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Holiday Shopping Trends 2011

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shopping.jpgAs we approach the 2011 holiday shopping season, a multitude of studies have been recently released which attempt to predict consumers’ holiday shopping plans, behaviors, attitudes and spending. In this post, we’ll attempt to summarize some of the recurring themes that span the various studies. IAB is also adding to this quantitative knowledge with qualitative points garnered from tests conducted as we develop our online community, called HearWatchSay, a joint venture with IPSOS/OTX.

Let’s look at some of the recurring themes this holiday shopping season:

Early Shopping and the Preference for Cyber Monday over Black Friday

The turkeys haven’t even been cooked, much less digested, and yet many consumers have already started their holiday shopping. comScore states “Four in ten have already begun holiday shopping.”

Our HearWatchSay community members who participated in our shopping survey told us they’d already started shopping and the overwhelming majority of that group (about three-quarters) reported that they will avoid Black Friday. At first glance, this seems to imply that consumers are open to shopping early in the season, but this is more likely due to consumers trying to avoid the crowds that the shopping season brings, based on what we are learning from HearWatchSay. Instead, it appears that our community members are looking forward to shopping on Cyber Monday.

Researching Gifts

Researching gifts is a top activity across mobile and digital, both online and in-store, with price comparison more frequent among smartphone users. NPD states that about half plan to do gift research online before shopping. The top online holiday shopping activities of our HearWatchSay panel members who responded to the shopping survey are researching gifts on shopping sites, reading online reviews to help decide, researching gifts using a search engine and using a price comparison site/app. 

Spending Less

With increasing economic uncertainty and declining consumer confidence, it’s no surprise that many consumers plan to cut down on spending this holiday season.  According to Nielsen, 41% of Americans are planning to spend less this year. 

Consistent with shoppers’ plans to spend less, the top holiday shopping purchase influences for HearWatchSay members who responded to our survey are email coupons& discount codes, in-store coupons and Cyber Monday specials. NPD states that the #1 influence on where to shop is ‘special sale price’ followed by overall value for the price and convenient location. 40% (#5) also are influenced by free shipping offers.

More Online Shopping This Year

Consumers may be spending less this year, but more of that spending is being done online. One-third of HearWatchSay survey respondents state they plan to do more online shopping this year, largely driven by cost-saving (deals, coupons, price comparison) in addition to crowd-avoidance and convenience. Additionally, eMarketer predicts that U.S. retail ecommerce holiday sales will grow 16.8% this year to $46.7 billion, which is five times faster growth than the total retail industry.

Overall, top drivers for holiday shopping behavior this year — both online and offline — imply cost-saving measures; online deals, in-store coupons, in-store shopping to save on shipping fees.

Mobile Shopping… or In-Store Price-checking

Another category that is seeing increases driven by cost-saving behaviors is mobile holiday shopping. Many (about half of HearWatchSay respondents) are planning to shop in stores with their smartphones, using them for in-store comparison shopping, scanning QR/UPC codes in the store or doing gift research on their mobile devices. According to Deloitte’s Annual Holiday Survey, 27% of smartphone owners will use their devices for holiday shopping this year.

Smartphones are being used more for in-store comparison shopping than actual purchases (only 15% of HearWatchSay members said they’d buy via mobile phone). Tablets, however, are gaining ground as a device for making purchases with tablet holiday shopping behaviors resembling those done on a laptop computer — comparison shopping and buying. Paypal with Ipsos and IBM Coremetrics expect an increase in mobile purchases overall this season, whether via smartphone or tablet.

In summary, holiday shopping this year appears to be shifting more to digital and mobile, with mobile being used more to ‘optimize’ in-store shopping. That isn’t to say that people won’t be crowding the aisles in stores looking for that perfect sweater or to use their store coupons. But more of them will be tapping away at their phones while shopping, looking for a better deal at another store or online. Many will forgo the crowds at stores to shop online in the convenience of their own home, at a time that suits them.

Perhaps the defining factor driving both online and offline shopping this year is saving money. Cost-saving measures seem to be strongly influencing consumers’ behaviors and purchase decisions this year whether online, mobile or in-store. Consumers are looking forward to Cyber Monday and plan to take advantage of online coupons and deals. At the same time they cite in-store coupons and saving on shipping fees as major influences in offline shopping, which will of course be accompanied by their mobile shopping assistant.

About the Author

Kristina Sruoginis

Kristina Sruoginis is Director of Digital Research at IAB