2018 Holiday Shopping: A Sunny Sales Outlook

It’s holiday shopping season again, and the theme this year is consumer confidence. According to a Deloitte report, retail sales this holiday season are expected to increase 5-5.6% with online sales expected to increase even more by 17-22%. The positive outlook has a lot to do with the population’s optimistic view of the overall economy, and many shoppers feel their personal financial situations this year are better than in prior years — to the extent that 78% of consumers plan to either spend the same as last year or up their spending this year.

But whether it’s Black Friday deals or Cyber Monday steals (and don’t forget the burgeoning appeal of Small Business Saturday), retail and CPG brands still need insight into when, how, and where consumers plan to shop during the 2018 holiday season if they’re going to capitalize on the onrush of vigorous spending. And while the perception of a thriving economy may be a driving force in the dollar amount each individual plans to spend — per person and in total — factors such as a desire for convenience, simplicity, and personalization will help guide other shopping decisions.

Gifts on repeat

When consumers find a great deal or a coveted item that more than one person on their shopping lists would appreciate, they seem to have few qualms about purchasing that same gift for multiple people. Brands will likely see this trend continue from last year and into the future as consumers simplify and consolidate their purchases. For example, affordable tech gifts like speakers or headphones tend to appeal to a wide swath of people, making it easier and more attractive for gift-givers to buy several at one time, especially if a seasonal discount is offered.

There is also little to no variation in the types of gifts that will be purchased in 2018. Gift cards/certificates, clothes/accessories, and toys will continue to top the list of items consumers plan to purchase for loved ones and friends. And, not to be outdone by buying gifts for others, consumers will continue to treat themselves during the holiday season, too, most often to food/liquor (42%) and clothing (40%), according to the same Deloitte report.

Any pre-shopping research and planning consumers do to get gift ideas will most likely be conducted online, so brands that can advertise early or offer pre-shopping guidance on their websites or social media channels may be rewarded for their efforts.

Spreading the wealth

Last year, an estimated $12.9 billion was spent at small businesses on Small Business Saturday, widening the avenue of competition after the holiday shopping season kicks off with Black Friday. But small business sales aren’t yet enough to overcome mass retailers and online shopping. Depending on who is surveyed, 2018 consumers flip-flop between either completing most of their purchases at stores like Target or Walmart or by shopping online, with visits to local independent stores still hovering toward the bottom of the pack.

But most consumers will not be able to complete their shopping in one trip or sitting, with the majority saying they’ll need to make 5–7 visits to one store, or visits to 5-7 different stores, just to get it all done. What may be lacking in one-stop shopping this time of year can still be made up for in ease of purchasing. Millennials especially are looking for alternative payment methods like mobile pay, while nearly everyone, regardless of age, is looking for a seamless shopping experience to increase speed and convenience.

With an eye toward providing a customer-centric experience, mass retailers are hiring more people this year — 20% more seasonal staff at Target and 18,000 seasonal workers to fulfill online orders at Walmart. Keeping holiday shoppers happy in 2018 is another way brands and retailers — whether in-store or online — can tap into the current economic optimism.

Harnessing this unique time of year

With so much pressure put on the holiday shopping season — by consumers and businesses alike — it’s a ripe opportunity for brands like yours to zero in on the specific shopping behaviors, preferences, and expectations of your target audiences so you can more effectively promote your products and special offers. Especially now, with higher levels of spending confidence, you have a real incentive to create a substantial uptick in sales and customer loyalty through deep shopper insights.

For example, while online sales continue to boom, shoppers are still clearly flocking to mass retailers like Walmart and Target to complete their holiday purchases, so understanding what these consumers are getting out of the brick-and-mortar experience this time of year vs. clicking on a screen will help you develop promotions, advertising, and ideal shopping experiences to better capture and engage with your audience(s).

To learn more about how holiday shopping will play out this year, we fired up our own quantitative study of 300 holiday shoppers who identify themselves as primarily responsible for gift-buying in their households, with participants ranging in age from 18 to 65+ years of age, and made up of 59% women and 41% men. Download the full infographic below to get a view into how much shoppers in our study plan to spend this year, where they plan to make their purchases, what they plan to buy, and other interesting insights.

Download Infographic