The holiday shopping rush will begin next week in earnest and, as they do every year, retailers are hoping that the most important season will be good to them.

While online channels have grown increasingly important in recent years, historically, the name of the game for retailers has been to get as many people lining up outside of stores at insane hours in anticipation of deals that await them when the doors open. 

But times are changing. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), fewer holiday bargain hunters will venture out on Black Friday and subsequent weekend. All told, the NRF expects 147m Americans to leave their homes for the mall next week, down from 152m in 2012.

In-store still trumps online, for now

While that may seem like a relatively modest decrease, it is indicative of a trend: more and more consumers are choosing digital convenience over brick-and-mortar deals. As the Wall Street Journal notes, some 40% of the $52.4bn consumers in the U.S. spent last year during the Black Friday weekend was generated online, and retailers are obviously taking note.

While a BDO survey of retailers found that more than half will offer juicier deals to their brick-and-mortar customers, a substantial number (44%) also say that they’re treating their online and online efforts equally. That number will almost certainly continue to rise, particularly as more and more retailers decide that the pay off of a sensible omni-channel strategy justifies the required investment.

Convenience and instant gratification

When it comes to omni-channel strategy, it’s apparent that retailers are figuring out that the competing online-offline value propositions of convenience and instant gratification don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Sears, for instance, is looking to alleviate the stress and chaos often associated with the holiday’s most desirable deals by giving select customers the ability to purchase some of its door buster deals online starting this weekend; those customers can then pick their purchased up in-store without worry of missing out — or being caught in a mad dash.

Expect such arrangements to become the norm in coming years, with the most creative and accommodating retailers benefitting from both higher sales and happier customers.