2013 Holiday Shopper Intentions: Peering Through the Digital Window

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Jacalyn Stolt, Erin Dean Oct 2013

This is the year the store window goes digital. According to our new research, conducted with Ipsos, more people are researching and purchasing holiday gifts online than ever before. They're also shopping across screens and channels, looking for great deals, and starting earlier than before. So, with the holiday season already underway, we take a look at these and more trends marketers should know for 2013, including the hottest products on Google.

Every year, as the holiday shopping season ramps up, we take a step back to unwrap the latest trends. Working with Ipsos, we survey consumers to find out their sentiments, behaviors and intentions. When are they shopping? How? What do they plan to buy? Here's what we learned about 2013's holiday gift givers, and what retailers can do to win them over.

The new store window is digital

The best way for a retailer to catch a holiday shopper's eye used to be through setting up a decked-out shop window. Now, the most important window for that retailer is a computer screen. The web is where people get their first impression of a retailer and a brand, start exploring, discover products, do their research, and ultimately (for many of them) want to purchase their holiday gifts.

According to our survey, the internet is the top resource for holiday shopping — by far. It will be used twice as much as TV or catalogs for holiday shopping information.1 Four out of five shoppers consider the internet the single most "useful" resource for their shopping. By contrast, only half find customer reviews, TV and catalogs helpful.2 And three in four consumers say online research will influence the brands they buy and where they buy them.3

Cross-device shopping on the rise

Our study revealed that 41% of adults and 76% of smartphone owners plan to use them for holiday browsing; that means a 17% increase in overall smartphone shopping from last year. More purchases will be done via mobile as well; one in four smartphone owners surveyed plan to use their devices to make a purchase —a 21% year-over-year increase.4

Based on 2012 Google data, we expect mobile holiday shopping to spike on weekends — especially the one following Black Friday — which are traditional in-store shopping days.5 That's a big change marketers need to prepare for. But interestingly enough, mobile shopping doesn't necessarily replace in-store shopping, as we found that shoppers are equally likely to use smartphones while shopping in-store as online.6 In addition, nearly half will research on their phones and then buy in-store.7

Shoppers aren't just crossing channels (for example, mobile to store), but they're also crossing devices (for example, mobile to PC). 80% of consumers will use more than one device at once while holiday shopping, and 84% will start on one device and finish on another.8 This shows the importance of having a multi-screen strategy as well as focusing on attribution and asking —What's the whole path to purchase that shoppers are taking?'

Millennials will drive mobile holiday shopping

This holiday season, millennials will drive online and mobile shopping. Millennial consumers (18 to 34 year olds) plan to use the internet and mobile more than any other demographic. In fact, 95% of millennials plan to use the internet as a holiday shopping resource, versus 87% of adults ages 35 and above.9

We also that expect that 88% of all millennial smartphone owners will use their devices for holiday shopping this year (versus 67% of smartphone owners over age 35).10 They will also be making more online purchases over their phones. One in three millennial smartphone owners plan to make a holiday purchase on their phone, up 28% year-over-year. In contrast, 17% of adults 35 and above who own smartphones plan to make a holiday purchase on their phones, which is up 13% over last year.11

Mobile usage also differs by age — millennials over-index on all phone activities. We found that 30% of millennials plan to research and then purchase on their smartphone (versus 20% of adults over age 35).12 Additionally, millennials are more likely to use their smartphones to either research or purchase while in a store (40% of millennials versus 23% of adults over age 35).13 Millennials are also more likely to start shopping early and shop on the big days — 88% plan to shop Thanksgiving weekend versus 67% of adults.14

Shoppers are starting early and buying all season long

As we saw in previous research, consumers are starting their holiday shopping early this season. More than half of consumers surveyed said they'll research before Thanksgiving and 60% plan to purchase that weekend. But even though they're getting a head start (women in particular15), shoppers are still taking their time. Despite doing research early on, 41% won't finish buying until mid-December and a quarter won't finish buying until 'the last minute.'16

Even though marketers have a long span of time to win over holiday shoppers this year, that doesn't mean they should wait. Since shoppers are starting early, so should efforts to reach them.

Women look for good deals and young adults have more to spend

Consumers have already started shopping, but many are still undecided on what to buy and are receptive to new brands and retailers. Nearly two out of three shoppers don't have their minds made up on what they're buying and more than half are open to purchasing from a retailer they haven't considered in the past.17

To help make up their minds, shoppers have come to expect holiday promotions. Use of discounts is nearing saturation, with 81% of shoppers reporting they'll rely on them.18 Women are more likely to embrace deals, and are also more open to new retailers.19 Since they'll also start shopping earlier (as mentioned above), now is the time to show them promotions.

When we surveyed consumers about their shopping budgets, we found that 35 to 49 year olds plan to spend the most this season. However, 25 to 34 year olds plan to increase their holiday budgets more than other groups, upping their spend by 19%.20 If these demographics are part of your target audience, they're the ones to double down on.

Wearable tech will be on many wishlists

So what are shoppers actually looking to buy? Our survey showed that apparel, entertainment and toys will be the most popular gift types this year, followed closely by jewelry/watches and electronics.21 To get a snapshot of America's collective wishlist in these categories, we looked at Google data to see what users are searching for.

If you have a girl in grade school, you've heard of the Rainbow Loom. This new arts and crafts product, which helps make multi-colored bracelets with rubber bands, is one of the top rising toy searches this season. Other popular games and toys include Kinetic Sand (a fascinating mix of sand and silly putty), Grand Theft Auto 5, Madden 25, Nvidia Shield and Xbox One. In the apparel category, searches for celebrity-inspired products —supermodel Heidi Klum's New Balance line, Air Jordan 5 "Bel Air" (inspired by the "Fresh Prince of"), and Duck Dynasty's Sadie Robertson's new dress line — have gained momentum in recent months.22

At the intersection of fashion and electronics, wearable tech is a huge breakout category. Searches for wearable tech have grown 100% since January of this year, with the most demand coming from the coasts (particularly tech meccas New York and California). This surging interest is reflected in searches for new products coming out, including smart watches like the and Nissan Smart Watch, and tracking wristbands like the Nymi Bracelet, Fitbit Flex and Nike Fuelband.23

By checking in on rising search terms throughout the season, advertisers can see what's trending with consumers so they can bid up on relevant keywords. Maybe it'll help them with their own holiday shopping too.

Want to know more about the 2013 holiday shopper? Check out the full results of our Google/Ipsos Holiday Shopping Intentions study.

 

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