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The Influencers

Why the Holiday Shopping Season is Year-Round

INFLUENCER: Consumer behaviour has shifted and the path to purchase is longer than you think, writes Arc Worldwide's Caitlyn Ford

Why the Holiday Shopping Season is Year-Round

Whether the holidays bring out your inner Grinch or Cindy Lou Who, shopping during the most wonderful time of the year is no longer the overwhelming burden it once was. 

Gone are the days of running out mid-meal on Thanksgiving to stand shivering in line for the latest and greatest gift at an unbeatably low price. Thanks to holiday creep, you’re not crazy if you think the holiday shopping season starts sometime around the 4th of July. As we enter the fall months, many shoppers have already purchased and will continue to purchase for the holidays. 

Shoppers own control of their path to purchase and are adopting new technologies to optimise their experience, whether it be voice activation, ecommerce or shoppable pins, pushing retailers and brands to alter their approach in new, creative ways to capture attention and drive sales. According to eMarketer, US e-commerce retail sales are expected to total $923.15 billion during this holiday season, a jump of 16% from last year. With digital innovations, shopping - and sales - are literally a click away.


Holiday Shopping Is Now a Year-Round Task

Nearly a third of holiday gift buyers said they’ve started their holiday shopping in October or earlier, per eMarketer. This serves as an opportunity for brands and retailers to take advantage of the quiet months leading up to the holiday season to start a dialogue with gift-planning shoppers and intercept them with targeted messages as they make their lists.  

Shoppers are relying on retailer and third-party websites in their holiday gift search, with 89%  saying they research products and compare prices online before buying in person, according to the National Retail Federation. It’s crucial that product pages house key product information that speaks to shoppers’ needs, address key barriers and provide reassurance, whether it be through elevated product imagery, video or additional enhanced content. While searching products, holiday shoppers are also relying on peer experiences for validation, with three-quarters saying they’ve considered product reviews by peers important in choosing to make a holiday purchase from a given online retailer, the NRF reports. 

Ensuring that product details and promotions are year-round and targeted toward consumers’ needs will help provide a seamless experience for information-hungry holiday shoppers. 


Shoppers Need Gift Ideas! Their First Stop Is Social  

While a lot of gift-giving still starts with hints from loved ones, shoppers are approaching new avenues to really push home what they want. Some retailers are beginning to pick up on this and are repositioning an old, tried-and-true go-to for the holidays: registries. 

Registries are no longer for weddings or baby showers; they’re used as a source for creating holiday wish lists to share with friends and family. It’s the perfect way to tell grandma you don’t want that homemade sweater; instead you’d prefer that stand mixer in robin’s egg blue. (Stand mixers are forever, and I have a ton of Pinterest recipes to try.) 

Online wish lists were critical in the holiday gift process last year, with 40% of shoppers using them for getting gift ideas and 63% saying they’d like to use them more in the future, the NRF says. A wish-list generator (Google it!) can help shoppers select items they like or be a reference when buying for others. With more than half of online holiday shoppers saying they purchased an item that was recommend directly from a retailer, it’s an easy win to marry wish lists or registries with recommended products, gift-with-purchase deals, bundle options or last-minute incentives to spur impulse purchases.


Shopping in One Seamless Interaction, Please

In our tech-savvy world new channels are constantly created for shoppers to engage with retailers and brands. For example, Pinterest said consumers who are consciously looking to make a purchase are three times more likely to complete a purchase when being exposed to a shoppable pin than others. These types of ads help create a seamless experience for shoppers to engage with content and buy in one frictionless interaction. And since Gen Z and Millennials turn to Pinterest for gift ideas, its great platform to leverage for targeting that demographic, NRF says.   

Not surprisingly, last year a majority of shoppers did their holiday shopping online, with 66% making purchases using desktop, mobile or voice-controlled device, Walker Sands reports. Voice activation expedites the shopping process for the time-strapped among us and makes gift-giving a truly hands-off experience. Virtual assistants are still early in adoption, but an estimated 35.6 million US shoppers use a voice-enabled speaker such as Amazon Echo or Google Home. So far this year, according to eMarketer, 67% of virtual assistant users turn to them for online searches, shopping and price comparisons

Not to be forgotten, free shipping remains the primary motivator for purchasing online among 81% of consumers, per the Walker Sands report, and 55% expect shipping to be even faster during the holiday season. 


Treat Yo’ Self Culture Builds Baskets

Did you see the 'Parks and Recreation' 'Treat Yo’ Self' episode where Donna and Tom create an annual holiday to celebrate themselves? Treating yourself is a mantra many apply to themselves today. There are more than 46 million search results based on treat yourself.  Millennials have embraced this concept, with a hyper-focus on self-care, a $10 billion industry perpetuated by self-care kits, pampering and curated subscription boxes that come weekly or monthly. Approximately 66% of Millennials and 71% of Gen Z said they made more impulsive purchases, higher than other generations, the NRF found. 

With Amazon creating its own deal-centric holiday, Amazon Prime Day, retailers have been trying to keep up, creating a culture where shoppers are accustomed to regular sales yearlong. Brands can communicate limited-time offers to help trigger impulse purchases or include a gift with purchase to further incentivise purchases. 


Basket Size Grew 3 Sizes That Day

I’m more of a Grinch when it comes to the holidays. I was known for last-minute gifts decorated in Hello Kitty birthday wrapping paper. With one in five shoppers seeing themselves as online shoppers, I’m grateful to leverage my online shopping skills to take advantage of holiday offers like complimentary gift wrapping and free two-day shipping to upgrade my approach to gift giving. These perks help turn items under consideration into actual purchases, and let’s me be sure I’m spreading some holiday cheer.  




Caitlyn Ford is a digital strategist at Leo Burnett's Arc Worldwide.