November 01, 2017 08:00 ET

Catch Me If You Can: A Retailer's Guide to Keeping Up with Consumer Expectations this Holiday Season

New IFTTT Data Explores Shopper Preferences and Expectations Online and In-Store

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwired - Nov 1, 2017) - As the holidays approach, important new data emerges for retailers: 58 percent of American consumers' shopping preferences shift during the holiday season, with the majority of those preferring to shop online more during this time than throughout the rest of the year.

Given this dynamic shift in consumer behavior and the ever-evolving retail landscape, it is vital for retailers to be in tune with today's shoppers' expectations. New research from an IFTTT survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers reveals which retail technologies are -- and aren't -- catching on with shoppers, the latest data on the e-commerce vs. brick-and-mortar battle, and what expectations today's consumers have for their favorite retailers heading into the holiday shopping season.

Retail Tech Reality Check
Sixty percent of retailers report technology budget increases and have made significant investments across personalization and social media. Investments in technologies to predict customer needs and improve multichannel communication have also skyrocketed. For instance, reports project a 53 percent spending increase in artificial intelligence technology among retailers by 2020.

But, IFTTT's data reveals that the average consumer may not be ready to embrace cutting-edge shopping technologies and require further education on their benefits. For instance, 68 percent of respondents have never used a retail chatbot and 23 percent don't even know what chatbots are. 

Additionally, 83 percent of people do not trust a robot to shop for them, but would trust a robot (rather than a drone) to deliver their online orders. Robots have competition though -- 66 percent of shoppers would prefer their gifts be delivered by Rudolph this holiday season instead of a drone.

While the promise of virtual reality revolutionizing the customer experience has slowly taken off, most consumers are actually open to virtual shopping, with the most popular use case for home decoration (59 percent).

Home for the Holidays
The Amazon effect is in full force thanks to its promise to bring automation and convenience to its customers. In fact, 36 percent of respondents would rather stay at home and shop with Alexa or Siri than go to the mall with family or friends.

Additionally, while 36 percent use at least one retail subscription service (such as Stitch Fix, Bark Box or Harry's Razors), 53 percent of shoppers are interested in the idea of using such services. The data also suggests that retailers shouldn't give up on the in-store experience, as only 34 percent of consumers report shopping more online than in-store.

Will Steep Holiday Markdowns Drive Traffic?
It's no secret that holiday deals drive seasonal spending, but with consumer confidence ticking upward, retailers may not have to drop prices so low this year. In fact, 41 percent of shoppers don't expect in-store discounts to exceed 30 percent this holiday season, and 32 percent expect the same for online discounts.

However, retailers should note a difference in gender preferences here. Twenty-five percent of men expect an in-store discount of 50 percent or more, compared to just 21 percent of women. On the other hand, 28 percent of women and just 22 percent of men expect an online discount of 50 percent or more. And how do consumers prefer to hear about holiday deals? Thirty-eight percent said email and only 12 percent said social media posts.

Finally, 35 percent of shoppers are banking on Black Friday for the best deals this year, followed by the day following Christmas (29 percent). More than 57 percent do the majority of their holiday shopping at mass retailers like Walmart and Amazon.

"No matter what time of year, the ideal technology strategy would be to offer consumers the ability to fully customize their shopping experience whether in-store, online, or both," said Linden Tibbets, CEO of IFTTT. "At IFTTT, we see consumers who want instant notifications on the hottest products, to automate the addition of items to their shopping lists with Alexa, and to monitor the price of their wish list gadgets. Our research and work with retailers shows us that all consumers are different, but offering them the tools and experiences they want to tailor their shopping experience is key to maximizing retailers' technology investments." 

About IFTTT:
IFTTT empowers people to do more with the services they love. We work with over 550 apps, services, and devices including Facebook, Twitter, Philips Hue, Dropbox, Google, Nest, Fitbit, BMW, and Slack, with Applets. Applets bring these services together to create new experiences of all types, from automating simple tasks to transforming how someone interacts with and controls their home. We believe creative control of the services we use should be intuitive and accessible to everyone. Founded in 2010, IFTTT has raised $39 million in funding from top tier investors including Norwest Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, NEA, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and SV Angel.