All Wrapped Up! The Hottest Holiday Trends

With Hanukkah behind us and Christmas only a few days away, the holiday shopping season has all but wrapped up for consumers and marketers.

The propensity to shop earlier for the best deals, along with hot Cyber Week promotions, have put American shoppers in a much better place financially and emotionally , saving them from frantic last-minute runs to the mall the final days before Christmas. According to a survey conducted by BIGinsight.com, the average person has completed 56.5 percent of their shopping, up from 46.5 percent this time last year – the highest level in the survey’s 10-year history. Still, just 11.3 percent of Americans say they have completely wrapped up their shopping days before the holiday.

And while it’s true that the shopping season is nearly behind us, we have witnessed important holiday shopping trends that will be with us into 2013 and beyond. This is the last in a six-part series that focuses on the hottest consumer holiday spending trends and how marketers can capitalize on those trends to increase revenue during the holiday season. The full white paper can be found here.

Holiday Shopping Trends Marketers Can’t Afford to Ignore

Trend No. 1: Consumers are shopping smarter. Although consumer confidence was at an all-time low going into this holiday season, it didn’t prevent folks from stacking gifts high under the tree. In fact, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that holiday sales will increase this year by 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion. What we have seen, however, is that consumers are shopping smarter and expecting compelling promotions, doorbusters, and sales – and it seems they’re getting what they want. Forty-nine percent of shoppers are actively “shopping for sales more often” and 40 percent are “using coupons more often” than they did the previous year. This trend is made even more pervasive by the ability for consumers to conveniently research and price shop on smartphones and tablets, even at the point of purchase. Predictions call for commerce on tablet devices to increase dramatically in the coming years, far eclipsing smartphones likely due to the bigger screen and better user experience.

Trend No. 2: The holidays are getting earlier every year. Although late November and December are usually considered the most critical time to advertise to holiday shoppers, 40 percent of consumer shopping activity begins significantly earlier…and it’s getting earlier every year. Yet, there is a growing disconnect between consumer shopping behavior and advertiser behavior. By not advertising sooner in the season, marketers are missing a crucial opportunity to influence early holiday shoppers as they begin their gift-buying endeavors and also throughout the purchase process.

Trend No. 3: Santa’s newest little helpers are mobile phones and tablets. Major holiday retailers have announced online price-matching plans to combat the “showrooming” effect. This is a growing trend where shoppers go into a brick-and-mortar retail store to try out their products, then go online to secure the best price thanks to e-commerce competition. Smartphones and tablets have become our on-the-go (and in-home) tools to enhance our shopping experience for everything from finding store locations, directions, and hours of operation to product research and, increasingly, purchases. This trend will amplify as harried, cost-conscious holiday shoppers utilize smartphones and tablets to find coupons and the latest deals to get a few extra bucks off at the register.

Trend No. 4: Advertising on Black Friday weekend shows the lift. This year, we saw the coining of the phrase the “Cyber Five” – or the five shopping holidays between Thanksgiving (a day gaining popularity for retailers and shoppers alike) and Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday reached $1.47 billion in online spending this year, up 17 percent from 2011. Cyber Monday rang up as the heaviest online spending day in history and the second day this season to surpass $1 billion in sales, according to comScore. Interestingly, marketers are seeing advertising effectiveness also increase during these shopping holidays – effectiveness as measured by the number of transactions and revenue increases. There is also an increasing trend of shopping on Christmas Day.

2013 and Beyond

This column wouldn’t be complete without exploring holiday marketing trends that I believe will emerge in the year to come. We will continue to see brick-and-mortar retailers experiment with models to combat showrooming and the threat from large e-commerce retailers. Tactics that were experimental this year, such as price-matching plans and “same day delivery” programs will become more of the norm next year.

2013 will also see cost-conscious consumers becoming more familiar with “variable” pricing models. Today, variable pricing (or pricing based on demand) exists for airline and concert tickets – but this pricing model is starting to be used on large e-commerce websites for electronics and other high price-point categories.

Lastly, we will begin to see true cross-device advertising. We saw mobile devices emerge as Santa’s littlest helpers this year, and that trend is only projected to grow next year. As an industry, we are getting smarter about targeting consumers who are “snacking” on media on multiple devices throughout the day. Advertising tactics will catch up to consumer behavior and marketers will be able to reach and engage the same shoppers on the devices that they prefer.

Happy Holidays!

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