Deloitte: Online Critical But Bricks And Mortar Remain Key To Holiday Sales

Consumers anticipate spending the majority of their holiday budget in brick-and-mortar stores this holiday season, according to a Deloitte survey. The consulting firm also determined that a strong digital presence might lead shoppers from a retailer’s virtual to its physical storefront and convert browsers into buyers.

In regard to shopping destinations, 55% of consumers in the study said they would be shopping at malls this holiday season, but 28% of respondents said they would visit malls less this year. Of those shopping less in malls, 49% cited crowds for their change of habit, while 42% said better prices elsewhere had driven their decision and 36% said avoiding traffic.

The top three drawbacks to shopping in physical stores, according to the study, were long lines, cited by 40% of respondents, too much traffic, by 26%, and a lack of desired merchandise at accessible bricks and mortar retail locations, by 25%.

In an indication of preference or, at least, familiarity impact, just over half of consumers said that if a product is not available in-store, they would try to buy from the same retailer, either from another location or its website.

Among retail enticements, many consumers said they planned to take advantage of free shipping, some 68% of respondents, free returns, 52%, price matching, 45%, extended holiday hours, 35%, order online for pick up in-store, 34%, and free layaway, 16%.

When asked about store-return policies, 25% of respondents favored the ability to drop items at any store, regardless of purchase location, 23% favored refund options other than store credit and 18% favored no receipt required rules, while the same proportion indicated that they wanted the ability to return items in January that were purchased in October through December.

According to Deloitte, respondents with annual incomes of less than $100,000 expect to spend 54% of their total holiday budgets in-store, versus 46% for those with incomes over that amount.

Deloitte predicted that digital interactions will influence 50% or $345 billion worth of retail store sales during the 2014 holiday season.