While the retail calendar has its ebbs and flows, few seasons have the sustained opportunity like the winter holidays. Consider this: while 2018’s Amazon Prime Day, one of the biggest retail holidays of the year, resulted in $7.16B in sales, 2018 winter holiday sales reached $702.2B and are expected to climb as high as $730.7B in 2019, according to the National Retail Federation. Year over year it’s consistently an opportunity that brands and retailers cannot afford to miss.
What isn’t consistent, however, is the priorities and mindset that informs consumer’s winter holiday shopping habits.
Advancements in technology, shopper expectations, and changing consumer behaviors create a unique seasonal cocktail that, when accounted for, can mean capturing a wider share of the market.
Holiday retail trends consumers care about in the experience economy
Recently a study of 1000 consumers across the United States gave some essential insights for retailers entering the holiday season:
1. Buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) is growing
Few seasons capture the modern hybrid physical / digital shopping journey like the holidays. Consumers love the convenience of e-commerce, but the experience of walking through the storefront and the decorations is still a time-honored tradition.
As the shipping cut-off times approach close to Christmas, BOPIS becomes ever more important for those last minute purchases. As a result, BOPIS is slated to account for a sizeable chunk of consumer shopping habits, with 27% already planning on buying online and pick-up in-store, and an additional 63% stating that they’re likely to take advantage of the option.
2. Sustainable products and packaging are more likely to capture consumer attention
Due to the crowded nature of the holiday season, the slightest differentiator can mean attracting a new advocate for your brand.
As climate change and environmentalism continue to dominate global conversations, that has translated into a greater importance for sustainability for consumers, including discounted product refills, eco-friendly shipping/packaging, and products made from recycled or compostable materials. Our research found that over half (52%) of consumers are more likely to purchase holiday gifts from retailers that offer eco-friendly options.
3. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands continue to disrupt the industry
The democratization of retail afforded by e-commerce has led to a new category of brands: DTC. By eliminating traditional third parties, brands like Casper, Warby Parker, Dollar Shave Club, and BirchBox are able to keep prices low, ensure continuity of supply, and embrace agility through real-time customer feedback.
In the holiday retail trends survey, SAP Customer Experience found that nearly one in four consumers are already planning to purchase from a DTC brand. Interestingly, there’s an opportunity for these digitally native brands to expand to the physical realm, if only for the holiday season, as 42% of consumers are more likely to buy a holiday gift from a DTC brand if they have a physical storefront.
While these trends are particularly top of mind for consumers during the 2019 winter holidays, these expectations don’t end when the lights are taken down and the displays are put back into storage. They’re strong indicators of what consumers will come to expect throughout the year to come, which is vital for retailers who are already preparing for 2020.