More than half of UK consumers get a head start on Christmas shopping amidst availability concerns

52% say COVID-19 is also not affecting their spending ahead of the Christmas period. More are opting to shop online with in-store the first choice for just 29% of UK consumers
Bazaarvoice, Inc., a provider of product reviews and user-generated content (UGC) solutions, has announced the results of its latest global study, exploring the holiday shopping habits of consumers in Europe, North America, and Australia during this years’ Golden Quarter.
The research, based on survey responses of over 6,000 consumers from the U.K., U.S., France, Germany, Australia, and Canada, takes a closer look at how COVID-19 is affecting consumer spending this holiday season. More specifically, the research looks at whereconsumers are spending, and what they are spending it on. Key U.K. findings from Bazaarvoice’s new study include:
Almost two years on, the holiday season is slowly becoming immune to COVID-19
When it comes to buying gifts, the holidays seem to be relatively back to normal. Despite over a third (37%) of UK consumers admitting their planned holiday spend has been impacted by the pandemic, the vast majority (81%) are still planning to buy holiday gifts as normal this year. Almost two thirds (60%) plan to spend the same amount over the holiday season as last year, while 15% plan to indulge those around them and spend more.
The most important factor consumers will consider when buying gifts this year is cost (59%). This is followed by getting good value (52%) and whether the product is in stock (43%). This has become particularly important as British consumers grow nervous about how recent supply chain difficulties will affect store shelves.
Supply chain disruption means there is greater incentive for consumers to plan ahead this year. As such, brands and retailers need to start decking their halls as soon as possible; almost a third (31%) of respondents said they’re starting their holiday shopping earlier this year, while 52% said they’re starting at the same time as usual. In fact, more than half of respondents (52%) will have already started their holiday shopping by now, with a quarter (25%) having planned to kick off their spending in October alone. Over a third (36%) still plan to start in November, and just 13% said they’re going to put it off until December.
Gatherings will be in-person, but holiday shopping will still happen online
Despite the re-opening of physical retail in the second half of this year, the holiday season will still see the impact of the pandemic-induced surge in e-commerce. Over half (55%) of respondents said they’re shopping online now more than they were pre-COVID. This is also reflected in where respondents said they will be shopping for holiday gifts this year, with in-store becoming less of a priority; while 60% shopped at a physical store for holiday gifts in the past, only 53% will do so this year, a 7% drop.
The change was inverse for online shopping; while 62% said they holiday shopped on a brand or retailer website with home delivery in the past, 67% said they would do the same this year, a 5% increase. With more digital holiday shoppers than ever before, brands and retailers need to ensure they optimise online discoverability and be sure to provide persuasive UGC that helps replicate the in-store experience of touching, feeling, and trying out a product.
When deciding between two gifts, price (66%) is again the biggest factor, however knowing the product will meet expectations is also a priority, with customer reviews (39%), the product rating (28%) and description (27%) next in terms of importance.
More consumers aim to give gifts that will get friends and family out of the house
With COVID restrictions having largely lifted across the UK, and in-person events now taking place, consumers are changing what types of gifts they are buying this year. Beauty (59%) and food & beverages (47%) are the most popular gift category, however this year consumers are more willing to give their friends and families the gift of in-person experiences.
This year, UK consumers are planning to purchase fewer physical products (i.e. clothes, perfume, toys) than they did in 2020 (down by 2%), in favour of buying more experiential gifts such as concert tickets and trips (up by 7%) and services such as massages and facials (up by 3%).
“There’s a lot of pressure on brands and retailers to deliver this holiday season, particularly after last year’s retail closures during the golden quarter. Concerns over delivery times and stock availability are very real and consumers are preparing well in advance to ensure there will be no dramatic impact on celebrations”, said Ed Hill, SVP EMEA at Bazaarvoice.
“COVID has driven shoppers online, and they like it there, but to truly capitalise brands and retailers need to ensure their digital offerings are simple, efficient, and filled with inspiring UGC. During this period, as we wait for the larger holiday campaigns and Christmas television adverts to be launched, it’s especially important to ensure a strong UGC strategy is in place, that provides consumers with all the relevant information required to make an informed decision and to help give them the confidence to purchase.”

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