We round up the latest research about how shoppers will buy this Christmas. Supply chain delays, fears of lockdown and lack of cash are among the important factors for shoppers, according to these surveys – which reach some very different conclusions. Shopping patterns at this time of year are interesting not only for what they say about this year, but for what they say about how the way customers want to buy is changing in the longer-term. That’s because transactions often take place at higher volumes, showing more clearly which services shoppers are now opting to use.
Fewer people set to buy over Black Friday weekend – spending less
Fewer shoppers will buy on Black Friday this year as the appeal of the one-time peak online trading event diminishes, a new study suggests.
Around a third (33%) – or 17m – of UK shoppers plan to buy over this year’s Black Friday weekend, which this year runs from November 26 to November 29 – Cyber Monday, according to research from shopping comparison site finder.com. Those who do take part will spend an average of £275 per person, or a total of £4.8bn – some 7% less than last year.
Last year, says finder.com, 39% (20.3m) of UK adults took part, spending an average of £296 each – or £6bn in total. And in 2019, 42% (22.1m) took part, spending £251 each – or £5.5bn.
The research suggests that this year, 84% of Black Friday shoppers will make some purchases online, down from the 94% who planned to do so last year, while over half (56%) will do some shopping in-store, up from a third (34%) in 2020. This includes 15% of shoppers who plan to buy all their items in stores, a significant increase from last year’s 6%.
Liz Edwards, editor-in-chief at finder.com, says: “Last year saw a new wave of consumers discover online shopping and use it for their Black Friday and Christmas purchases (as well as the odd pack of toilet roll). For many, the shift to online was born out of necessity, due to lockdowns.
“The vaccine rollout and easing of restrictions has since encouraged a steady return to pre-pandemic life for consumers. Since lockdown officially ended in July, Brits have been more willing to socialise and return to the office, meaning more spent on commutes and non-essentials. These extra expenses could indicate why some Brits are less willing to spend during this year’s Black Friday sales. While we may see a significant increase in high street footfall during the Black Friday weekend, the amount that Brits plan to spend could be the first indicator of a potential decline in overall revenue for retailers.”
Finder.com’s analysis of Google Trends data shows interest in Black Friday sales starting earlier each year. This Black Friday, searches are expected to start 12 weeks before – possibly reflecting retailers’ moves towards starting Black Friday sales events earlier each year in order to attract the earliest shoppers.
Shoppers buy earlier amid supply chain concerns
Shopper are buying earlier this year, according to a Braze study that suggests 45% f UK shoppers will finish their 2021 Christmas shopping an average of a week earlier than in previous years.
Half of those shopping early aim to be finished by December 12, and a quarter by November 30. Reasons for this, says Braze, include the warnings about supply chain disruption, mentioned by 31% of 2,000 respondents to its survey, the risk of delivery delays (35%), and fears of new lockdown restrictions (31%). Indeed, the last factor means that 30% of respondents are planning to host their family Christmas dinner early – before any lockdown restrictions come into play, with 9% planning to hold them in November.
Braze says, however, that this year retailers can expect sales to fall in a more even pattern, with fewer planning to wait for promotional events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Its own customer data also suggests shoppers are staying loyal to brands they already know and trust. Between September 2020 and September 2021, it says, there was a 14% fall in new user growth across platforms, while sessions per user grew by 17%. This, says Braze, shows users are browsing earlier and sticking with the brands they visited last year.
James Manderson, VP, global customer success at customer engagement platform Braze, says, “As 2020 was a disappointing Christmas for many families, it won’t be a surprise to retailers that Christmas is coming early this year. The challenge will be how to make the most of it, and there is a huge opportunity to engage existing customers. The temptation might be to increase the communications across all your channels, resulting in message ‘burnout.’ It’s important that retailers have the right tools in place to engage customers respectfully in a coordinated way with relevant offers and information on the right channels, at the right time.”
Most UK shoppers plan to do all of their Christmas shopping on Black Friday
More than half of UK shoppers will do all of their Christmas shopping on Black Friday, according to a study from research platform Appinio. It finds that 90% will start shopping at least four weeks before Christmas, perhaps because of supply chain concerns.
The Appinio study, which questioned 1,000 UK adults, also found that 30% had already started their Christmas shopping – 11 weeks before the event, and that more than half (54%) are planning to shop both in-store and online.
Two-thirds (68%) of respondents said they would spend the same amount as last year on Christmas gifts – an average of £283 – with only 10% planning of spending more. The biggest spenders, at an average of £302, will be those aged between 35 and 44. The biggest influencers for Christmas shopping, finds the study, are family and friends (42%), followed by in-store displays (34%) and television (32%). The data also suggested that Gen Z (38%) and 35-44 year-olds (36%) were more likely to find inspiration through online ads, while millennials are more likely to find inspiration in social media posts.
Jacqueline Junke, market lead UK at Appinio, says: “With the growing concern over shortages that has hit retail across the board, it wasn’t surprising to see this reflected in our data, with people planning on doing Christmas shopping earlier and with a strong online focus. It’s therefore important for retailers to understand that targeting shoppers earlier with both in-store and online promotions will likely see better uptake than promotions nearing the big day.”