Winter is coming. The jackets and boots are out of hiding, and the holiday shopping season has begun. Forecasters, including Deloitte, have indicated sales are expected to grow 3-4% this holiday season; and, as the economy continues to improve, consumers are encouraged to shop until they drop.

With holiday shopping on every retailer's mind, our team wanted to find out what consumers are truly looking for when making a purchase this season.

After taking a hard look at the retail environment, we realized consumers today are increasingly using experiences to define themselves: Instagramming drinks at the hottest night club, chronicling a trip on Snapchat, or raving about the best food in town on Facebook are just a few of the new ways consumers are interacting with brands.

There is no question that rather than merely purchasing material items, consumers are looking for experiences that enrich their lives.

Through our research (email required), we were able to determine the following top experiences customers really want, and what strategies retailers should implement to best reach experience-driven shoppers.

Lovers of Luxury

The most popular shopping experience for today's consumer is the luxury experience: 34% of consumers say they love luxury.

Traditionally associated with high-end retailers, luxury lovers want to feel special, and they crave exclusivity and expect personalized touchpoints in both their online and in-store shopping experiences.

Although personal shoppers may be available in-store, machine-learning tools enable retailers to mirror the white-glove treatment—online. Retailers can create hyper-personalized experiences each time a customer interacts with the brand, including offering the most engaged shoppers exclusive views on new items, or sending a discount code for an item that has been sitting in their online wish list.

Retailers providing the luxury experience know a shopper's name, preferences, and dislikes the second the shopper enters their website, making them the personal shoppers of this new, digital age.


Next was the curated experience: 29% of consumers responding said they prefer shopping with minimal effort. The curated experience begins when a consumer defines what she's looking for and when, and ends when a retailer delivers it, right to her doorstep.

Curated shoppers gravitate to retailers that cater to them based on their past purchase history or product preferences. These shoppers look for subscription-based shopping models, where they can provide information to a retailer during their first interaction and then let the retailer do the rest of the work.

With this model, retailers can define which products shoppers desire versus which ones they do not, allowing retailers to personalize each touchpoint based on those insights.


With 25% of shoppers stating they prefer the connected experience, retailers can reach these technology lovers online or via multiple devices. These shoppers are typically engaging with a brand through an app or otherwise on their mobile device, and they are seeking a brand with a seamless omnichannel experience.

When a connected shopper is in a retail store, he expects personalized push notifications to be sent to his mobile device when in-store, and responds well to smart technology throughout the store to improve his shopping experience. These consumers look for incentives that can be accessed only via a mobile application, and they always have their phone close by.

Retailers that want to reach this "always on" shopper need to implement the most up-to-date technology, both in store and online; that way, across all channels, they can reward the shopper who engages with them.


A new trend in experiential shopping is the active experience. With just 12% of consumers favoring this experience, these niche group of consumers are the most passionate and loyal to brands and purchase only items that mirror their ideology.

Active shoppers avoid purchasing items before they know it will fit their personal brand, and they look to try products before they buy them. Retailers can attract these shoppers by hosting run clubs, training sessions, and yoga classes to also build loyalty and evangelism among their customer base. Online, retailers need to stay up-to-date with what is trending with these shoppers, only sending content that is new and fresh.

* * *

The modern shopper's expectations have changed dramatically. Accordingly, as the holiday season arrives, retailers need to keep these four experiences in mind when engaging with shoppers. To grasp the attention of every one of these experience-obsessed consumers, a retailer needs to focus on helping consumers embody the lifestyle they strive for.

By creating new and innovative shopping experiences, such as providing cooking classes, implementing mobile app contests, or hosting a trunk show for exclusive first looks at new products, retailers can deliver a unique, exciting, and personalized experience each time a shopper interacts with their brand.

Shopper intelligence tools and machine=learning technology allows retailers to unlock unique insights—such as specific items that consumers are interested in or talking about among their networks—and interact on a much more personalized level. With the resulting data-driven insights, retailers can deliver an experience that is tailored for each, individual customer, and so foster loyalty across their customer base.

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Why Experiential Retail Is Just What You Need This Holiday Season

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image of Berkley Bowen

Berkley Bowen is Founder and CEO of Cue Connect, which helps retailers communicate with shoppers and track what those shoppers share or save while browsing an e-commerce site.

LinkedIn: Berkley Bowen