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New FullStory Survey Illuminates the Role of Digital Shopping Amidst Holiday Shortages and Delays

Survey of 1,600 U.S. consumers reveals Americans overwhelmingly feel that in-store shopping is on the decline — requiring digital experience to be the bright spot heading into holidays

Retailers and consumers are preparing for a holiday season marked by staffing challenges, inventory shortages and pricing concerns. According to Bain & Company, holiday 2021 is already shaping up to be “the most unpredictable holiday season in recent years, surpassing even 2020’s record levels of uncertainty.”

FullStory, the market and technology leader in Digital Experience Intelligence (DXI), today announced the results of a new study that details consumer challenges, preferences and sentiment around holiday shopping. The study of 1,600 U.S. consumers reveals shoppers have already experienced an array of in-store challenges, including out of stock items and sizes (59%), a scarcity of staff to help in stores (50%) and inadequate COVID precautions (41%). In fact, 46% of consumers say shopping in the store is worse than it was prior to the pandemic, and a mere 12% say the experience has improved.

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In contrast, consumers give digital retail a much higher grade, with 88% saying online experiences are “as good or better” than they were before the pandemic. Nearly a third (32%) say digital experience has improved, while just 12% say it’s worse. The study also indicates that given inevitable shortages and disruptions, it’s even more crucial that digital experiences are flawless, as many shoppers (30%) find site and shopping cart glitches more frustrating during the holiday than any other time of the year.

“Consumers are relying more than ever on the digital experience to power them through the holiday season, but the combination of high expectations and site performance issues can lead to disappointment and lost opportunities for retailers,” said Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, Chief Marketing Officer of FullStory. “Product shortages and shipping delays will inevitably be a reality this holiday, so retailers who emerge as winners are the ones who will be able to quickly learn, adapt and improve digital experience to meet changing conditions and behavior.”

Additional survey findings include:

Amazon is synonymous with holiday shopping

Amazon is the go-to retailer again this holiday and sets a high bar for other retailers.

  • Four in five (80%) of shoppers will start searching for gifts on Amazon. A distant second are retailers’ own sites (50%), followed by Google (36%).
  • Only slightly more than 1 in 10 shoppers will start looking for gifts on Facebook (12%) or Instagram (10%), but nearly 1 in 5 (18%) will begin their gift search on Etsy.
  • As items become out of stock, real-time capabilities will be imperative to manage experiences. Consumers want retailers to show them similar items in stock (66%), flag out-of-stock items before reaching the online shopping cart (60%), notify them when items are available again (51%) and scrub those items from promotions and search results on the fly (43%).

Digital frustrations derail shoppers

Overall, 31% of shoppers are planning to do more holiday shopping online this year than in 2020. Even as consumers rely on digital more than ever, hurdles on the path to purchase can damage retailers’ reputations and revenue.

  • Three in 10 (30%) of respondents say site glitches and issues are more frustrating during the holidays than at other times of the year, compared with just 7% who are more tolerant of site problems during the peak season.
  • More than half of consumers (55%) aren’t likely to shop again with a retailer who provides a frustrating or poor digital experience. In addition, FullStory previously found that 77% will abandon a transaction when they experience an issue.
  • Consumers’ biggest digital frustrations: the shopping cart won’t complete a transaction (37%) or accept a gift code (36%), and pages that fail to load, time out or deliver a site error (34%).

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Improving mobile basics is a must

The ultra-convenience of shopping anywhere on a phone is soaring in popularity, despite frustration over technical difficulties that plague mobile experiences.

  • 1 in 3 shoppers (34%) say phones are their primary online shopping channel, and nearly 6 in 10 (58%) say at least half of their online shopping is conducted on their phones.
  • However, consumers say phones are more prone to online shopping glitches; nearly half of shoppers (46%) say they run into fewer issues when using a computer versus a phone.
  • Basic site problems are more common for shoppers who use mobile for most of their shopping. The mobile-first shoppers are more likely to experience pages that fail to load (42% vs 35% of overall respondents) and difficulty in finding information on products or sizes (41% vs 35%).

“Retailers need to be aware that their customers don’t have more empathy around the holidays,” continued Newbold-Knipp. “Consumers expect retailers to have holiday shopping figured out, so brands who layer online and mobile glitches on top of product shortages and shipping delays will end up with unhappy customers. Given that shoppers are unlikely to give retailers a second chance after a negative digital experience, companies should do all they can to proactively detect and rectify problems ahead of the holiday season.”


FullStory conducted an online survey of more than 1,600 American consumers in September 2021.

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