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The holiday season has begun, which means that dozens of studies are being issued forecasting spending trends, retail destinations and shopping attitudes. This latest annual data hub (which will be updated periodically during the holiday period) highlights key points from holiday-related research for what looks to be an enthusiastic season in terms of consumer spending.

[Editor’s Note: As with last year’s holiday data hub, this year’s article will highlight one or two unique findings from each piece of research. Readers interested in more data are encouraged to follow the links provided to access the studies.]

Forecasts

Before getting to the list of research highlights, let’s a look at the broad forecast for this holiday season.

  • The NRF is projecting this year’s holiday sales to increase by 3.8-4.2% to roughly $728-$731 billion. The forecasted growth is slightly above the 5-year average of 3.7%. This is below last year’s forecast of 4.3-4.8% but well above the unexpectedly low 2.1% increase which the holiday season closed out with. For their part, consumers expect to spend 4% more this year than last, per another survey released by NRF.
  • Deloitte’s forecast is higher than NRF’s with an expected gain in sales of 4.5-5.0%. That’s below the 5.0-5.6% gain predicted last year and includes projected growth in e-commerce holiday sales of 14-18%.
  • The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) is also predicting growth in holiday spending this year, expecting a 4.9% rise in holiday sales [pdf] (slightly above the 4.5% increase forecast last year) to reach an estimated $830 billion.
  • Projections from eMarketer are similar to NRF’s, with predicted growth in retail holiday season sales at 3.8%, which also includes a rise in e-commerce sales of 13.2%. This growth is expected to push sales over the $1 trillion mark for the first time.
  • Consulting firm AlixPartners offers a forecast growth of 4.4-5.3% for US holiday retail sales, which stretches from November through January.
  • Forrester is predicting that online holiday sales will reach $138 billion, which amounts to a 12.7% increase. Although this is a modest forecast compared to the other projections so far, NetElixir comes in with an ever lower prediction, forecasting slower than usual holiday e-commerce sales growth of 9%.
  • Salesforce’s analysis of its Commerce Cloud data leads to similar forecast online revenue growth of 13% year-over-year. Between November 1 and December 31, Salesforce expects total online sales to reach $136 billion in the US. Globally, online growth of 15% is predicted, with total sales expected to hit $768 billion.
  • This year’s projections from Adobe Digital Insights (ADI) call for e-commerce spend to exceed $140 billion, representing 14.1% growth over 2018 (which is down slightly from last year’s projected 14.8% increase).

Other Key Holiday Data

The following list highlights key points from the studies cited above, along with several others. We’re generally disregarding data regarding top gifts and shopping times, as the surveys disagree widely with respect to these. (You can follow the links to the research to find each one’s results on those.)

Likewise, we’ll largely avoid shopping destinations data for the same reason, unless there are noteworthy results to highlight.

One such prediction worth noting comes from Deloitte, which on the basis of its survey of holiday shoppers, believes that a majority of holiday budgets will be spent online (59%) rather than in-store (36%) or via other means. PwC’s holiday survey also found that the number of shoppers intending to shop online during the holiday season has risen to 54% from 50% last year.

Here are some highlights from the myriad surveys and other research pieces that have been released in recent weeks. Links to the research are provided at the end of each bullet point.

  • Although the research indicates that many consumers will be shopping online, that’s not without its difficulties. Bazaarvoice data shows that for 38% of online shoppers the biggest complaint about shopping online during the holidays is difficulty deciding between brands and product options. Close behind, 34% say that slow websites and complicated checkout process are their biggest annoyance with online shopping during this season. (Link)
  • Holiday shoppers are using Amazon for more than just purchasing. PwC found that shoppers are heading to Amazon for inspiration (52% share), price checking (53% share) and product information (44%) more than they are visiting Google and social media for those purposes. (Link)
  • A majority (65%) of US shoppers say they plan to start their shopping before November, with nearly one-quarter (22%) saying they planned to start shopping before September. The same research from MiQ found that those shoppers who begin their holiday shopping early expect to spend more on average. (Link)
  • Shoppers like personalized and relevant offers. RedPoint Global’s survey of 1,000 US consumers revealed that 3 in 5 said they are more like to purchase from retailers that send a personalized offer. At the same time, one-third of consumers say that their top frustration during the holiday season is receiving offers that are not relevant to them. (Link)
  • Data from Tinuiti indicates that email beats out social media when it comes to influencing holiday gift purchasing decisions. More than half (58.5%) of shoppers said they sometimes or often make a purchase because of a promotion they received through email, compared to the one-third that said the same for social media. (Link)
  • Again on the theme of social media, 1 in 6 of the consumers surveyed for The NPD Group said they would use social media as part of their pre-purchase research. (Link)
  • Holiday spending on tech is set to account for a substantial part of overall holiday spending. A release by the Consumer Technology Association estimates that technology spending during the 2019 holiday season (October-December) is projected to reach $97.1 billion in revenue in the U.S. – on par with last year’s actual spending. Based on their survey of more than 2,000 consumers, some 186 million U.S. adults (74%) plan to purchase a tech product as a gift this year – with streaming service subscriptions and video games emerging as popular tech gifts. (Link) [Editor’s note: technology searches also dominate Amazon over the year, as can be seen in MarketingChart’s Weekly Top Site Searches and Product Pages on Amazon with data provided by Hitwise. Sign up to the newsletter to get the password.]
  • While the timing of holiday shopping varies between surveys, Amazon’s Prime Day may have had an impact. More than 6 in 10 of retailers questioned by RetailMeNot worry that Amazon Prime Day has shifted the majority of consumer spending to Q3 vs. Q4. (Link)
  • The fact that Thanksgiving is six days later than in 2018 leads Salesforce to note retailers may have less time to drive key sales. In response, retailers should use click and collect, as sites with such options drive 48% more active shoppers (defined as “those that create baskets, start checkouts and engage in site search or similar activities”) and see 28% more revenue places in the last 5 days of the shopping season. (Link)
  • On the topic of click and collect, the ICSC’s representative poll of 1,000 U.S. adults finds more than four-fifths (82%) of click-and-collect shoppers expect to make an additional purchase when picking up their items in-store. (Link)
  • Mobile is forecast to have a significant impact, as NetElixir’s analysis of 300 million unique website visits leads them to predict that 45% of online purchases (and 72% of all searches) will happen on a mobile phone. They add that for physical retailers, “Near me” searches are driven by mobile devices, along with more prevalent “buy online, pick up in-store” options. (Link)
  • Profitero’s consumer survey finds that shoppers are considering the impact of the US-China trade situation in their purchases. Some 4 in 10 say they are either “very concerned” (19%) or “mildly concerned” (21%) and may change the timing of their shopping as a result. (Link)
  • Millennials will be responsible for a large percentage of holiday spending growth this year, per a study by The Harris Poll on behalf of OpenX. Close to half (46%) of Millennials say they will spend more this holiday season, compared to 30% of the adult population as a whole. (Link)
  • Retailers should be careful with counting their sales too early, as Oracle’s global survey of more than 15,000 consumers found that three-quarters (77%) plan on returning at least a portion of their gifts. (Link)
  • Shipping continues to be extremely important, as 98% of shoppers surveyed by Convey will “stake their brand loyalty based on their delivery experience.” (Link).

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