The Changing Face Of Holiday Shopping

CTA sees a radically evolving retailscape
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More consumers will do their online shopping by phone than on computers or tablets this holiday season, as foreshadowed in a CTA slide.

More consumers will do their online shopping by phone than on computers or tablets this holiday season, as foreshadowed in a CTA slide.

Forget what you know about the holiday shopping season; it’s all about to change, and this year’s the inflection point.

According to a new Pre-Black Friday survey conducted by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), more consumers (61 percent) will do their online shopping via mobile phone, compared with computers and tablets, and nearly one in five will place their holiday orders by mouthing them into smart speakers.

As CTA market research senior director Steve Koenig observed, “November 2017 marks a seismic shift in when and how American adults are shopping for holiday gifts.”

Speaking at Thursday’s CES Unveiled preview event in New York, Koenig noted: “Not only will the use of smartphones eclipse laptops and desktops for online holiday shopping for the first time, but this year also marks the introduction of what we consider to be a new sales channel. Voice-activated smart speakers will be a popular gift to give this year and play a much larger role in the shopping process.”

CTA researchers Lesley Rohrbaugh and Steve Koenig portend radical retail change at Thursday's CES Unveiled event in New York.

CTA researchers Lesley Rohrbaugh and Steve Koenig portend radical retail change at Thursday's CES Unveiled event in New York.

Underscoring the latter are Walmart’s recent ties to Google Express and Assistant, and Best Buy’s new Alexa shopping skill, which will augur additional retailers choosing sides in the coming voice-control competition, he said.

Another first for Holiday 2017: More consumers will shop on Cyber Monday than Black Friday, as the day after Thanksgiving continues to dissipate. Indeed, Black Friday ranked fourth in most popular shopping timeframes this month, following the days after Cyber Monday (57 percent); Cyber Monday itself (51 percent); and pre-Thanksgiving Week (44 percent).

Only 38 percent of respondents planning to shop this month expect to do so on Black Friday proper, as month-long promotional events elongate the gift-buying window.

Koenig and senior market research manager Lesley Rohrbaugh also expect an exceptionally large wave of procrastinators to sweep through stores on the last two days before Christmas, which this year fall on a weekend.

Speaking of gift buying, tech remains tops after apparel, the survey showed, with a projected holiday haul of $96.8 billion for the October-December period. CE sell-through will increase 1 percent year over year, a still-significant gain given 2016’s nearly 4 percent spurt, Koenig said.

And what are tech shoppers shopping for? “Once again, perennial tech favorites including videogame consoles, smartphones and TVs will perform well during the Black Friday shopping week,” Koenig said. “However, expect to see wearables and smart-home products in particular go on sale and also fly off the shelves in the coming weeks.”

Specifically, CTA is projecting a 22 percent uptick in smart speaker unit volume this holiday season, to 4.4 million units; a 31 percent increase in drone sales, to 1.6 million units; and a whopping 283 percent spike in sales of VR headsets, to 2.7 million units.

As for legacy devices, 20 percent of respondents said they intend to purchase a TV this holiday season. Of those, 58 percent are in the market for a 4K Ultra HD set; 37 percent will shop for an OLED display; and 44 percent want a screen size of 60 inches or more.

Surprisingly, despite a surfeit of communication mediums, good old-fashion word of mouth remains the No. 1 way consumers learn about deals, the survey showed, followed by TV, in-store signage, and online search engines.

CTA has posted the results of its Pre-Black Friday Survey and its full holiday outlook at CTA.tech/holiday.

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