Today’s holiday experience feels very different than it did two years ago —and even last year. Consumers are now able to go into stores and do so feeling safer. In our annual holiday survey, 52% of consumers said they were less concerned about COVID-19 than they were a year ago, which has increased significantly from the 32% who felt that way ahead of the 2021 holiday season. The socialization of the season has gotten a boost, as well. More consumers plan to gather with family and friends this holiday season than last year, and many plan to travel over the holidays. These changing sentiments suggest opportunity for retail, physical in-person shopping in particular — but it’s not a done deal yet.
This year’s holiday survey also revealed the first major decline in planned online shopping over the holidays, and the return of in-store shopping accounting for the majority of holiday purchases after two years of online domination. After more than two years of heavy online shopping, the consumer’s propensity for ecommerce has been saturated. The convenience and safety provided by online shopping was a big plus for consumers; however, as the pandemic mindset has receded and in-store options have once again become more competitive, consumers’ willingness and desire to shop online has diminished.
We are nearing an important inflection point for the retail industry. As consumers get back to brick-and-mortar shopping, in-store deals will become more important. Even more, it will be up to the stores to prove themselves and engage consumers from a place of passion — something many consumers have been missing, due to the online emphasis on convenience. Part of this passion will materialize with the return of the “sport of shopping” that happens during the holidays, especially during the big promotional periods. Three in ten holiday shoppers are holding off on gift purchasing until they can see family and friends in person, which relates to the social side of holiday shopping as much as the giving itself. There is hope for Black Friday, with a likely increase in traffic this year, and more conversion from looking to buying. Even so, the level of success depends on the retailer’s level of engagement. The decreased propensity to shop online, combined with the consumer’s desire to socialize again, makes Cyber Monday the most vulnerable shopping event of the season.
There is plenty of cheer to harness for the holidays, but fears continue to menace the possibilities for both consumers and marketers. This season’s outcome will depend on how well retailers can emphasize and elevate the feeling of cheer among their customers.