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2021 Holiday Shopping: A Review

Team InMobi
5 min read
Posted on January 25, 2022

Now that the 2021 holiday shopping season is over, how did consumers in the U.S. actually shop? To find out, we surveyed close to 1,600 adults in the U.S. using InMobi Pulse, InMobi’s mobile market research solution, during the second week of January this year. Here’s what we uncovered. 

Top 5 Findings: 

  1. Just 28% of those between the ages of 18 and 24 said they shopped in store this holiday season. 
  2. Close to half of consumers between 18 and 24 years old have downloaded or used a retailer’s mobile app to access exclusive loyalty member benefits. 
  3. Around two-thirds of consumers said they expect to make a purchase using a mobile device in the next three months. 
  4. 33% of consumers use mobile to make purchases at least once a month, while 25% shop through mobile once a week or more frequently. 
  5. 55% will use apps to access and use loyalty programs in 2022. 

The Role of Loyalty Programs in the 2021 Holiday Shopping Season 

For many brands and retailers, declining consumer loyalty has been top of mind. As a result of the pandemic, according to McKinsey, 73% of customers in the U.S. say they have new shopping habits. 

In this environment, many brands and retailers heavily promoted their customer loyalty programs to help boost sales this holiday season. How are consumers reacting though? 

According to our research, 38% say they are not enrolled in any brand loyalty program. The programs that are most popular with Americans include Amazon Prime (31%), Walmart+ (15%) and Target’s Circle Rewards program (11%). 

Further, 41% said they have downloaded or used a retailer’s mobile app to access exclusive loyalty member benefits. But for those between the ages of 18 and 24, that figure jumps to 49%. Additionally, 41% used a retailer’s loyalty program, discounts or points when purchasing 2021 holiday gifts. 

Ultimately, loyalty was key for drive mobile purchases. The research found that 40% of loyalty program members purchased gifts through mobile, either through apps and/or mobile websites. In comparison, just 15% of those not enrolled in loyalty programs bought using a mobile device. 

Using Loyalty Programs in 2022 

These loyalty programs will be especially popular in 2022, however. Overall, 61% said they will continue to use loyalty programs this year.  

How will Americans access and use these loyalty programs in the future? According to our research, 55% said they will use a mobile app, while 44% will use them in store and 39% will use a computer (such as a laptop or desktop). 

How Did Consumers Buy This Past Holiday Season? 

We also wanted to look at how the Omicron variant affected consumer shopping habits this holiday season, and whether consumers embraced digital-first shopping options. 

Overall, 42% said they shopped in person in stores this past year. But there was a stark generational divide at play: while 47% of those over 54 said they shopped in stores, just 28% of those between 18 and 24 years old said the same thing. 

According to our research, 30% shopped for gifts via mobile website or app. Among the 18-to-24 cohort, mobile apps specifically were the most-used digital shopping channel. 

Interestingly, many of these app shoppers were first-time users of this channel. Although the majority of (56%) holiday shoppers said they didn’t buy gifts differently this holiday season than in years past, 55% of app shoppers said they did buy gifts differently in 2021. 

Still, it’s hardly surprising to see many consumers turn to mobile. After all, it’s the most popular media source for Americans today, according to eMarketer. According to our research, 33% of consumers use mobile to make purchases at least once a month, while 25% shop through mobile once a week or more frequently. 

What Did Consumers Buy This Year? 

According to recent estimates from both Salesforce and Adobe this year, U.S. holiday sales were well above $200 billion in 2021. So what specifically were Americans buying? 

Overall, according to our research, 43% said they bought apparel this holiday season. Other popular options included toys (37%), gift cards (34%), home goods (33%), home electronics (26%) and jewelry (19%). 

It is interesting to see gift cards being such a popular option this year. It was especially in-demand with women (37%) and adults over the age of 54 (45%). And, 28% of gift card purchasers used mobile apps in their gift shopping.  

Were gift cards a top holiday shopping option due to supply chain concerns? Not quite, as just 8% of gift card purchasers said they bought one because items they wanted to buy were out of stock. Top reasons for purchasing a gift card included because they didn’t know what to buy (31%) or because it was convenient to buy online (22%). 

Top Retailers Consumers Shopped With 

  • For apparel: TJ Maxx (16%), Macy’s (16%), Dick’s Sporting Goods (13%), Nordstrom (8%) 
  • For home electronics: Amazon (58%), Walmart (45%), Best Buy (32%), Target (26%) 
  • For toys: Walmart (58%), Target (33%), Dollar General (14%) 
  • For home goods: Walmart (46%), Amazon (44%), Target (26%), Kohl’s (18%) 

What To Expect With The 2022 Holiday Shopping Season 

The biggest question mark at this stage is if the 2022 holiday shopping season will look like the 2021 holiday season at all. Hopefully, the pandemic will have subsided by October and November, and that labor and supply chain issues will no longer be as prevalent. 

But one thing to expect is the continued use of digital shopping methods going forward, especially with younger consumers. While many of these convenience-focused options were either introduced or rose in popularity because of the pandemic, expect these choices to stick around and be well used in 2022. For example, around two-thirds of consumers said they expect to make a purchase using a mobile device in the next three months. 

Make sure your 2022 holiday campaigns (and your always-on campaigns throughout the year) are providing the most value to your top audiences. Reach out today to learn more about how InMobi can help you win on mobile

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