Holiday online shopping

New Holiday Predictions: Consumers Plan to Shop Earlier — and For Themselves

This research roundup shares predictions on shopper behavior — and what influences inflation will have — for the 2022 holiday season.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
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U.S. consumers are less confident their 2022 holiday plans will come to fruition compared to a year ago, according to a new study from Escalent. The study from the human behavior and analytics advisory firm found:

  • 42% of consumers feel confident they’ll achieve their holiday shopping and travel plans (down 24 percentage points from 2021).
  • 49% of consumers are uncertain if their plans will be achieved (up 23 percentage points from 2021).

Escalent also asked how inflation, the economy/supply chain issues and COVID-19 are impacting holiday shopping plans:

  • 32% expect to spend less this holiday season, while only 16% see themselves spending more than 2021.
  • 31% of consumers will be looking for different types of gifts compared to what they normally buy.
  • 36% of consumers continue to take COVID precautions seriously this holiday season, with Gen X, baby boomers and older generations planning to exercise more caution than younger generations.

Looking for Savings

According to global influencer marketing platform LTK’s “Holiday Shopping Predictions Report,” more than half of U.S. consumers intend to spend the same or more on holiday 2022. As concerns about inflation continue, consumers are shifting their holiday shopping plans to save money, while still planning to focus on self-care and their homes. According to the report:

  • 70% of holiday shoppers are looking for more deals and sales versus last year to help them save money.
  • Almost half (47%) of shoppers plan to start buying their gifts between September and mid-October, and 36% say they plan to shop even earlier this year than last year.

Overwhelmingly Online

The vast majority of consumers (96%) plan to shop online, according to the LTK survey. And, more than half (53%) said they plan to do the majority of their shopping online. 

Additionally, consumers are turning to their phones for holiday shopping, as 86% of consumers plan to shop from their phones, and nearly half of millennials plan to do the majority of their shopping on their phones.

As more people turn online to shop, creators are four times more influential to consumers than celebrity posts, also ranking above social ads. Consumers are turning to influencers to inspire them, share recommendations and save them money this holiday season:

  • 72% of consumers say their shopping originates from social media, which is even higher for millennials (81%) and Gen Z (83%).
  • 45% of millennials and 42% of Gen Z shop in-store based on the recommendations of creators.

Favorite Things

While gifting for friends and family is still important this holiday season, LTK also sees shoppers focusing on self-care and their homes after a stressful year:

  • 61% of consumers anticipate spending more or the same on shopping for themselves and their homes for holiday 2022.
  • 32% of Americans planned on making purchases for themselves, including beauty/personal care items (32%), followed by electronics and candy/food.

According to LTK’s study, this year, shoppers are planning to buy: 

  • Clothing and Accessories: 26%
  • Candy/Food/Gift Baskets: 24% 
  • Toys: 23%
  • Electronics: 21%
  • Beer, Wine, Spirits: 20%
  • Beauty/Personal Care: 19%
  • Entertainment (movies, music and books): 16%
  • Home Items: 16%
  • Video Games: 16%
  • Cards or Stationery: 14%
  • Board Games: 13%
  • Health and Wellness: 10%
  • Pet Gifts: 10%
  • None of the above: 6%
  • Subscription Services: 5%

The top categories consumers are buying for their homes this holiday season, according to LTK, are:

  • Candles/Scents: 37%
  • Decor (pillows, wall art, etc.): 34%
  • Electronics: 32%
  • Holiday decorations and themed items: 31%
  • Kitchen and service items (dish, serviceware, cooking utensils, etc): 29%
  • Furniture: 19%
  • Appliances: 18%
  • Smarthome items: 17%
  • None of the above: 13%
  • Subscription Services for the home: 5%
  • Other: 2%

Fewer Gifts

With factors, such as inflation, lingering COVID-19 pandemic concerns and supply chain shortages influencing shoppers, 51% of consumers plan to purchase fewer holiday gifts this year, according to recent research from San Francisco-based Salesforce. Top holiday shopping predictions from the study include:

  • Shoppers will buy even earlier to avoid price hikes.
    • 42% more shoppers worldwide and 37% more in the U.S. plan to start buying gifts earlier than in the past two years – the No. 1 behavioral change this holiday season due to inflation. 
  • Loyalty shifts to value.
    • Pricing and discounting strategies will be more crucial than ever to holiday success, as 17% of global shoppers and 15% of U.S. shoppers are unsure if they will buy any gifts this year. 
    • With 16% of shoppers saying they will increase their use of digital marketplaces this holiday, marketplaces such as Tmall, Mercado Libre and Google Shopping will allow consumers to compare prices easily, navigate deals and ensure quick shipping.
  • Physical stores will drive growth across all channels.
    • 60% of digital orders are now influenced by the store – whether demand is generated or fulfilled. Salesforce expects to see consumers gravitate to physical locations in even greater numbers. 
  • Shoppers will gravitate toward sustainable options.
    • 88% percent of consumers now expect brands and retailers to state their values clearly. 
    • 64% will stop doing business with a company if corporate values don’t align with their own. 
    • 42% of shoppers say they will consider paying more for sustainable shipping options or select a longer delivery window.
    • Only 23% of retailers will promote sustainable practices – in shipping options, on the homepage or within the product detail page – this holiday season, according to Salesforce research.
  • Retailers will test NFT drops.
    • 46% of shoppers said they would consider purchasing non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
    • While only 12% of consumers said they’ve purchased an NFT, this market is poised for growth with 45% of consumers reporting interest in buying one.
    • Consumers will gift NFTs this holiday primarily for the exclusive access many offer to communities, products and physical experiences —19% of Gen Z say a top reason for purchasing NFTs is to be more involved with the brands offering them.
Elizabeth Lafontaine
Elizabeth Lafontaine, Chief Retail Analyst, Retail Leader Pro

RL Pro Analyst Take:

2022 is shaping up to be another interesting holiday season for the U.S. consumer. The number one sentiment shared by consumers is that perceived value is going to be incredibly important when making holiday purchasing decisions. The past two holiday seasons benefited from a strong economy and consumer sentiment, consumer guilt over not being able to see family due to the pandemic, and renewed interest in tangible gifts. This year already looks to be different in all of those areas; consumers are more willing to travel, the overall economic situation has changed, and there is a renewed focus on experiences and intangible gifts. 

Beyond that, the retail landscape itself has evolved. Compared to the pre-pandemic period, more sales continue to be done online during the holidays, and the holiday season begins even earlier, often with deals starting in October. The holiday calendar shifts create a unique challenge for retailers to provide the right value at the right time for shoppers. Retailer loyalty may be up for grabs during the holiday season as consumers focus on value and promotions instead of assortment. The consumer also will look to unlock any tools at their disposal to compare options and prices between retailers even more in 2022. 

From a holiday assortment perspective, the industry continues to balance creating gifting options for self and others. Holiday deals continue to be sought after by consumers looking to spend on themselves, sometimes more so than on gifts for others. Apparel continues to be the top category consumers intend to purchase during the holidays, but this is also a category that usually is key item driven as opposed to trend focused. The industry needs to bring more innovation to holiday collections, especially as the consumer pulls back discretionary spending this season. A question of what new product will make it to store shelves in time for the season also arises; retailers continue to be over-assorted in many categories and have been shifting and canceling orders or furiously clearing out old merchandise to make way for holiday specialty items. 

This holiday is going to be a turning point for the industry, I believe even more so than the past few years. Will we see the resurgence of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday week, as consumers make value the top priority of the shopping season? Will October be as important as it has been during the last few years as consumers face more noise around them? How much disposable income does the consumer really have for gifts this year?