Operations

Delivery times, inflation in focus heading into holiday shopping

58% of shoppers plan to increase ecommerce use during the 2022 holiday season, Radial finds.

Delivery times, inflation in focus heading into holiday shopping

As brands and retailers get ready for the holidays amid a return to in-store shopping, it's worth remembering that ecommerce will remain an important channel during 2022's busy season.

According to a new survey from Radial, 58% of shoppers plan to increase ecommerce shopping this holiday season. This marks an increase of 8% in ecommerce intent over a similar survey conducted last year.

At the same time, 46% of respondents said they planned to shop in-store in the same volume this year.

Radial, an ecommerce solutions company, surveyed 1,000 US-based adults to gather insights on shopping trends for the 2022 holidays. The results show that it's a year when the pandemic-induced shifts are starting to shake out. Some new habits are sticking, while others are evolving anew.

Through it all, one question has remained consistent year-to-year, and just as difficult to answer this year as the last: When – and, more to the point, how early – does the holiday shopping season actually start? Radial provides some data on where things stand in 2022: In August, 12% of consumers said they had already started holiday shopping, while 18% will start in September.

It’s especially worth noting that 41% of respondents said they will begin shopping before Thanksgiving, in the period from October to the early weeks of November.

A big factor that’s new for this year is inflation. It has hovered at 40-year-highs for many months of this year, and the Federal Reserve is signaling further actions ahead to bring it down. If these interest rate hikes have the central bank's desired effect, it will cool off the economy, which could dent spending even further than rising gas and food prices already are. Many retailers already trimmed profit outlooks in Q4, and are fretting continued pullback. Radial’s research found that there will be some “curbing” in gift-giving as a result of inflation. Overall, however, brands should expect similar consumer demand as last year. About 38% of consumers noted they will change the volume of gifts they purchase, while 40% plan to buy the same amount of gifts as last year.

But retailers shouldn't let the macro environment distract them from tightening operations. In ecommerce, this year’s holidays will be marked by rising expectations in customer experience, Radial says. When it comes to fast delivery, one-in-three consumers said 2-3 days was a reasonable time for delivery. That's an increase of 10% year-over-year and a big jump over 2020, when 14% said they expected orders within two days.

Consumers are also proving to be willing to try new delivery methods, as 46% said they would try out drone delivery if offered.

At a time when shoppers are planning to shop both online and offline, offerings that cross both channels will continue to be important. The survey found that about one-third of respondents plan to use both curbside pickup and buy online pick-up in store services. These hybrid methods of getting orders to consumers rose during the pandemic, and continue to be a necessary part of the mix that retailers can offer to shoppers as they seek to provide convenience.

Following the supply chain challenges of 2021, brands and retailers have a chance to win loyalty through delivering great experiences in 2022. Consider their experiences last year. They survey states that two-thirds of consumers dealt with out-of-stocks, while 39% said items were unavailable on their desired channel. Another 40% received items late. Shoppers won't want to repeat those experiences, and there's a good chance they'll remember the brands and retailers that ensure they don't.

“The retail sector has undergone significant unpredictability and digital acceleration over the last two years. Supply chain disruptions and evolving consumer behaviors have shifted a formularized market, into a dynamic one. The impact of inflation introduces a new variable for brands to plan and strategize around this year,” said Laura Ritchey, COO and EVP at Radial. “To ensure peak operations run smoothly, it is essential that brands focus on inventory management and measure against consumer demand. The need for sound omnichannel offerings will ensure customers get a great experience regardless of the channel from which their order is fulfilled.”

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