With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, it's important for retailers to understand holiday shoppers' preferences: Where do they browse? What influences their buying decisions? Do they prefer to shop online or in-store?
Two recent surveys shed some light on how consumers are approaching their holiday shopping this year, so you can position your business accordingly.
E-commerce on the rise
One standout trend in holiday retail is the rapid rise of e-commerce platforms. According to research from marketing platform Signal, although total 2016 holiday sales are expected to increase by 3.3 percent over last year, e-commerce sales are projected to jump 17 percent. [See Related Story: What Is E-Commerce?]
But this shift doesn't mean that brick-and-mortar is done for, just yet. Most shoppers still buy their holiday gifts in a physical setting; 33 percent of respondents said they'll do their gift-shopping in-store, even if they might browse for their gifts online.
Amazon's holiday dominance
Amazon has emerged as the go-to website for online holiday shoppers as e-commerce purchases have become more prevalent. Last year, Amazon was by far the No. 1 choice for online shoppers, attracting 34 percent of total visits; Walmart was a distant second with just 6 percent of total holiday shopping visits. Of the 1,500 consumers surveyed by Signal this year, 42 percent said Amazon would be their primary source for holiday gifts.
In fact, Signal found that 35 percent of holiday shoppers began their 2015 gift search with Amazon. Respondents said Amazon's ease of use, their subscription to Amazon Prime, and the site's product reviews were all major motivators behind their decision to use the platform for their gift shopping. Still, 40 percent of respondents said Amazon is not their first choice, so there's still plenty of market share up for grabs.
Where to reach consumers
Digital channels are becoming increasingly important for retailers, and Signal's research led it to a stark conclusion when it comes to consumer purchasing habits: "Desktop is king, but mobile is the future."
On smartphones alone – which only accounted for half of all retailers' online holiday traffic – sales jumped by 96 percent in 2015, according to Signal. Sales over mobile devices are expected to increase by 50 percent this year. Today, desktop is still the most prevalent way consumers browse online, but mobile devices are catching up. One in five respondents told Signal they primarily search for gifts on their phones, while 36 percent of shoppers said they use their desktop computers.
Desktop remains the leading channel that converts browsers into buyers, with a conversion rate of 4 percent. Tablets follow closely behind at 3 percent and smartphones ring in at 1 percent.
Major purchase influencers
Signal's research reveals that 43 percent of consumers said digital ads on a website or in a mobile app influenced their buying decisions. An additional 27 percent said ads often provide them with new gift ideas.
So, how best to deliver these ads? Many consumers are annoyed by digital ads, so it's important to position them in a way that won't be perceived as intrusive. A majority of respondents said they are most likely to consider product recommendations in emails or ads on the retailer's website, while 42 percent said they were likely to take advantage of mobile ads.
Another way to influence consumer behavior is to offer conveniences like in-store pickup. In fact, 60 percent of holiday shoppers said the ability to pick up an online order in-store would influence where they chose to purchase their gifts. Convenience in price is also a significant influencer; 46 percent of consumers said relevant deals and discounts are likely to motivate them to make a buying decision. Targeted deals can go a long way in courting new business.
Black Friday goes global
Another survey, conducted by One Hour Translation (OHT) and Google Consumer Surveys, found that Black Friday is becoming a global phenomenon. Based on interviews of 3,600 participants from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Australia and Japan, OHT found that across all countries, an average of 16.5 percent of respondents will buy on Black Friday, while 9 percent intend to buy on Cyber Monday.
"The Christmas holiday season online shopping events are the culmination of the preparations by the world's largest e-commerce players, which began in early 2016," Ofer Shoshan, co-founder and CEO of One Hour Translation, said in a statement. "These preparations included upgrading and localizing websites in order to adapt them to shoppers all over the globe. The survey we conducted proves that Black Friday, a shopping event that was considered purely American, is becoming popular even in major non-English-speaking countries."
Respondents in some countries were more enthusiastic than others; consumers in the U.K. and Spain, for example, were far more likely to express interest in buying on Black Friday than those in France or Japan. Spain, Germany and Canada, on the other hand, fell somewhere in between those extremes.
But the respondents who signaled a likelihood to buy in each country tend to be quite young, suggesting the potential for growth in the future. Shoshan suggests bolstering digital channels and catering to an international audience in order to take future advantage of these trends.