Inflation Can’t Crush the Holiday Spirit and Other Consumer Shopping Trends This Holiday Season

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After successfully navigating consecutive pandemic years and incredible disruption that forced retailers to adapt and innovate on the fly, many are hoping for a return to the status quo.

Unfortunately, 2022 is throwing retailers another curveball. Rising inflation and accompanying monetary policies have ushered in profound economic uncertainty. At the same time, widespread supply chain uncertainty, shifting consumer expectations and persistent hiring challenges ensure that retailers must innovate to stay competitive.

However, there is room for optimism. Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast expects sales to increase by up to 6 percent, totaling nearly $1.5 trillion this year. While these projections are less robust than last year, it’s clear that retailers can capitalize on buyer sentiment to drive sales this year.

Retailers can’t afford to fall behind demand. According to the recent Holiday Shopper Insights report, consumers are ready to start their holiday shopping now. Unfortunately, only 49 percent of retailers say they are prepared for the upcoming holiday shopping season. Here are five urgent insights that can help retailers prepare for the holiday rush and drive better business outcomes this year.

#1 Shoppers Are Watching Inflation Closely

Inflation is top-of-mind among shoppers heading into this holiday season. According to the 2022 Holiday Shopper Insights survey, 66% of Americans say high inflation is their biggest concern this year; beating out other holiday worries like low inventory, Covid-19 and shipping issues.

Unsurprisingly, 59 percent of Americans are stressed about buying gifts this season, expecting that higher prices will dampen their gift-giving capacity.

However, 49 percent of shoppers plan to spend the same amount on gifts as last year. As a result, buyers are looking to jump on deals. Doorbusters and hot items will sell quickly on Black Friday as retailers combat inflation concerns and brand switching with enticing sales/discounts.

Notably, Millennials and Gen Z shoppers plan to significantly outpace their predecessors’ spending. Thirty-one percent of Millennials and 38 percent of Gen Z buyers plan to spend more this holiday season, allowing retailers to direct their efforts accordingly.

#2 Buyers Are Turning Out Early

Supply chain issues and persistent low inventory are driving consumers to start their holiday shopping as early as October. In total, 87 percent of shoppers will begin their shopping before December. In response, many major retailers, including Target and Walmart, are rolling out holiday discounts in October, enticing early shoppers and bargain hunters to make purchases.

Meanwhile, only 23 percent of small and medium-sized businesses are starting promotions by Halloween and only 36 percent by Thanksgiving.

For many shoppers, inventory is a top concern, and they are evaluating their options accordingly. More than half of Americans say a retailer’s product availability impacts their loyalty.

#3 More Consumers are Mobile-First

While the in-store experience remains an important part of the buying process, online offerings are critical for buyers. Shoppers rely on these listings to research products, compare prices and complete purchases. Eighty-nine percent of global shoppers prefer to find presents online, even as foot traffic increases.

Increasingly, these shoppers are using their smartphones to complete purchases. In 2022, mobile surpassed computers as the most popular online shopping device for younger shoppers, but nearly 60 percent of Boomers prefer to use a computer when shopping online.

At times, the online shopping experience isn’t entirely positive. Online shoppers saw more than six billion out-of-stock messages last year, a stunning total that brings the frustrations of the in-store experience online.

Ultimately, shoppers are looking for a hybrid shopping experience, combining the best elements of online and in-person shopping to find, purchase and deliver their holiday gifts.

#4 People Are Persuadable

Buyers may be concerned about rising prices or unreliable inventory, but they can be persuaded to make a purchase with the right enticements, such as free shipping and promotions.

Similarly, 84 percent of shoppers are concerned about packages arriving on time, and shoppers will abandon retailers after a late delivery. This is especially true for baby Boomers. Nearly half of Boomers say they will abandon a retailer that delivers a package late. Retailers can counter concerns by enhancing checkout auto-complete address tools that enhance delivery reliability, exploring alternative fulfillment options that diversify shipping options, and minimizing last-minute issues that decrease consumer confidence.

#5 Checkout Can Make or Break the Shopping Experience

Checkout is the most critical part of the digital shopping experience, and customers may not be as patient as brands think.

Consumers expect a seamless checkout experience and are not afraid to walk away if the process is too difficult. Nearly one-quarter of shoppers say they will abandon their carts if online checkout is too complicated.

With cart abandonment costing retailers billions in sales annually, streamlining the online checkout experience is an obvious step to optimize revenue this year. An auto-complete solution for address data entry can help retailers alleviate friction, allowing customers to type as few as three keystrokes before auto-completing their addresses.

Since online shoppers outnumber in-store buyers by 11 percent, an inadequate checkout process can make a meaningful dent in holiday revenue potential.

Setting the State for the Holiday Season

This year’s holiday shopping season presents unique challenges for retailers. From inflation concerns to shifting buyer priorities, retailers can enhance their offerings with timely enticements, compelling experiences and unparalleled execution to deliver results this year.

This article was originally published on the author’s blog and reprinted with permission.

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