christmas shopping, holiday shopping, holiday shopping predictions, holiday marketing strategies

Halloween is officially over, which means two things: first, we can’t make fun of way-too-early Christmas decorations showing up in department stores. Second, we can officially pivot to the holiday season.

That’s a weird thing to say since marketers all over are already getting started with their holiday planning, and have been for a while. However, there’s still plenty of time left before Black Friday (or Singles’ Day for that matter) to implement strategies and, most important of all, understand what to expect this holiday season from holiday shoppers.

We took a look at six holiday shopping predictions from around the web, and provided our own thoughts on each. Get ready for the latest holiday shopping trends by hearing what the experts in the industry have to say about them in this blog post.

1. Mobile will dominate the holiday season and become dominant

christmas shopping, holiday shopping, holiday shopping predictionsSalesForce has predicted that holiday shoppers will – for the first time – make more holiday purchases on mobile than any other shopping device.

This is not the first time we’ve heard a hot take like this in the industry, but their numbers do draw attention to the preparation brands and marketers must do. Specifically, SalesForce is predicting that this year 68% of global holiday traffic and 48% of global orders during the holiday season will come from mobile devices. Going deeper, SalesForce also predicts that 46% of Black Friday orders will be on a mobile device, and on Christmas Eve brands will see 72% of site visits and 54% of orders come from these pocket-sized devices.

There’s no denying the critical need for a mobile strategy during the holiday season. Rakuten Marketing has found significant gains in mobile shopping as well, specifically in our State of e-Commerce in Asia-Pacific report, further supporting just how quickly mobile is growing. While this trend may not be the first time you’ve heard about it, the continued growth does mean marketers will need to take care and ensure they’re delivering a good marketing strategy across all shopping devices.

2. Spending will increase this holiday season compared to last

A very positive holiday outlook from the National Retail Federation has the biggest shopping season of the year getting a little bigger. The NRF predicts this year that holiday spending will increase between 4.3-4.8% compared to 2017, generating a projected total between $715.5-$720.9 billion in sales.

The average consumer, the NRF goes on to claim, will spend an estimated $1,007.24 in total during the holiday season, in an increase of 4.1% from 2017. The NRF further broke down spending into three categories: gifts, non-gift holiday items, and other purchases. Breakdown of each category sees:

  • Gifts: A projected $638 will be spent on friends and family this year, with a majority ($506) of that budget going towards gifts for immediate family members.
  • Non-gift holiday items: Holiday celebrators will spend an estimated $215 on decorations, greeting cards, candy and food, and floral arrangements, with candy and food taking about half of that budget at $108 per person. Although these are marked as “non-gifts” by the NRF, Rakuten Marketing trends have shown that food and flowers are great gifts to give to holiday party hosts, family members, and loved ones – in addition to traditional gifts in some cases.
  • Other purchases: This category, as defined by the NRF, is reserved for non-holiday purchases for either oneself or family, and is set to increase from 2017 from $141 to $155.

While it’s no surprise that most of the budget goes towards gift-giving, marketers should take this prediction at a sign for another strong shopping season – provided they take the right steps to capitalize on this opportunity. Customers are going to be out there, shopping and spending, and brands must be ready to be there from beginning to end in the customer’s path to purchase.

3. Free shipping is (not) the only shipping option for holiday shoppers

You hear it all the time: free shipping is almost mandatory. There’s plenty of good reasons for that – mainly that shoppers hate paying for shipping. They want their products delivered faster, and they want it for as cheap as possible – most often meaning free.

But free isn’t the only way customers are looking to get their products this holiday season. NRF survey data found that 94% of shoppers will take a free shipping option at some point during the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stick to only free. In fact, 11% of shoppers will be using same-day delivery options this year, and 16% will use an expedited option. Half of all holiday shoppers will use online to in-store pickup where available from retailers.

The NRF data doesn’t offer insight into how much customers would be willing to pay for expedited or same-day delivery, leaving a bit of a gap for marketers to figure out. This interest in faster delivery does highlight some important shopping trends – specifically that shoppers will want a shorter delivery time for their products (possibly as the season gets later and the window for getting gifts before Christmas begins to shrink) and that they’d possibly be willing to pay.

Since the data doesn’t reveal if or how much a customer is willing to pay for these faster options, strategizing for these options can be a bit challenging. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a lost opportunity. Marketers can observe how often customers are leveraging faster shipping options. If cost is a concern but you can offer a discount for a purchase minimum (similar to offering free shipping with a purchase minimum) it could be a great promotion to attract holiday shoppers – especially later in the holiday season when everyone’s going to want to get their products a bit faster. If you really want to take your shipping strategy another step beyond, also consider free returns – something we cover in our recent on-demand holiday webinar with experts from Rakuten Super Logistics. 

