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Survey Reveals Consumers’ Shopping Behaviors for the 2022 Retail Peak Season

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Retail peak season 2022 is set to reveal some shifting dynamics as shoppers plan to increase online shopping, return to pre-pandemic expectations.

By Laura Ritchey, COO, Radial

Retail peak season 2022 is set to reveal some shifting dynamics as shoppers plan to increase online shopping, return to pre-pandemic expectations for fast delivery times, and hedge against inflation by altering spending this holiday season.

In Radial’s third annual Peak Consumer Survey, shoppers shared their expectations and anticipated response to rising inflation and economic uncertainty as they approach the holidays. As we compared this year’s consumer feedback to our 2021 survey findings, trends and eCommerce adoption rates reveal that shoppers have normalized pandemic-inspired behaviors—but with a few caveats.

For brands gearing up for the 2022 retail peak season, now is the time to tighten up your buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) and buy online, pickup curbside (BOPAC) processes; ensure your order fulfillment and delivery operations will meet expectations; and determine how to capitalize on an increasingly longer peak season.

Here are key findings from our 2022 survey and how retailers can prepare for a successful holiday shopping season.

Online Shopping Increases

The survey showed that 58% of consumers plan to increase online shopping this year—marking an 8% growth in eCommerce adoption—but in-store shopping holds steady at 46% as compared to 45% in 2021. Shoppers continue to blend channels and expect brands to offer multiple options for fulfillment.

The pandemic seems to have revived a brick-and-mortar landscape that had previously been thought by many to be on a downward trend, but more and more eCommerce brands continue to open up physical stores to capitalize on the upswing in in-store shopping. In 2021, U.S. retailers announced twice as many store openings as closures—and the trend continues. Having a blend of online and brick-and-mortar channels with omnichannel fulfillment options seems to be giving retailers an advantage over their one-channel only peers.

Pandemic-Favored Fulfillment Options Are the New Norm

It’s no secret that shoppers both like and expect convenient order fulfillment choices. In fact, 33% of consumers plan to increase BOPIS usage and 30% plan to increase BOPAC this retail peak season. These fulfillment strategies became especially popular during the height of the pandemic and are clearly here to stay.

However, getting BOPIS and BOPAC right can be tricky and typically requires partnering with an order management and fulfillment provider with the extensive expertise and network needed to be successful. With staffing shortages and supply chain delays, retailers need to ensure they have reliable, cutting-edge technology for total inventory visibility across the enterprise. Ensuring in-store customers do not have to compete with these newer order fulfillment processes is also paramount.

Shoppers Return to Pre-Pandemic Delivery Expectations

The pandemic made everyone learn to wait patiently in line and for deliveries. While only 14% of consumers expected holiday eCommerce orders to be delivered within two-to-three days in 2020, that expectation is back up to 33% for 2022—an increase that is in line with pre-pandemic expectations. Patience has apparently worn thin, as consumers expect retailers to be able to overcome disruption and delivery challenges. In fact, only 28% of survey respondents expect delivery within three-to-five days, representing a year-over-year (YOY) decrease of 17%.

We also found that quick delivery times are a top factor (16%) for consumers when making online purchases, and that consumers are hoping for even faster delivery in the near future. Forty-six percent said they would select drone delivery if it were available to them in the next year.

To meet customers’ expectations during this year’s holiday shopping season, it’s essential for retailers to get their order fulfillment and transportation operations as streamlined as possible, including automating and integrating key systems by leveraging technology that supports faster, more scalable fulfillment.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Take a Backseat

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday remain peak days for retailers and eCommerce brands, consumers are shopping earlier in the year—with 12% starting in late August, 18% in September, and 41% in October and early November. That’s nearly half of all shoppers beginning their holiday shopping before Black Friday.

The retail peak season has been expanding in the last few years due to major eCommerce sales days, and year-round promotions seem to be inspiring holiday shopping earlier—particularly as shoppers hit by inflation seek out the best deals. Retailers need to be prepared earlier than ever for peak season volumes with a flexible, omnichannel order management system.

Shoppers Plan to Modify Their Gift-Giving

Responding to high inflation, more than half (61%) of consumers say they will adjust their gift-giving this holiday season, with 15% buying fewer gifts than in previous years, and 8% foregoing any level of gift-giving. Only 20% are not changing the amount of gifts they will buy. Driven by multiple factors, shoppers have different priorities and will likely be more discerning when buying gifts. Despite the expected decrease in volume, spending is spread across the board, with 37% likely to spend $201 – $500 on gifts, 27% spending $501 – $1000, and 26% planning to spend less than $200.

Shoppers anticipate their top categories for gift-giving will be clothing/apparel (53%), health and beauty (24%), and experiences (27%). As spending becomes more selective, clothing/apparel remains the number one category with a YOY increase of 15%, while health and beauty increased from third to second, with YOY growth of 11%. Retailers need to be aware of the value shoppers will attach to discounts and sales heading into peak season.

Deliver Exceptional Peak Season Customer Experiences with Trusted Partners

Retail peak season planning can be complex and overwhelming. Retailers face as many internal challenges as external ones, and the stakes are high. With consumers’ expectations rising and their behaviors ever-evolving, having a trusted omnichannel order fulfillment partner can help shift the burden of complex fulfillment and delivery operations, giving you the confidence that comes with relying on an expert and freeing you up to focus on crafting memorable, rewarding, and profitable customer experiences.

Learn how Radial can support your business during the holiday season and all year round.