Now that our most recent holiday shopping season is over, we saw that shoppers worldwide are finding new ways to purchase gifts for loved ones. While in-person purchasing remains a popular option, many consumers have chosen to complete their shopping online, causing retailers to adapt to the changing landscape.
An Aerial View of the Holiday Shopping Landscape
Despite financial concerns and recent economic downturns, holiday retail trends indicate many U.S. consumers are excited to spend for themselves and others. Taking advantage of the festive shopping excitement can benefit the products you’re pushing for the season. Consumers approach all ways of shopping, from in-person shopping to online browsing, to find the best gifts for their loved ones.
E-commerce continues to grow. During the 2022 holiday season, e-commerce sales grew 3.5% year over year, reaching $211.7 billion in sales. The growth in online sales continues to be a part of the shopping landscape for holiday shoppers.
Holiday Consumer Shopping Habits
Understanding consumer shopping habits during the holidays can also help you determine marketing practices that entice shoppers to your products. While people shop year-round, shopping during the holidays differs because consumers often get special gifts for their loved ones. Many times, holiday shopping habits depend on the state of the economy.
Shoppers looking for specific qualities in their shopping experiences develop habits based on their needs.
Excitement vs. Economic Doubt
Though the state of the economy has increased concerns, consumers remain optimistic about shopping prospects during the holidays. The 2022 season saw a 21% increase in optimism for holiday shopping among low- to medium-income consumers. Optimism also increased over generations, with the rate doubling for baby boomers and younger demographics like Generation Z being some of the most excited shoppers.
Even if the economy isn’t at its peak, people still try to buy a few gifts for their loved ones. That didn’t change for the 2022 season. Despite cautions about spending, consumers continued to buy presents — albeit a bit slower compared to past seasons, as they waited for discounts on specific items.
Shopping Starts Early
U.S. consumers are starting to shop for the holidays earlier and earlier as the years go on. While Thanksgiving and Black Friday have been the standard start of the holiday shopping craze, consumers are starting even earlier. According to a survey of U.S. consumers, 56% started their holiday shopping in October.
Many are shopping early to try and get ahead of potential supply chain issues or inflation. Shopping earlier helps consumers feel peace of mind knowing their presents will arrive on time. Many Black Friday and holiday sales started early in 2022, making shopping ahead of time much easier.
Value Is Key
Value also plays a significant role in consumers buying products. Given the economic circumstances, many are looking for gifts that allow them to remain wise and economical about spending. Almost half of U.S. shoppers surveyed said they would switch stores if they found an item they wanted for a lower price.
Travel Is Back
With COVID-19 restrictions lessened, holiday traveling is back. At least 12% of people planned to travel to family and friends again, potentially increasing physical store visits. Of the U.S. consumers surveyed, 42% said they planned to shop in person. The openness to shopping in person benefits companies using impressive displays to sell their products.
Social Media Drives Gen Z Purchases
Many shopping campaigns have focused on building an online presence — and with good reason. Social media is a significant influence in Gen Z’s lives. In the 2022 holiday season, 87% of Gen Z shoppers expected social media to inspire their gift purchases. Consumers may be more inclined to purchase a product online or in-store after seeing its branding on their social platforms.
In terms of traffic, social media marketing tactics paid off during the 2022 holiday season, with a 23% year-over-year increase in product referrals from social channels. Online advertisements also led to a rise in mobile orders.
Human Touch Still Matters
Holiday retail predictions also focus on the preference for human interactions while shopping. According to a consumer study, most people prefer speaking to a live agent rather than an automated entity. People enjoy engaging with other shoppers, especially during the holidays, because of the collective festivity often felt by others.
Consumers’ Biggest Holiday Concerns and Priorities
Holiday retail trends also show in consumers’ concerns and priorities. Shoppers want to ensure they receive the items they’re looking for in time for their holiday celebrations.
Some of the biggest concerns include the following:
- Lack of product availability
- Shipping time
- Rising prices
To ensure they make the most of their holiday shopping, consumers focus on priorities like:
- Great value
- Early promotions and sales
Trends to Consider
The 2020 shopping season was unlike any other, and many of the trends established during this time are here to stay for holiday shoppers. With 73% of retail executives expecting a big shopping season this year, staying on top of these holiday shopping trends is the best way to ensure success.
Online Shopping Is More Important Than Ever
E-commerce sales saw an increase in 2020 and accounted for 19% of all retail sales. While most retail stores had reopened with added safety measures by the end of 2020, many consumers still chose to complete all or most of their holiday shopping online. Online retail sales reached their highest point yet in December 2020, leading many retailers to wonder if this trend would continue.
The answer came quickly in July 2021, as e-commerce sales rose higher than pre-pandemic levels. As COVID-19 cases force local economies to close and reopen, many shoppers may choose to complete their shopping online again this holiday season. Many retail executives predict online sales to grow by 11 to 15% this holiday season, with consumers spending as much as $226 billion on online shopping alone.
In local economies with a stable COVID-19 situation, consumers may do a mix of online and in-store shopping. Curbside pickup and mobile shopping continue to be essential for many shoppers after a 208% year-over-year growth in 2020.
Shopping Early Is Key
The primary concern for many consumers is whether their gift will arrive on time. Out-of-stock products saw a 172% surge from pre-pandemic levels, with many shoppers unable to find the products they need when they need them. Various supply chain issues throughout 2021 have affected shoppers, causing 64% of consumers to worry about not receiving inventory on time.
Due to over 75% of shoppers feeling concerned about physical and online stores being out of stock, holiday shopping may begin early this year. 68% of shoppers plan to start shopping before Thanksgiving to avoid crowds and supply issues.
The Biggest Holiday Consumer Trend This Year: Convenience
The most significant factor that will affect many purchasing decisions this holiday season is convenience. Shoppers will be asking retailers:
- Can I order a product or service online whenever and however I want?
- Can I pick up the product in-store at a convenient time for me?
- Can I reserve the product in-store and have it waiting for me?
- Can I have the product delivered immediately?
- Can I return my product with a simple collection service or bring the product back to the store and have a replacement waiting for me?
Retailers that pay special attention to these factors will be in a better position for growth during the holiday season.
How to Appeal to Holiday Shoppers in 2023 and Beyond
Get ahead of competitors by implementing tactics that help your products appeal to shoppers. To make your company’s products and services more appealing for the 2023 holiday season, you could:
- Start marketing early: Start holiday marketing campaigns in October rather than the end of November to get a head start on advertising. Impressive and eye-catching displays in stores can help get shoppers thinking about their holiday gifts.
- Offer price matching: Shoppers love getting deals for the items they purchase, and price matching is a great way to help them feel like they’re getting a better value.
- Leverage social media: With more people spending time shopping and discovering items online, leveraging social media for your campaigns and sales could benefit your company. Social media can aid in brand awareness and get people talking about what you have to offer.
Additionally, think of the other services you could market. As inflation and the economy change, more consumers are shifting gears in their shopping behaviors. Many are focusing on buying experiences rather than concrete gifts. Appealing to consumers in 2023 and beyond will require diverse ideas and interesting marketing strategies.
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