Survey: Senior retail executives out of touch with holiday shoppers

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Senior retail executives demonstrate a potentially damaging misunderstanding of what is driving consumers' online and in-store shopping preferences this holiday season, along with the categories they plan to to buy.

Fifty-nine percent of consumers plan to shop online during the 2020 holiday season, but only 35% of senior retail executives believed consumers prefer to shop this way, according to a survey of consumers and senior retail executives from customer experience platform First Insight Inc.

Additionally, only four in 10 (41%) consumers plan to shop in a physical store, compared to six in 10 (59%) retail executives who anticipate consumers will do so during this holiday season. 

All or nearly all surveyed executives believe consumers plan to buy beauty, home décor (97%), luxury (97%), and home improvement (95%) products this holiday season. However, the actual percentages of consumers intending to make purchases in these categories are much lower for beauty (71%), home décor (72%), home improvement (67%), and luxury (61%).

While 41% of senior retail executives believe that consumers plan to purchase beauty products exclusively online, only 25% of consumer respondents agreed. However, both groups were aligned on in-store purchases of beauty products with roughly the same number of executives (22%) and consumers (23%) predicting in-store purchases only.

Sixteen percent of senior executives believe consumers are purchasing apparel online only, compared to 31% of consumers who say they plan to. Similarly, only 8% of executives believe consumers are buying apparel exclusively in-store, compared to 27% of consumers.

In the footwear category, only 11% of executives believe consumers will buy footwear online only, compared to 25% of consumers. While only 8% of executives believe consumers will buy footwear exclusively in-store, 29% of consumers say they will.

“It’s clear from our data that the consumer has changed forever, but the industry doesn’t understand how much they’ve changed,” said Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight. “While the industry has always trailed consumers, and has been very good at being responsive and reactive, it’s clear that consumers love to shop online. It’s critical that retailers and brands begin to anticipate these shifts now, including what and how consumers are buying, and where. The industry must stop responding and reacting to consumer behavior, and start anticipating it.”

First Insight’s findings are based on two separate surveys fielded in November 2020 - U.S. consumer studies of targeted samples of more than 1,000 respondents; and an executive survey based on a sample of 37 retail senior-level business executives.