The winter holiday shopping season in the U.S. remains the most important time of the year for many retailers, but what key holiday shopping trends will define the season this year? After all, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and overall economic uncertainty, the holiday season will look very different this year.
To prognosticate on what the future may hold, let’s look to the recent past. We surveyed over 1,500 Americans this summer to see how their summer holiday shopping differed this year. Based on what we uncovered in July around American Independence Day, back to school and overall summer shopping trends, we can see what the future may hold in store.
Here are our four main predictions.
1) Holiday Shoppers are Ready to Spend
People are still likely going to spend a lot, despite the current state of the economy. For example, over half (54%) said they spent more on household goods this summer than they did in 2019, with just 18% saying they were spending less than before. Also, women and households with kids outspent their peers over the summer.
Interestingly, this rise in spending wasn’t directly correlated with COVID-specific purchases. Many consumers reporting spending more on games, picnics and analog school supplies like notebooks.
In our mind, this shows how summer spending habits have actually remained relatively stable. Not only will consumers willing to spend more even considering the state of the world, but they were buying the same kinds of things they were buying in 2019, 2018, etc.
For retailers, that means that their best sellers from the 2019 holiday shopping season may be their best sellers in 2020. In short, expect some level of continuity.
What This Means for Retailers: Don’t skimp on marketing, as it’s still critical to try to capture consumer spending during this critical time of the year. Even though 2020 has been an abnormal year, consumers are still ready to open up their wallets. Marketing and advertising can ensure that brands and retailers stay top of mind for consumers as they complete their holiday shopping.
2) Retail Mobile App Adoption for Buying Online is On the Rise
Mobile – and specifically mobile apps – are becoming an increasingly popular way for consumers to learn about new products, compare prices and buy. In fact, retail mobile app adoption rose 5% per week on average throughout the summer, according to our analysis.
This is hardly surprising, as m-commerce has been growing for some time. And, it even aligns with what our survey on Black Friday shopping habits found last year.
What This Means for Retailers: There are a lot of advantages to be had by luring consumers to use first-party apps. By ensuring that shopping occurs on owned-and-operated properties, retailers gain a direct line of communication and unique knowledge on their consumers and their preferences.
To increase app adoption, lean into in-app advertising. Work with a proven user acquisition partner to get quality app installs.
In addition, app-centered promos work! Consider baking a promo (like free shipping) into your in-app messaging strategy. This exact strategy worked wonders for CVS this summer; their “Extra Thanks” appreciation event, which included app-only promos, helped them receive more daily app installs than rival Walgreens this July.
3) Expect Noteworthy Foot Traffic This Holiday Season
Even as e-commerce and m-commerce grow, brick and mortar shopping isn't going away. For many shopping trips, consumers still prefer to buy in person – even during a pandemic.
Over the summer, our research found that the majority of consumers opted to buy everything from camping gear and school supplies to kitchen supplies and swimming-related items like sunscreen and kiddie pools in person. Even though all of these items could have easily been bought online, consumers still preferred in to the in-store experience in many instances.
How will this specifically translate over the holidays? It’s important to note that even when not shopping for staples or last-minute items, consumers bought in person. Research is still likely happening online/on mobile devices, but the final purchase is still going to happen at a brick-and-mortar store in many instances this holiday season.
What This Means for Retailers: Location-based targeting and advertising can and should be deployed this holiday season. Consumers are still likely to be out and about, and location targeting can ensure that they know where the nearest relevant shopping option is located and that the right peope are exposed to marketing messaging.
The call to action in a mobile in-app ads, for example, should highlight in-person shopping experience, and can include maps or coupons that can only be used in store. This can be especially fruitful when marketing stocking stuffers or other smaller purchase items (i.e. the kinds of things consumers are most likely to buy in person).
When it comes to messaging, bridging the gap from online to in person shopping is important. Highlight convenience, availability and other key in-person shopping motivators – especially for the shoppers that engage online before buying in store.
4) E-Commerce is Growing in Specific Categories
In many instances, consumers this summer displayed a clear preference for online shopping. For one, online-first or online-heavy categories like games were more likely to be bought online (71%) as compared to in person (29%). Expect to see similar trends in these kinds of entertainment categories this winter.
Many clothing purchases will happen online as well. Around half (49%) said they bought swim apparel online this summer, and it’s feasible to expect a similar breakdown for wintery clothing items like jackets, sweaters and socks come November and December.
In addition, bulkier items like widescreen television sets may be more likely to be purchases online as opposed to in store. For example, 58% said they bought fitness equipment online for delivery this summer, with only 30% bought these items in store. Of course, it makes sense that many consumers would rather have someone else carry heavy items into their homes for them.
What This Means for Retailers: E-commerce continues to play a larger role consumer's shopping journey, regardless of point of sale. In particular, many consumers will be checking prices and reading reviews posted on e-commerce channels even if they make a purchase in person.
It’s key to note that what consumers are shopping for will often dictate how they buy. In certain key categories, expect e-commerce to dominate this holiday season.
For brands and retailers, either drive them directly to a preferred e-commerce portal. If this is not an option, then capture their information with mid-funnel prospecting (this is especially beneficial for consumers who discover items through mobile but feel more comfortable making the final purchase through a desktop or laptop.)
How Retailers Can Reach Mobile-First Audiences
It’s important for retailers to note that their audiences are on mobile even if they are not. The average adult spends over four hours a day using mobile, which is more time than Americans spend watching TV. And, close to 90% of all time spent on mobile is spent using apps (50% of all app time is spent using non-Walled Garden apps). This means that retailers need to embrace mobile and in-app advertising to reach their target consumers.
Using mobile-led insights app ownership and income levels, among other signifiers, retailers can be sure their in-app advertising efforts are solely targeted at the consumers with the greatest propensity to spend with them during the holiday shopping season. By combining high quality mobile ad creatives with unique audience intelligence, retailers can be sure their mobile advertising campaigns reach the right consumers with the right messaging this holiday season.