ses and the people who work in stores; they are ready to escape COVID’s gloomy shadow; and most importantly, they want to enjoy themselves.
So this year’s holiday season is a unique mix of uncertainty and importance. Here are three ways retailers can use these shopping weeks to build their customer base for years to come.
Make it fun
More than 9-in-10 women say that shopping brings them a “high”—a sense of joy and release. For women under 40, that pleasure especially comes from shopping as a social experience. Nearly 2-in-5 women under 40 (including a majority of Gen Zers) say they’re looking forward to shopping with friends and family again, while one in three under age 40 say that they look forward to pairing shopping with another fun activity.
Overall, two-thirds of women agree that they’re ready to “splurge on things and experiences that bring me joy.” And 44% of millennial and Gen Z women strongly agree with the notion that they want to “shop to make up for missed time.” No surprise: Many have climbed the economic ladder for the last two years but have not been able to translate that success into the simple pleasure of a shopping spree. The holidays are a great time to reverse that.
Make it a new experience
In many respects, we’ve been stuck in a societal cul-de-sac since March 2020. Women—millennials and Gen Zers especially—want to escape those doldrums. In our recent survey, nearly half (47%) agree that “everything looks outdated to me … so I’m looking forward to seeking new experiences.”
Women are ready to emerge from behind their screens and out of their houses, to have fun with friends. Stores need to remake the shopping experience to give them a place to do so—and not just by redecorating showrooms (although that is a good start—27% of women under 40 say that an aesthetically pleasing design would make them more likely to go to a store in person). Leaders can start by cribbing from e-commerce: 28% of millennials and Gen Zers cite instant check-out, for example, as something that would draw them to a store. These women also increasingly listen to external influencers regarding shopping. For example, social media microinfluencers (those with more than 1,000 but fewer than 10,000 followers) and subject-matter experts are the most trusted regarding product recommendations. Stores should cultivate these validators.
Finally, they should lean into in-person experiences. The two most important ways stores can appeal to women, according to our survey, fall into that category: friendly sales experts (29%) and food and beverage offerings (29%). Online bots and recommendation algorithms can’t replace human interaction, after all.
Prominently display your values
Women are spending with new purpose and intentionality. More than 7 in 10 Gen Zers and millennials say they are trying to shop at local businesses more often after seeing them struggle or shutter during the pandemic-driven economic crash. So, 39% of millennials and 43% of Gen Z women say they want to spend their money with companies that support small businesses. Similarly, more than two in five women under 40 say they want to buy from companies that use a percentage of their profits to help the local community.
Perhaps mindful of front-line retail workers who didn’t have the luxury of locking down during the pandemic, the women we surveyed are most interested in how companies treat their employees. Half of all Gen Z women (and 44% of millennial women) want to shop at places that treat their staffs well. Strikingly, 47% of Gen Z and 44% of millennial women say they will not support retailers that make their employees work on holidays. These sentiments explain Target’s announcement that it would no longer open its stores on Thanksgiving and Macy’s decision to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour. Other stores should follow suit.
The bottom line is that this holiday season may be a unique opportunity to reintroduce stores to the rising generations of shoppers. They can seize it—or risk becoming ghosts of shopping seasons past.
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