Analysis

2016 holiday survey

Four holiday shopping trends marketing executives should expect this season

Marketing executives, this is your holiday shopping season! Deloitte’s 2016 holiday shopping survey results showed a significant uptick in the amount of shoppers who plan to research, buy, or “window shop” online. Here are four key takeaways for marketing executives in the retail industry this shopping season.

​​​​​1. Online shopping is poised to make holiday history

According to this year’s holiday survey, online shoppers are not just browsing. In fact, consumers polled in our survey plan to spend just as much online as they do in physical stores (47 percent). This is a significant turning point in consumer behavior—in previous years, shoppers have always planned to spend more in-store.

Online holiday shopping is likely to take some share from popular store formats, both big and small. Fewer people plan to visit standalone “big box” retail stores. The number of consumers who plan to visit traditional malls this year fell slightly from 53 percent to 50 percent.

2. Consumers plan to rein in in non-gift holiday spending

​Most households remain positive about the US economy’s prospects and continue to report improving finances. In fact, the majority (88 percent) expect the economy to improve or remain the same in 2017. Three-quarters (75 percent) indicate their household financial situation is the same or better than the prior year, up from 58 percent five years ago.

What is surprising this year is that after four years of rising non-gift spending intentions, consumers are starting to rein in the amount they plan to put toward these categories. Holiday travel and dining out, entertaining, purchases of non-gift clothing, home/holiday furnishings, decorations, and other miscellaneous holiday purchases total $572 in this year’s survey.

Overall, shoppers plan to spend an average of $998 on the holidays this year. Despite the ubiquity of the current presidential race, most shoppers (73 percent) do not think the election will impact their holiday spending.

3. Top gifts consumers plan to buy

There is little change in the types of gifts on shoppers’ lists this season. Clothing maintains its status as the No. 1 gift that consumers plan on giving, and continues to rise in popularity (50 percent in 2016, up from 45 percent in 2014). While the popularity of gift cards and gift certificates is up slightly from last year, the amount consumers plan to spend on them has dipped.

Subscription-based products and services might be garnering a lot of market and media attention, but most consumers do not consider them great gift ideas. Only 7 percent of those surveyed plan to purchase subscription products this holiday season. Books, which have been on a downward trend since 2011, are up four points from 30 percent in 2015. Jewelry, cosmetics, and food/liquor continue their incremental, but steady, upward trends since 2011.

4. Shoppers are doing their homework and making advance decisions

Today’s connected consumers have a dizzying array of devices, websites, apps, and customer reviews literally at their fingertips to help make informed purchase decisions. It should come as no surprise that consumers leverage online research to head into the holiday season with a well-thought-out gift-buying plan. Surveyed shoppers estimate that a little over half of their gift purchases are planned in advance.

Retailers, however, can exert their influence with strategic marketing and effective promotions. Roughly one in every five gift purchases made this holiday season will be unplanned impulse buys. Another quarter will be loosely based around a product category but with no specific item in mind.​

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