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Like most shoppers, I did a little previewing before Black Friday, and I was able to get some good deals (at least I think so). Like 66% of shoppers, I wanted to check for sales and specials without having to venture into the stores during this crazy time. They were abundant, and I was going to capitalize on them.

Kohl’s always has a deal, and they did not disappoint when visiting their homepage. Just before the holidays, shoppers were able to get 15% off across the board. Additionally, it’s always an added benefit that shoppers receive $15 Kohl’s cash for every $50 spent. This was a great opportunity to replenish some household items along with checking two items off my niece’s wish list.

The holidays would not be complete without making at least one or two purchases at Amazon. I was in good company based on what we learned from the 1,055 shoppers we surveyed in our November 2019 Digital Commerce 360/Bizrate Insights research. 40% of shoppers intend to make half or more of their online holiday gift purchases at Amazon and 66% will make ¼ of their purchases at Amazon.

Most shoppers (62%) indicated they would be spending about the same on Amazon this holiday. The results also suggested that 19% will spend more while the same number will spend less. Their growth trajectory continues.

I didn’t have anything in mind this year, so I looked around to see if there were deals on anything I needed. I had one book in mind and decided to send it to the Amazon locker. I opted to avoid a Black Friday visit, and it was business as usual on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

Being a huge Oprah fan, I then visited her favorite things list and she did not disappoint. She featured Sorel’s runaround boots, which were perfect for my daughter. They listed their delivery timing in the cart, giving me the option to get them alone or with another item I had added to my cart by Dec. 6. It was longer than I was used to waiting from Amazon, but that didn’t pose a problem for my gift-giving timing. Buyer beware when it comes to delivery, even on Amazon.

I am the consummate omnichannel shopper, but the reasons we typically go to the store for pickup are multi-faceted. As we learned from our survey, shoppers start with checking product availability. We tend to appreciate a sure thing, so knowing the product can be found at the store now or within a reasonable time frame based on our particular circumstances is the first order of business. 70% of online shoppers surveyed wanted to have that same confidence level.

Of course, once we know if it’s available, we want to also understand current store hours. The majority of shoppers (58%) indicated they looked up store information. Holiday hours often fluctuate, so a quick check ensures you won’t have to make multiple trips to the store. Interestingly, when I was visiting retailers for in-store pickups over the past few days, they all had a calendar on the door with holiday hours to best serve their shoppers.

Placing an order for pickup in store saw similar usage at 55%. This was where I would focus my efforts and decided to test retailers over the critical Black Friday time frame.

There are still hazards in omnichannel, and the user experience for pickup has yet to be standardized, especially among newbies. Some retailers have information on the product page, while others default to the cart for these details. In the case of Williams-Sonoma, one can toggle between in-store and home delivery, which can be dangerous. I thought I was set for their Lincoln Park location, and they let me know that the items were in stock and on display, which could be a bonus if I wanted a sneak preview when I arrived at the store. As a busy shopper in a hurry to get my orders completed, I ended up accidentally placing an order for home delivery when I thought I had identified a store location. The bigger challenge was that the sweets I selected were not returnable. My only recourse was to call and cancel, which is what I did. It was service with a smile from Williams-Sonoma.

The other more critical issue is the lack of store availability, particularly for featured products. One can spend significant time trying to find gifts only to discover they’re not available at a shopper’s preferred store.

If retailers want to be truly omnichannel, then it’s important that, at a minimum, key products be available for store pickup. I can appreciate that size and color issues can be a concern, but at Urban Outfitters—one of my daughter’s favorite stores—I checked at least a dozen items and could not find one for pickup at our closest store.

I was so excited to see that Ulta recently launched buy online pick up in store, so I thought I’d give it a try. Unfortunately, the first item I wanted was in stock but couldn’t be purchased this way. It’s puzzling why this option wouldn’t be available. Disappointment set in as I had hoped to buy over Black Friday but didn’t want to hassle with rummaging through the store to find what I needed. Ultimately, I chose another item that was on sale and tested their pickup before the Cyber 5 holiday. They had buy online pick up in store stations set up near the door. My product was ready, though I had to wait to be checked out based on employee interactions.

Shoppers have become accustomed to receiving products quickly, forever altering their expectations. When it came to the importance of logistics in selecting retailers this holiday season, delivery-related concerns captured three out the top five spots. Speed of delivery (58%) and guaranteed on-time delivery (54%) were neck and neck, while product availability at a nearby store came in at 45%. After having placed an order at Walmart for an everyday coffee pot, I was surprised to learn that the order was delayed several days. While this order was placed to a pickup center near another suburban store, I would have expected same-day availability and might turn to another option under these circumstances. The good news is just before publication I received an alert that the order was ready.

I’m happy to report that I managed to take a few additional items off my list. The prize gift will likely be a Blackhawks jersey to go along with the December game tickets as I’m still all about the experience.

I’m still on the hunt for a last-minute holiday vacation, so seeing promotions from Southwest and others piqued my interest. Unfortunately, theirs was not within the time frame when I could go. I will keep watching, hoping this will be the final holiday gift of the season.

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