifts in channel preferences. While we know consumers value content and social media that reflects their lifestyles, our research shows us that social media has very little influence on the purchasing decisions of those aged 45 and over. The younger shoppers who are influenced by social media mostly like to see what's trending and what others are buying," said Walker.  

Total sales for the holiday season are expected to be flat or up, depending on the source. Retailers have spent the last 10 months building digital and omnichannel programs to better reach shoppers across the channels. Holiday 2015 will likely be a test for everything from buy buttons on social media to new mobile features including list making and in-store pickup.

For more:
-See the Accenture survey

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