First Insight Survey Finds Significant Disconnect Between Senior Retail Executives and Consumers on Holiday Shopping

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Retail executives not aligned with consumers on online and in-store shopping preferences, categories consumers plan to buy, and where they plan to buy

PITTSBURGH, PA December 7, 2020 — Senior retail executives are not keeping pace with the changing purchase behavior and preferences of consumers who prefer to shop online according to a new report by First Insight, Inc. The company, which recently surveyed consumers and senior retail executives on consumer shopping habits, purchase behavior and influences driving decisions, found that while 59 percent of consumers surveyed plan to shop online this holiday season, only 35 percent of senior retail executives believed consumers prefer to shop this way.  Additionally, only 41 percent of consumers plan to shop in a physical store, compared to a majority (59 percent) of retail executives who anticipate consumers will head in-store this holiday season. The findings were presented at the WWD CEO Summit on December 2, 2020.

“It’s clear from our data that the consumer has changed forever, but the industry doesn’t understand how much they’ve changed,” said Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight. “While the industry has always trailed consumers, and has been very good at being responsive and reactive, it’s clear that consumers love to shop online.  It’s critical that retailers and brands begin to anticipate these shifts now, including what and how consumers are buying, and where. The only effective way to do this is by tapping into the voice of consumers and building the right experiences online and in-store. The industry must stop responding and reacting to consumer behavior, and start anticipating it.”

For a deeper look at the data, download First Insight’s infographic here. Additional findings include:

  • Consumers Less Likely to Buy Beauty, Home and Luxury than Retail Executives Believe - All or nearly all executives believe consumers plan to buy beauty (100 percent), home décor (97 percent), home improvement (95 percent) and luxury (97 percent) this holiday season. However, according to the survey, 29 percent of consumers do not plan to buy beauty products, 28 percent do not plan to purchase home décor, 33 percent do not plan to buy home improvement items, and 39 percent do not plan to buy luxury.
  • Executives Not Aligned with Consumers on Where They Plan to Purchase Apparel and Footwear - Only 16 percent of senior executives believe consumers are purchasing apparel online only, compared to 31 percent of consumers who say they plan to. This compares to 8 percent of executives who believe consumers are buying apparel exclusively in-store, compared to 27 percent of consumers.

In the footwear category, only 11 percent of executives believe consumers will buy footwear online only, compared to two times more of consumers (25 percent), and while only 8 percent of executives believe consumers will buy footwear exclusively in-store, 29 percent of consumers say they will.

  • Significantly Fewer Consumers Plan to Buy Beauty Products Online than Executives Believe - While 41 percent of senior retail executives believe that consumers plan to purchase beauty products exclusively online, only 25 percent of consumer respondents agreed. However, both groups were aligned on in-store purchases of beauty products with roughly the same number of executives (22 percent) and consumers (23 percent) predicting in-store purchases only.

First Insight’s findings are based on two separate surveys. The consumer survey was based on data revealed as part of First Insight’s ongoing series of consumer sentiment studies entitled, “The Impact of Coronavirus on Consumer Purchase Decisions and Behaviors.” The findings are based on the results of U.S. consumer studies of targeted samples of more than 1,000 respondents and was fielded in November of 2020. It was completed through proprietary sample sources amongst panels who participate in online surveys. The executive survey was based on a sample of 37 retail senior-level business executives (C-suite, EVP/SVP, Vice President and Director roles), and was conducted in November 2020.

About First Insight, Inc.

First Insight is one of the world’s leading Experience Management (XM) platforms that empowers companies to significantly incorporate the Voice of the Customer into the design, pricing, planning and marketing of products and service offerings. Through the use of online consumer engagement tools, the First Insight platform gathers real-time consumer data and applies predictive analytic models to create actionable insights to power decisions which drive measurable value. Customers include some of the world's leading vertically integrated brands, sporting goods companies, department stores, consumer products companies, mass merchant retailers and wholesalers. For further information, please visit

Media Contact:
Berns Communications Group
Stacy Berns/Michael McMullan

First Insight Contact:
Gretchen Jezerc
SVP of Marketing

holiday  consumer preferences  Report  Senior Retail Executives  Holiday Shopping  Holiday Season  Consumer Survey