In brief

In brief

  • New research from Accenture—the 14th Annual Holiday Shopping Survey—suggests the US holiday season 2020 will be very different from past years.
  • More than ever, retailers need to be true to their purpose, demonstrating a genuine commitment to social responsibility, especially their employees.
  • Consumer expectations remain high, and retailers must increase efforts to enhance digital commerce, while shoring up supply chain resilience.
  • Retailers that combine operational agility and data analytics with social responsibility will be best placed to thrive during holiday and beyond.

Retailers need to show their sensitive sides

It has been a challenging year for the retail industry. And with economic and healthcare uncertainty ongoing, overall holiday spend is expected to be lower this season, even as the share of ecommerce rises.

Accenture’s 14th Annual Holiday Shopping Survey of 1,500 US shoppers shows that two in every five shoppers plan to spend less than they did last holidays. It means retailers will need to be exceptionally thoughtful in how they win over a cautious and cost-conscious customer base.

Emphasizing their responsible side will also be vital to retailers. The 2020 survey shows that consumers want retailers to be authentic to their brand purpose and demonstrate sensitivity and care towards employees and communities.

"2020 is shaping up to be a very 'human' holiday season for consumers, with a desire to support the people who have served our communities. Now is the time for retailers to be authentic to their purpose and transparent about how they treat employees."

— JILL STANDISH, Senior Managing Director – Global Lead, Retail​

Consumers have seen the essential public service role retail workers have performed during the pandemic—and they’re watching carefully how retailers are treating them. Three in four consumers support retailers closing on Thanksgiving, with many citing the need to give workers a well-deserved day off to spend with their families, and three in five plan to minimize in-store shopping to reduce health risks to front-line workers.


of consumers want retailers to close on Thanksgiving to give workers a day off or to spend the day with their families.


of consumers plan to minimize in-store shopping to reduce health risks to essential/retail workers.


of consumers would be inspired to shop with a retailer that supported their staff and customers during the crisis.


of consumers say they won’t shop with retailers that have laid off staff or reduced benefits because of the pandemic.

Retailers need to stress test ecommerce supply chains

The ecommerce surge seen throughout the pandemic is almost certain to continue through the holidays—and quite possibly indefinitely. Three-quarters (75 percent) of consumers say they’ll do at least some of their holiday shopping online this year (up from 65 percent last year), meanwhile almost half (43 percent) plan to shop exclusively online.

"Retailers need to ensure their ecommerce capabilities are up to the task, with detailed visibility into demand changes and inventory—and a laser focus on seamless experiences and fulfillment efficiency."

— BROOKS KITCHEL, Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Retail

To manage this extra digital demand and avoid supply chain issues hitting an already challenging holiday period, retailers need to ensure their supply networks (and those of their partners) are as agile and flexible as possible.

Fulfillment to the home will be key to this. Over three-quarters of shoppers still want their purchases delivered directly to their homes, with just a fraction of shoppers willing to pick up in store, curbside or use contactless, such as a locker. And consumers’ patience, seen early in the pandemic, is waning. More than half of those surveyed (56 percent) said they won’t shop with a retailer again following an unsatisfactory delivery experience.


of consumers want online purchases delivered to their home.


of consumers say they won’t shop with a retailer following an unsatisfactory delivery experience.

On top of this, consumers have become accustomed in recent years to shopping online for the holidays right up to the eleventh hour. The race is on to ensure supply chains can meet this intense digital demand over the peak period. Getting consumers to shop earlier will be key. Three in ten say they’ll do so this year, but retailers need to encourage the rest to follow suit.

Retailers need to navigate with data

There’s no escaping the fact that COVID-19 has clouded the horizon for retailers. To guide the business through uncertainty, the right digital capabilities built on the cloud are now essential. Real time visibility into inventory, hyper-localized demand analytics based on machine learning, flexible and agile supply chains and fulfillment capabilities, for example, have quickly gone from future aspirations to vital requirements.

Those retailers who have, or can build, those capabilities—and combine them with a demonstrable commitment to social responsibility and employee wellbeing—will likely be best positioned to connect with customers in this most unusual of peak seasons.

That’s how to navigate uncertainty and thrive through the holidays and beyond.

Jill Standish

Senior Managing Director – Global Lead, Retail

Brooks Kitchel

Senior Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Retail


COVID-19: New habits are here to stay for retail consumers
Holiday season 2020—How can retailers prepare?
Seize the moment—Responsible and resilient retail

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