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This Holiday Shopping Season, Retailers Need To Play The Long Game

Understanding consumer buying patterns can help you serve your shoppers better this season

Consumers are more budget-conscious than ever, and this holiday shopping season, their wallets are guiding their purchase behavior.

Saving money is the main priority for holiday shoppers this year, and many believe shopping earlier and longer will be the most effective way to stretch their dollars and space out the hit to their wallet, according to a recent RetailMeNot survey. Fifty-six percent of consumers planned to kick off holiday shopping in October to capitalize on early deals and 58% say they’ll shop all the way up to mid-January.

It’s clear higher prices and concerns about product availability are reshaping consumer buying patterns. Retailers will need to understand these shifts to better serve shoppers this holiday season. Here’s how they can meet the moment.

Consumers Plan to Spend Less This Year

Whitney King, Director of Brand and Partner Marketing for Ziff Media Group

Consumers plan to spend about 8% less this year on holiday shopping than they did last year, with an average planned spend of $725.

Inflation is the main culprit of this shift, as 85% of consumers surveyed say higher prices have affected their households in some way. Forty-one percent of consumers have had to reduce their overall budget, while more than half are now buying less. Notably, more than a third of consumers now use coupons as a method to bring down costs — but still, it may not be enough — 27% report they plan to scale back on gift giving as well.

These general trends are carrying over to the holiday season:

  • 53% of consumers plan to purchase a product solely based on price
  • 70% are holiday shopping with inflation in mind
  • 76% say a good deal encourages them to buy a product or service

This holiday season, value is the name of the game for shoppers. Retailers who offer timely and relevant deals all throughout the holiday season — and well into the New Year — will get more of their dollars.

Shopping Earlier, Longer, and Looking Everywhere for Deals

Consumers are shopping early and often and more strategically this year, so retailers should expect fewer last-minute shoppers (60% compared to 74% last year).

Though purchase intent across many categories has declined compared to the previous quarter, holiday shoppers are primed to open up their wallets for the right money-saving opportunities. More than 50% of the population plans to attend these sales events:

  • Cyber Monday (55%)
  • Black Friday (53%)
  • Pre-Black Friday deals (52%)
  • Cyber Week (50%)
  • Small Business Saturday (42%)
  • RetailMeNot’s Cash Back Day (38%)

Consumers are also willing to look everywhere and anywhere for deals — even if it means shopping in-store. The majority (83%) plan to shop in-store on Black Friday to either find discounts they can’t access online or to take advantage of doorbuster deals.

With consumers planning to shop across channels, delivering a seamless, connected omnichannel experience will be key for retailers this holiday season.

How Retailers Can Maintain Momentum

As higher prices drive consumers to extend their holiday shopping season, retailers can seize this opportunity and help consumers save in several ways:

  • Make deals easier to find: Consumers are on the hunt for deals, but retailers could do a better job of streamlining their search. Forty-six percent of shoppers say they find promotions by shopping around. Retailers should focus on effectively retargeting consumers across online channels or bumping up their ad spend on key sites their target audience visits to reduce some of this legwork for consumers.
  • Capitalize on the longer shopping season: Many consumers plan to spend money on clothes, alcohol and travel for New Year’s and into early 2023. Of the 58% who will extend their shopping season into mid-January, 43% are focused on saving. With this in mind, retailers should continue to engage consumers even after the traditional holiday shopping season — all the way up until President’s Day.
  • Get a head start on 2023 promotions: Many consumers plan to travel in the spring, and early 2023 travel may be even bigger than the 2022 holiday travel season. So, why not offer consumers travel deals now to help them stave off future price increases on flights, hotels, and more as inflation continues to loom?

This holiday season, consumers are shopping largely based on price. They’re making smarter, more strategic buying decisions and using the elongated shopping season to land the best price for both gifts and personal purchases. While it’s true the early bird catches the worm, playing the long game won’t hurt either for retailers who want to capture a larger share of consumers’ holiday spend.

About the Author
Whitney King is the Director of Brand and Partner Marketing at Ziff Media Group where she oversees commerce insights and thought leadership, partner and industry events, and branded content for its portfolio of publishing and shopping brands, including Mashable, RetailMeNot and PCMag. Whitney brings more than 10 years of experience to the retail space with prior roles leading creative and branding initiatives for brands such as Walmart, Dell, P&G, Best Buy, and more.

See also: Last Minute Holiday Prep: What Dealers Are Doing Differently This Season