Shoppers are returning to stores as COVID restrictions lift across the country, but e-commerce will remain the primary way Americans complete their holiday shopping this year, according to a new survey on 2021 holiday shopping behaviors from continuous product design firm Quantum Metric. Results show that the majority of Americans (81 percent) did more than 50 percent of their 2020 holiday shopping online—and plan to purchase the same amount, if not more, of their gifts online this year.
Capturing customer insights across $77B of retail e-commerce transactions, the firm’s platform has seen a 16 percent increase in quarterly online sales for the first half of 2021. The company predicts another surge in e-commerce holidays sales similar to the spike seen in November and December of 2020. To corroborate those results, the company polled 2,000 U.S. consumers aged 18+ on their expected holiday shopping behavior and motivators.
With many families unable to celebrate the holidays together in 2020, two in three consumers (64 percent) expect the upcoming season to be more meaningful than in years prior, making Americans 56 percent more likely to be emotionally invested in the 2021 holidays. The added pressure will lead nearly two in three (62 percent) to spend more than they had before the pandemic, as the majority (54 percent) seek gifts that represent a personal connection with the recipient. This emotional spending is driving up consumers’ expected budgets, with one in three (30 percent) anticipating they’ll spend up to $1,000 on the holidays, while another one in four (23 percent) say they will spend up to $2,000.
“Our findings show that the surge in 2020 e-commerce holiday sales wasn’t just a result of the pandemic, it signified a major shift in shopping behaviors that will continue into the upcoming season,” said Mario Ciabarra, CEO of Quantum Metric, in a news release. “With emotions high, retailers need to create digital experiences that are personalized and intuitive, allowing consumers to focus less on how they shop and more on finding the best gift for friends and family. Using methodologies to collect, identify, and quantify real-time customer insights are key to building these meaningful moments.”
Additional findings from the survey include:
Consumers are shopping distracted
Consumers will take an informal approach to holiday shopping, with three in four (72 percent) choosing to browse for gifts while at work, watching TV or doing other tasks. Even with their attention divided, nearly two in five (37 percent) will take less than a day to make decisions on holiday gifts.
Retailers shouldn’t bet everything on Black Friday
Despite the buzz, one in three (36 percent) won’t shop on major sale days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In fact, half of consumers (50 percent) plan to start buying holiday gifts well before Black Friday. While two in three (66 percent) avoid major holidays due to out-of-stock issues and potential errors in their online shopping experience, one in four (76 percent) say they just prefer to shop more sporadically.
Millennials are personal shoppers; Gen Z focuses on convenience
Millennials (age 25-44) are the most likely to purchase gifts with a personal tie (58 percent), with nearly one in three (29 percent) taking a week to make a purchase. Meanwhile, Gen Z shoppers (age 18-24) are focused on convenience with one in three (29 percent) preferring to use holiday gift guides and one in four (23 percent) taking less than an hour to make a decision on a gift.
Quantum Metric’s 2021 holiday survey polled 2,000 U.S. consumers over the age of 18. Using a third-party mobile survey platform, the survey was commissioned in June, 2021.