Bricks-and-mortar continues to play a role in holiday shopping, Accenture finds

More Canadians than ever will be doing their holiday shopping online this year, but the majority still plan to visit physical stores, a new survey by consulting firm Accenture PLC has found.

According to the survey, now in its fifth year, 38 per cent of Canadians said they plan on doing the majority of their holiday shopping online, versus 33 per cent last year; however, 53 per cent reported preferring in-store shopping (a drop, admittedly, from last year, when 62 per cent said the same).

The survey results also indicate that consumers expect retailers to provide a multi-platform experience as they use their smartphones to find the best deals – and to ensure they’re buying from an ethical company, with 77 per cent of respondents saying they considered a retailer’s reputation important when making purchasing decisions.

In a press release Robin Sahota, a managing director of Accenture’s retail practice in Canada, noted that Canadians plan to use their smartphones both as shopping platforms and digital companions during the holiday season, adding that she believes it’s the retailers who offer the most seamless experience or engaging promotions, such as smartphone-based loyalty points and coupons, that will come out on top.

In fact, more than anything the survey illustrates that an increasing number of consumers are using both physical stores and digital channels to find the best deals, with 41 per cent of respondents saying they use their smartphones in-store to compare prices (up from 34 per cent a year), 52 per cent taking advantage of real-time promotions, and mobile the platform of choice for 61 per cent of loyalty points users.

Moreover, 76 per cent of respondents said they planned on “webrooming” – shopping for a product online before buying it in a physical store. (Naturally, 74 per cent also said they would be showrooming – visiting a physical store to review a product before purchasing it online.)

The survey also asked respondents which factors encouraged them to shop at physical stores or online. Bricks-and-mortar owners might be interested in knowing that 51 per cent of respondents cited “long lines” as their reason for leaving physical stores and shopping online, with the average shopper willing to wait six minutes before giving up, and 41 per cent saying they would leave a store with long check-out lines to buy something online instead.

Meanwhile, online retailers should take note that not being able to handle a product was the number one reason given by respondents for not buying more goods online, with shipping issues in second place: 55 per cent cited the former and 44 per cent the latter.

As for reputation, Accenture found that more than three quarters of respondents consider – including 27 per cent who “strongly consider” – such factors as a retailer’s working conditions, buying policies, community involvement, and ethics before deciding to purchase from them.

To conduct the survey, Accenture conducted an online poll of 1,500 consumers across Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary in mid-September.

Other highlights from the survey:

  • 39 per cent of Canadians plan to spend more on holiday shopping this year than in 2015.
  • On average, Canadians expect to spend $873 on holiday shopping this year, an increase of 17 per cent over the $744 they expected to spend last year.
  • 31 per cent of respondents said they feel optimistic about their financial situation coming into this year’s holiday season, a five per cent increase over 2015’s 26 per cent.
  • 45 per cent of Canadian consumers said they plan to purchase from local brands, while 37 per cent said they plan to purchase from American brands and 19 per cent from international. However, Canadian brands were more venerated by older consumers, with 54 per cent saying they will mainly shop for local brands, versus nine per cent of 18 – 24-year-olds.
  • 70 per cent of respondents said they will likely shop on Black Friday this year, 10 per cent more than the 60 per cent who planned to do so in 2015 – and, curiously enough, five per cent more than U.S. respondents, even though the date itself is tied to American Thanksgiving.
  • 70 per cent said they plan to shop on Boxing Day; last year, the number was 64 per cent.
  • 32 per cent of respondents believe they will find the best holiday deals on Boxing Day, 32 per cent believe they will be available during Boxing week, and 28 per cent believe the best deals will be available on Black Friday.
  • 37 per cent of respondents plan to shop in person on Black Friday or Boxing Day so they buy items at bargain prices.
  • 28 per cent of respondents said they won’t be starting holiday shopping until December.

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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