Not long ago I received a copy of Deloitte’s annual survey of holiday spending intentions and trends and it, not surprisingly, contains some very insightful info that those in the marketing and advertising world would find most valuable.

The official name of the survey is Deloitte’s 2013 Annual Holiday Survey, Naughty or nice? How will retail sales fare this holiday season?

Now before I get to why I wrote the title I did for this particular article, allow me to share some of the highlights of the survey.

  • Nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) smartphone owners will use their devices for holiday shopping
  • 61 percent of consumers now own smartphones, a 19 percentage point rise since 2011
  • 63 percent of tablet owners plan to use their devices when shopping this holiday season
  • 66 percent of consumers will shop local stores (small businesses and independent retailers) this holiday season
  • Local stores will make up one-third (34 percent) of consumers’ total holiday budget

All very interesting for sure and each worth noting particularly the local angle with 66% of respondents stating they plan to shop locally at small businesses, independent retailers or boutique shops which are not part of national chains.

Truth be told I could’ve made this statistic the centerpiece of my article for it speaks to the fact local retailers stand to have a healthy holiday season.

Or I could’ve focused on the finding (below) which lets retailers know that if they have not yet launched their holiday push, it’s not too late given the fact that nearly 40% won’t even start to shop until after Thanksgiving. This is in line with what happened in 2012 as a Consumer Reports poll showed that some 36% of Americans had not even started their shopping roughly three weeks before Christmas.

The Human Touch

Any of the above angles or even others based on the survey findings would’ve completely understandable and acceptable. In fact, in the press release announcing the findings the headline read “Deloitte Annual Holiday Survey: More Consumers Shopping Mobile and Local.”

However I chose to focus on another finding from the survey. Two to be exact as I chose to look at a couple of findings which revealed the need to go old school; the need for retailers to never, ever lose sight of the fact that despite the onslaught of technology – the ongoing onslaught that is, the need and desire for consumers to connect with a living, breathing human being is as strong as ever. And in fact that living, breathing human being can have quite the effect on a retailer’s bottom line.

Here’s the two findings I speak of:

Let’s break these down individually, shall we?

Obviously the underlying theme here is the human touch; the experience a consumer gets when interacting with a sales associate.

The first chart shows something incredibly telling. Consumers expect sales associates to be knowledgeable and presumably more knowledgeable than they are but over half (59%) responded they in fact believe they are more knowledgeable than the person who is being paid to be there.


Take another look at the first chart above. It also shows that consumers would rather an associate me knowledgeable than they would offer them up a polite greeting when they enter the store. In other words, they would rather you tell them what they need to know, tell them about discounts and get them out of the store quickly than be cordial, inviting. Obviously this is not say sales associates can be rude. On the contrary. It merely means that they should always greet the customer when they enter but, they also better be prepared to help them for if not, that greeting won’t matter whatsoever.

In looking at the second of the two charts related to sales associates, this one speaks directly to the bottom line. Consumers come in expecting knowledgeable associates and those retailers that provide that are more likely to make the sale than those who do not.

Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP says that retail associates can be engaged to drive loyalty rather than just complete a transaction, adding “the most successful retailers are empowering their associates to become devoted brand advocates who are knowledgeable, connected online, have the authority to price match and are aware of products available through other channels.”

The bottom line in all this?

Old school, in this case, actual human interaction, can have a tremendous and profound impact on retailers not just during the holidays but year-round.

Source: Deloitte’s 2013 Annual Holiday Survey

Photo credit: Tax Credits