Noam Galai/Getty ImagesHilding Anderson is the head of retail strategy for North America at Publicis Sapient. He says big retailers like Walmart, Costco, and Target are poised to win big this holiday season. Unlike small businesses, they've been able to meet to consumer demands amid supply chain issues.
This holiday shopping season is shaping up to be one of the strongest we've seen in more than two decades. Yet with this growth, we're seeing a major set of challenges across the supply chain as retailers struggle to get the products they need to sell.Hilding Anderson.
Many large retailers, however, are particularly well-situated to have a privileged position in this landscape. For example, in an effort to beat pandemic-induced shipping delays and port bottlenecks, big retailers like Costco, Home Depot, and Target, are taking matters into their own hands and hiring private cargo vessels to keep up with increasing consumer demand amid supply chain issues.
The big players are on track to get even bigger this holiday season. Here are four ways that the biggest retailers are pulling ahead amid changing shopping habits and continuing supply chain chaos.
They can meet customer demand
A recent survey from Publicis Sapient, the digital consulting agency where I work, found that 61% of US consumers are concerned that they will not receive their items purchased online during Black Friday through Cyber Monday weekend in time for Christmas.
But large retailers have more inventory and more ability to influence their suppliers in order to get privileged access. For example, Walmart penalizes suppliers who don't fill at least 98% of each order on time. Their breadth of physical store locations also means they provide curbside pickup to a large portion of the country after the shipping cutoffs and maximize their profits even before that point.
Port congestion and increasing consumer demand for products has doubled the time it takes to get a cargo ship from Asia to North America. Yet larger companies have the resources to charter private ships, which cost many times more than standard services. In addition, many of the largest retailers were able to pre-order back in the spring to make sure items could be in stores for the holidays.
They can cater to price concerns
Another key concern this year for customers is price: Our recent study found that 76% of US consumers will go for the best deal rather than sticking with retailers they know. And this is on top of other new behaviors that have emerged during the COVID-19 period, including increased consumer willingness to try more private-label brands and switch brands.
Consumer confidence has also dropped as inflation continues to increase, shoppers' money isn't going to go as far, and the days of COVID-19 stimulus checks seem long gone. The result will be that many customers will return their focus to needs over wants and buy based on price rather than brand loyalty. Again, this bodes best for the biggest retailers, who will likely need to pass on less of the increased shipping costs to consumers.
They can embrace the hybrid model
Although people are shopping online in record numbers, our survey found that more than 50% of US consumers like to check out products in-store before ordering them online. We also see that many customers who shop online but opt for in-store pickup end up buying additional items in person.
This is an indication of the increasingly hybrid nature of retail, which is also a space where the biggest players are leading the way. This became obvious when online-shopping pioneer Amazon announced plans to launch physical department stores. Supply chain issues are pushing more customers to embrace this hybrid model, as in-person shopping may be another way to avoid shipping delays and search for items that appeared out-of-stock online.
They can lure the best workers
More than one-third of retailers are struggling to hire in-store staff, while more than half are struggling to hire enough warehouse workers, according to a Korn Ferry survey. Although this pressure goes across the sector, the largest players are pulling ahead by offering perks like hiring bonuses and college tuition — even to seasonal workers. Not only do these benefits help draw workers, but they help retain them as well.
Employee perks, like the other trends, are only poised to grow as these biggest players, armed with the most money and resources, increasingly compete with one another this holiday season and beyond and become even bigger.
For a long time, it seemed that smaller companies that were digital natives would eventually take market share from the older giants, like Walmart and Costco. But the pandemic and supply chain challenges have made that difficult for the small players. It's become clear that the largest retailers are more nimble and can adapt to change.
And as many of the pandemic-induced challenges go one, consumers will continue to go to the retailers with the best prices and most stocked shelves. It's a situation worth watching as the retail industry figures out how to adapt for the future.
Hilding Anderson is the vice president and head of retail strategy in North America at digital consultancy Publicis Sapient. He works with Fortune 500 companies and top global retailers to advise them on digital business transformation and how to drive higher performance in the changing digital landscape.