Emerging Consumer Buying Trends Will Have Significant Implications for Retailers This Holiday Season

Emerging consumer buying trends will have significant implications for retailers this holiday season, according to a new survey from Booz & Co. 

In its 1,600-person survey — which polled consumers, retail store staff and retail executives to determine buying habits and potential trends for this holiday season — Booz & Co. found that in-​store competitive browsing, heavy online shopping and downloaded gifts top the new shopper behaviors expected this holiday season.  The company  specifically called attention to multichannel shopping, which it said will be a core part of how consumers shop: 40% of surveyed consumers describe "showcasing" as their new shopping strategy: browsing in-​store before buying online, which creates a major challenge for brick-​and-​mortar retailers.

Consumers are increasingly viewing Black Friday as irrelevant: They start looking earlier and buying later, and are moving online.  As a result, retailers are discounting even earlier, seeking to convert these early shoppers.  But as always, some shoppers will leave making purchases to the last minute; in fact, Booz & Co. estimates that some 25 million shoppers will hit the stores on Christmas Eve, a 9% increase over 2011, anticipating even better last minute deals.

Additional key findings include:

  • 52% of consumers will closely consider affordability in their shopping decisions;
  • 73% of consumers said they expect to find great deals this season, compared with 62% last year;
  • 51% of consumers reported that economic survival is a great reason for celebrating this year;
  • More than 80 million shoppers plan to purchase gift cards this season, about 4% more than last year;
  • Downloadable gifts will become a distinct and rapidly growing category this year, as 45% of consumers expect to give at least one downloadable gift (i.e., an e‑book, a music download or a movie);
  • 53% of consumers intend to buy at least one luxury item (up from 41% last year), and the item is likely to be one the whole family can enjoy; and
  • Consumers are looking forward to the holiday more than last year; 53% expect to host multiple gatherings, compared with 45% last year.

"The biggest challenge this season for brick-​and-​mortar retailers is determining how to drive more than their fair share of 'showcasing volume' to their websites rather than Amazon​.com or another competitor," said Thom Blischok, chief retail strategist for Booz & Co. "While technology enhancements and economic uncertainty will both impact this holiday season, there is a dose of optimism compared to 2011, as people shop with a value-​seeking mindset."

[Source:  "Holiday Retail Outlook 2012,"  Booz & Co.  19 Sept. 2012.  Web.  21 Sept. 2012.]