Just how pessimistic is the average consumer in America today? When we set out to answer this question we assumed that the outlook for your typical shopper is, well, not very good. It turns out that isn't the case.

Our hypothesis was simple: the rhythm of retail has been disrupted. Shopping seasons are, at best, a social construct, that align closer to life events than they do the changing of the seasons. Spring Break, Summer Vacation, Back to School - these shopping "seasons" have largely been canceled in 2020. Our question was - how will this affect the holiday season and have customers changed their purchasing behavior. That behavior - effectively a digital channel shift - will inform retailers of how to proceed into the later half of 2020 and beyond.

Customers are much more optimistic than we gave them credit for. In our study we found that 33% of consumers were positive about their outlook for later in the year, and another 33% were neutral. This, while bankruptcies dominate the headlines, we have record unemployment, and many millions of Americans are facing statewide shutdowns for the second time this year. For the most part, people think that they'll be in a better place come Christmas than they are right now — and if not, they can't be worse off.

We are, as the kids say, shooketh. Some interesting takeaways we had in this study were as follows:

  • We're at the beginning of a new innovation cycle. Today's political and social environment closely resembles 1968, and recognizing that will position more forward-thinking businesses to weather the storm
  • Gen Z and Younger millennials have a positive future outlook even though they're more likely to have been negatively impacted financially by COVID-19
  • Business operators are executing BFCM strategies to keep customers coming back
  • Top areas of investment for brands are customer-centric, including a deeper investment into CX (customer experience) initiatives
  • Businesses have shifted spending away from capital expenses (down 64%) and into website/eCommerce (up 61%)

There's much more to unpack. The biggest takeaway is this: times of upheaval precede ages of innovation. Retail is being reborn.

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