Every holiday shopping season holds great promise for brands and retailers, and the smart ones watch the early trend predictions and adjust accordingly—and this year (besides affordable pricing), it looks like sharpening up website performance, smoothing out the post-purchase experience, offering fast delivery, and being ready with stock early will bear the most seasonal fruit, according to a new independent survey from integration platform as a service (iPaaS) company Celigo.
The firm’s 2023 Holiday Shopping Trends Report finds that U.S. consumers expect a vastly improved holiday 2023 shopping experience over previous years, with the overwhelming majority gravitating to online retailers that can provide better deals, personalized offers, immediate delivery, greater product availability and reasonable returns policies. More price-conscious and discerning than ever, 80 percent of consumers will spend less on gifts this year with nearly 50 percent spending under $1,000.
The survey queried over 1,000 U.S. consumers nationwide about their holiday shopping priorities and destinations, price and delivery preferences, previous holiday shopping challenges, Black Friday and Cyber Monday plans and more. Results reveal consumers are increasingly embracing the convenience and product availability of online and early shopping. According to the report, 75 percent of consumers will shop online for most of their gift needs, nearly 50 percent of respondents said they will begin shopping no later than October and 26 percent of consumers say they are bypassing Black Friday entirely.
“The lingering impact of inflation and COVID has made consumers even more value-conscious and discerning about their holiday shopping experience. Therefore, retailers must be prepared to meet their demands right now,” said Mark Simon, VP of strategy at Celigo, in a news release. “Retailers can no longer deploy a generic, one-size-fits-all approach to holiday shopping. Instead, they must make more personalized, value-driven offers that target specific consumers as well as guarantee immediate delivery, in-stock merchandise and reasonable returns policies. To do this successfully, they must automate key business processes and employ more granular customer segmentation.”
Over the last few years, many shoppers say they had overall frustrating holiday-shopping experiences, especially in 2021 and 2022 as 45 percent were peeved about higher costs for in-demand products and out-of-stock merchandise, while 44 percent were angered by late deliveries. As a result, a majority (53 percent) will flock to independent retailers over giants like Amazon and Target in search of highly desirable, readily available products.
In addition to better deals and an enhanced shopping experience, the survey also uncovered other consumer priorities in 2023:
- 69 percent of shoppers expect retailers to provide more personalized offers in addition to good deals and cost savings this year.
- Consumers will forgo shopping with online retailers that do not provide fast delivery (53 percent), low or moderate prices (52 percent), customer-friendly returns policies (46 percent) or exceptional customer service (45 percent).
- Holiday shoppers of all ages value convenience over other factors such as cost and product availability: 78 percent of Baby Boomer shoppers said convenience is the number one reason they plan to shop more online. Late delivery was the top holiday shopping challenge for Gen Z and millennial shoppers, which speaks to a younger demographic more accustomed to free next-day shipping and delivery.
- More than half of Gen X and 50 percent of millennial shoppers are shopping earlier for holiday deals in September and October. Despite the long-standing tradition of door-busting Holiday sales, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are least important to Baby Boomers.
- Less than 14 percent of shoppers across all demographics are waiting until the last minute to start holiday shopping—most likely scorned by supply chain issues of years past.
“This survey data gives retailers greater insights into what shoppers truly want this Holiday season and beyond,” said Simon. “Now, they can make the right investments to automate and streamline t4eir e-commerce operations to meet these evolving expectations both now and in the future.”
Data shows retailers where to prioritize, and why
While this research identified the greater demands from shoppers who seek timely delivery, readily available products, and seamless checkout and return policies more than ever before, it also provided a valuable roadmap for retailers to address and meet these elevated expectations, including:
- Make personalized service a priority
- Meet customers where they are (especially on social media and search engines)
- Plan, forecast and manage inventory
- Make returns easy
- Boost e-commerce operations with automation
- Use AI and analytics to capture critical data insights into shopping behavior
Retailers must understand and respond to these shifting trends to effectively attract and retain customers during the peak season. By offering value-driven options, catering to diverse budget preferences, and providing a seamless shopping experience, businesses can position themselves for success this holiday season and foster long-term customer loyalty.