Holiday Shopping: The Past, The Present, The Future
It’s October which means consumers are beginning to think about holiday gifting, brainstorming gift ideas, and creating their holiday shopping lists. But what does holiday gifting look like during a pandemic? With online shopping already on the rise since previous years, brands need to take additional steps to ensure they stay relevant to consumers.
Shopping in the past
In the past, a trip to the mall was the primary way consumers shopped for holiday gifts. Prior to the World Wide Web becoming publicly available in the early 90s, Americans turned to magazines and newspapers for holiday gift ideas. As the internet became more and more accessible, it not only became a place to purchase items but also a place to research for the best things to buy. Before the internet days, consumers could only compare items by looking at them in the store. According to the Head of Trends and Insights at Google, consumers now turn to online reviews, gift guides, and search “the best” products in search engines to make their buying decisions. While in-person shopping has perks for last-minute buyers, online shopping continues to improve, making trips to the mall a thing of the past for many consumers. A survey done by Mastercard Spending Pulse says that online sales in 2019 grew by 18.8%. The same survey found a 1.8% decline in department store sales. Given that many large stores have already announced they won’t be open on Black Friday this year, in-person shopping will likely continue to decline.
What shopping is like now
According to E-Marketer, Cyber Monday in 2019 was the heaviest online spending day in history, up 19.7% with total spending at $9.4 billion. It was predicted that e-commerce would grow by 13.9%, reaching $156.69 billion in 2020. Now, with people staying inside their homes and avoiding crowded shopping malls and stores as a result of COVID-19, we can expect those numbers to be even larger. The amount of online purchases is not the only shopping trend that the pandemic had an impact on. The types of products consumers started purchasing became more relatable to the current cultural climate. Gifts that bring families together such as puzzles, games, and baking materials are significantly more relevant this season while families stay inside their homes. What does this mean for brands trying to sell their products? It is crucial that brands find a way to adapt to current trends and make themselves relevant.
Holiday shopping looking ahead
Despite pandemic shutdowns, one consumer need that never will go away is the need to buy gifts. While the future of in-person celebrations is unknown, gifts can be an even more important way of telling someone you are thinking about them. Danielle Wiley, Founder and CEO of Sway Group, an influencer marketing agency, predicts that we will see an increase in traditional and nostalgic gifts in the 2020 holiday season. It does not seem appropriate to give gifts such as concert tickets, theme park tickets, or flights any time in the near future. In fact, a 2020 Holiday Retail report from Klarna says that the pandemic has changed consumers’ comfort levels, with 66 percent of consumers preferring to buy a product over an experience this year. While the pandemic continues, we can assume the amount of people gifting experiences will continue to decline. As we look ahead into the unknown future, Wiley predicts the most successful brands will be those who adapt with consumer needs. The most important prediction that Wiley made about the upcoming holiday season is that “many consumers will be drawn to brands that can truly serve the current cultural moment- whatever that may be.”