How’s your holiday shopping going?

If you’re a thoughtful marketer, that’s the first question you’ll ask yourself to gauge the effectiveness of your company’s 2017 seasonal efforts. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll discover brand experience plays an increasingly important role in where, when, and how you shop.

Physical Retail: Relevant, Profitable

While there’s no denying the allure of online shopping, retailers can draw more customers to physical stores by promoting events, personal shopping, and exclusive discounts.

In fact, preliminary data shows “physical retail is still highly relevant and, when done right, profitable,” according to Brian Field, senior director of advisory services for ShopperTrak, a provider of location-based analytics.

The key: Balance.

Consumers have a finite amount of money to spend, so it doesn’t pay for brick-and-mortar stores to stay open around the clock, including holidays.

However, they do have to offer exceptional experiences during the hours they are open. That means having everything from sufficient inventory and friendly, well-trained salespeople to “extras,” from complimentary refreshments to charging and rest stations.

Thanksgiving & Black Friday Sales

Before we had time to put away the Thanksgiving turkey, we felt the weight of advertised sales and specials.

US retailers generated a record $7.9 billion in online sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, up 17.9 percent from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures transactions at the largest 100 US web retailers.

But there was a difference this year: While online shopping boomed even on Thanksgiving, many brick-and-mortar retailers opted out of holiday night shopping. “Shoppers will still flock to physical stores on Black Friday to score a good deal, or as part of their tradition, but, many consumers no longer feel compelled to shop in stores on Thanksgiving Day,” Field noted in a release.

For the second year in a row, Black Friday brick-and-mortar retail traffic held steady year-over-year (YoY), ShopperTrak reports. Its data shows Black Friday in-store traffic slipped less than 1 percent between 2016 and 2017.

I’m a proud member of team #OptOutside, so I personally didn’t shop at all on Black Friday.

But REI, which first championed the concept in 2015, again grabbed my attention by closing its stores and giving its employees a paid day off on Black Friday. Talk about building strong brand experience.

Cyber Monday Booms

If you thought everyone in your office was really busy the Monday after Thanksgiving, they probably were … shopping.

Adobe expects Cyber Monday 2017 to hit $6.59 billion, a new record as the largest online sales day in history. This marks at least a 16.8 percent YoY increase, according to preliminary data.

The holiday shopping season so far, which kicked off Nov. 1, drove a total of $50 billion in online revenue, a 16.8 percent increase. Adobe predicts this will be the first-ever holiday season to break $100 billion in online sales.

In-Store Experiences

I did my part on Cyber Monday, snapping up bargains for family, friends, and myself. But I’m not abandoning physical stores, especially local ones.

This Friday, my small town of Beaufort, SC offers a Holiday Night on the Town. The businesses stay open late, and the main street is closed to traffic. The stores lure customers with refreshments and entertainment by local choirs and dance groups, and unique items are given a prominent display.

If you could bottle the holidays, it would feel like this.

Omnichannel Experience Fail

It’s the antithesis of the feeling I get when force myself into a retail supercenter, where I always leave feeling oddly unsettled. And here’s why: There’s a totally fragmented brand experience.

Take this example. A woman asked a sales clerk why a Christmas tree was $20 less online than in the store. The salesclerk shrugged. When asked if the store would price match, the clerk said, “No.”

As the clerk walked away, I asked the woman what she planned to do. “I’m ordering it online for in-store pickup — and saving $20,” she explained.

Remember this whenever anyone asks why it’s important to have omnichannel brand experience. Because customers will walk away from even the biggest stores when they feel mistreated.

Customers have options, in-store and online. And they are not afraid to use them.