4. Motivating factors in choosing a retailer

What exactly will get a shopper to shop with your brand during the holiday season this year? According to the NRF, sales and discounts are far and away the biggest motivating factor in a holiday shopper choosing to buy with a brand. Among surveyed shoppers, 71% said they would pick a retailer based on the sales or discounts offered during the holiday season.

However, discounts aren’t a make-or-break for most holiday shoppers. Quality of the product and available selections of products were a deciding factor in 60% of holiday shoppers. Less than half (47%) said that free shipping was a deciding factor, even though 94% said they plan to take advantage of free shipping this season (see above). For holiday shopping in-store, a convenient retail location was a deciding factor in 45% of holiday shoppers.

5. What role does in-store spending play for holiday shoppers?

In-store shopping is closely associated with holiday shopping. Search for images of Black Friday shopping and you’ll find long lines, crowded retail stores, and empty shelves after shoppers took advantage of steep holiday discounts. As digital has become equally important to holiday shopping experiences, these two options have become on par with one another. The NRF notes that this year an expected 55% of holiday shoppers plan to shop online – that’s equal to the amount of holiday shoppers planning to shop at department stores, and slightly less (51%) than those planning to shop at discount stores. 88% of holiday shoppers plan on shopping in at least one store this holiday season.

in-store holiday shopping, christmas shopping, holiday shopping trendsStill, in-store shopping plays a critical role in the holiday extravaganza – one that retailers must prepare for should they have a brick-and-mortar location.

A study by Natural Insight found that spending in store this year will range, with just under 70% of in-store shoppers planning on spending between $100-500 this year. Natural Insight also predicts that 15% will spend more than $500 while shopping in-store. When factoring in the NRF’s projections on holiday spending, there becomes a very real opportunity for physical storefronts to win over a sizeable portion of a holiday shopper’s wallet share.

The age range of in-store shoppers may surprise – unless you’ve been paying attention, that is. Gen Z shoppers have made it known that they love in-store shopping, viewing it as an experience more than an errand. According to Natural Insight, 88% of Gen Z shoppers and young Millennial shoppers (18-29) intend to shop in-store this holiday season. Older Millennials and Gen X shoppers are slightly ahead, with 92% saying they intend to shop in-store this season. Finally, 89% of 45-60-year-old shoppers are intending to shop in-store this year.

The motivations for in-store shopping derive from the experiences that can’t be obtained through digital storefronts. For example, Natural Insight found that 52% of shoppers say they go in-store to see and touch products so they can better assess the quality and make of something they’re looking to purchase. Holiday shoppers also want to feel like they’re getting a holiday experience, which is why 30% say they go in-store to enjoy the holiday decorations and atmosphere that the store has. Just over one in five holiday shoppers (21%) say they see in-store shopping as a social activity to be done with friends and family, with 33% of 18-29 year-olds specifically saying they feel this way about in-store shopping. Only 20% of in-store shoppers go because they need a present fast.

Digital shopping is huge this time of the year, no doubt about that, but despite brick-and-mortar struggles, there are still plenty of opportunities for brands to provide an in-store experience that wins over customers. The best strategy is to employ both a digital strategy and an in-store strategy, while remaining mindful of why shoppers go in-store in the first place. Also be mindful of online to in-store shoppers, who could end up shopping around in-store for additional gifts after doing an online to in-store pickup order.

6. Know how to help your holiday shoppers

Rakuten Marketing recently published the Unwrapping the Holiday Shopper report, deep-diving into holiday shoppers from around the globe. The goal was to reveal trends and behaviors for this coming holiday season that marketers could capitalize on in their own holiday marketing.

Some of the key highlights for US shoppers included the fact that 15% of US shoppers are looking for gifts for 11 or more people in their lives. Additionally, 64% aren’t prepared to make on-the-spot decisions. US shoppers were also part of a global trend which found that 79% of holiday shoppers are looking for gift suggestions.

Considering how many people US shoppers are shopping for, and that so many are looking for suggestions, brands should see this as an opportunity to help make the holiday shopping experience as accessible, informative and manageable as possible. Brands can achieve this by having a well-rounded marketing strategy in place that reaches the customer during the early stages of their journey to purchase (oftentimes by leveraging search marketing strategies) and following up by providing touchpoints through display and affiliate marketing. These touchpoints should raise awareness and increase knowledge on available deals, products and offers. Advertisers can also work with affiliate publishers such as bloggers and influencers to provide more intimate insights into a brand or product line, thereby keeping shoppers informed of what they’re getting and if it’s right for them or someone on their list.

The holidays are a daunting and exciting time of the year for brands and marketers. This “Super Bowl” of the season has continued to grow steadily over the past few years with new trends and data being released regularly. Those looking to make an impact this year will need to know what trends to expect, and how to capitalize on said trends.

For more information on how to win the holidays, be sure to check out our holiday shoppers report here, and watch our on-demand holiday webinar on strategies and trends during the 2018 holiday season.

View our 2018 Holiday Webinar Now