Smoothing the holiday shopper's buying journey

The holiday shopping season is upon us! In fact, for some consumers, it’s already over. 

More than half of shoppers began purchasing holiday gifts before the end of October. By then, 1 in 3 shoppers were completely done shopping. 

As the season flies by, are retailers really making the most of a crucial time of year?


Planning a merry holiday shopping season

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It was a summer of spending. Consumers dug deep into their wallets for concert tickets, watching movies in theaters (we’re talking about Barbenheimer, of course), and attending live sports games. But now, student loan repayments have started back up. Loan delinquencies are on the rise. And the effects of pandemic-era policies that gave consumers a supporting boost are expiring.  

As concerns about economic stability grow, can the summer’s spending really keep up for retailers’ crucial holiday sales season? Especially when that season’s already half-over? 

This year, consumers intend to make their holiday gifting dreams happen, but their path to purchase has higher hurdles than in the past. The average shopper plans to spend $978 this holiday season, and 3 in 4 adults plan to spend the same amount as last year, or more, on gifts. But economic forecasters predict only a modest 4% retail sales growth. 

For retailers, then, it comes down to doing everything in your power to remove buying barriers. Here are a few ways to get started. 

Consider each shopping stage. Many shoppers are making holiday purchases earlier in the season. To reach this group, consider launching holiday promotions and messaging in early fall. Then follow up with ads targeting later shoppers who are more likely to shop in-store, be deal-seeking, and prioritize buy now, pay later options. 

Focus on pre-purchase behaviors. September and October shoppers tend to be extra deliberate about researching and planning purchases. Optimize website content for informational needs by adding gift guides, product comparisons, and planning resources.  

Free shipping is now standard. Over 90% of shoppers rate free shipping as very important. To avoid any frustration, ensure shipping policies are clearly communicated across your website, product pages, cart, and all promotions. Highlight any minimum order thresholds and be transparent about handling fees. 

Scrutinize return policies. Shoppers are being more careful with budgets and policies this year. Highlight flexible policies like free, easy returns with an extended holiday window. And when possible, reduce friction by providing self-service options. 

Let customers buy now and pay later. Buy now, pay later usage jumped last year and is expected to increase again in 2023, especially among later shoppers who need extra flexibility. Reduce cart abandonment by integrating options like Affirm and Afterpay directly in your checkout flow and promote installment plans in cart messaging and on product pages. 

Finally, offer connection through gifting. Consumers are prioritizing gifts that create meaningful experiences and connections as they still feel they missed out for a couple of years due to the pandemic. Lean into the experience of your products by curating gift guides around sharing experiences and quality time. 

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