Many consumers aim to start their holiday shopping early this year, as 43% plan to kick off seasonal spending before Black Friday, according to a new study by product review and user-generated content solutions provider Bazaarvoice.
The global research, based on survey responses from 2,500 consumers from the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany, draws from Bazaarvoice’s network of more than 6,000 brand and retailer websites. The results take a closer look at how today’s consumers are planning to shop for their holiday purchases, what their biggest pain points are during the experience, and how brands and retailers can best prepare for the season.
Key U.S. findings from Bazaarvoice’s new study include:
- Holiday shopping is now a six-month season: Almost 20% of consumers reported to have started their shopping as early as mid-summer during “Black Friday in July” sales, while 29% will get a head start in early fall. Black Friday still dominates the shopping season, with the majority of consumers (37%) saying they will complete the bulk of their holiday shopping that day, followed by Cyber Monday (19%). On Black Friday 2018, the Bazaarvoice Network saw a 317% increase in order volume, while Cyber Monday saw a 314% increase.
- Online shopping will reign supreme, but in-store experiences are still important: Almost two-thirds of consumers say they will complete the majority of their holiday shopping online. However, brick-and-mortar is still a critical part of holiday shopping, with more than a third (37%) of respondents stating they will complete the bulk of their purchases in-store, and 36% will complete the majority or entirety of their shopping at a mall.
- No matter where consumers shop, they want it to be convenient: Consumers’ biggest complaints with online holiday shopping are lengthy shipping times and slow order fulfillment (43%), followed by difficulty to decide between brand and product options (39%). In-store, shoppers are overwhelmingly burdened by long checkout lines (75%) and messy/overcrowded stores (61%). Consumers believe brands can improve the holiday shopping experience by improving convenience with experiences like self-checkout or buy online, pick-up in store options (60%) and implementing faster, and more cost-efficient shipping solutions (57%).
- Shoppers consult reviews and other user-generated content for guidance: Almost half (49%) of consumers have returned a holiday gift in the past in order to exchange it for a different option, such as size or color. To make sure they get the right gift, shoppers look to UGC, such as ratings and reviews and question-and-answer tools, to learn more about products. Last year, UGC interaction rates on brand and retailer websites in the Bazaarvoice Network increased ahead of major sales days, showing shoppers like to do their research early. During the holiday season, questions submitted increase by 26%; this spikes to 98% on Black Friday and to 110% on Cyber Monday.
“While Black Friday is still a major shopping event, the holiday shopping season continues to extend earlier into the summer and fall. Brands and retailers should prepare for the season long before October, or they won’t be able to capitalize fully on this critical season,” says Joe Rohrlich, chief revenue officer at Bazaarvoice. “It must be easy and quick for consumers to find, compare, and purchase gifts by leveraging authentic reviews and UGC; brands and retailers that maximize convenience in all aspects of the shopping journey will ensure the holiday season goes smoothly both for themselves and their customers.”
For more holiday shopping data and best practices to prepare for the upcoming season, Bazaarvoice has produced an e-book available for free download here.