Tracing shopping trends, popular shopping modes, consumers’ concerns, expectations & shift in buying behaviour, and the overall 2021 holiday shopping landscape.
2020 was an overused but true phrasing — unprecedented. 2021 brought in some hope of returning to “normal” but the newer waves of covid washed away all those hopes and kept many from seeing their loved ones in person or from shopping in physical stores for some more time. Nevertheless, things started to get under control and people moved towards ‘normalcy’, which brought a shift in the mindset of consumers and retailers as they looked ahead to the holiday season. Shoppers have formed new habits, events of the past several months transformed their spending behaviours, new concerns emerged and raised several questions, however, the Omicron wave seems to have further impacted the shopping behaviour.
- Did shoppers flock to stores or stay away?
- What do consumers expect from their shopping experience in-store and online?
- How has 2021 impacted lifestyles, priorities, altered purchasing preferences, and implications for holiday spending?
- The key behavioural insights that can help brands meet and exceed changing consumer expectations?
To decipher these, Borderless access surveyed over 3000 shoppers across 10 countries (US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, India, Singapore, South Africa, Nigeria, UAE) to help retailers and brands understand how consumers planned their shopping for the 2021 holiday shopping season.
A little of everything - Consumers preferred hybrid mode of shopping
A million-dollar question among the brands is about online shopping versus in-person shopping—how did the balance look last year?
At the beginning of the pandemic, more and more consumers preferred shopping online. However, the preference shifted to the hybrid model of shopping in 2021 even with the continued uncertainty around in-person shopping.
Shoppers embraced the omnichannel experience mostly because they wanted the best of both the shopping modes. In-store footprints did increase, but consumers also brought their pandemic-induced digital shopping habits with them. Shoppers blended in-store browsing and discovery with the convenience of online shopping.
However, concerns regarding online shopping were mitigated to an extent with in-store pickup. Logistical challenges during the pandemic resulted in delivery delays and product scarcity. Hence, in-store pick-up seemed a better option to avoid these hassles.
With such a surge in preference to the hybrid model of shopping, retailers must ensure that digital and physical shopping experiences are closely coordinated.
The Sooner the better! Consumers started shopping for the season well before 'the season.'
The holiday shopping season typically begins in earnest around Thanksgiving with the weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But in 2021, consumers started shopping early to capitalize on big discounts and seize opportunities to buy sooner rather than later.
Brands and retailers promoted their holiday offers early to lock in sales and cement their position as the "go-to" choice. With that, they not just pulled the demand forward but also ensured enough time to fulfil and deliver orders on time, considering the supply chain and logistical challenges.
Consumers were anxious about missing out on any discount or exciting offers. Concerns regarding shipping delays and getting exposed to the crowd also soared to early sales.
Peeking into consumers’ shopping bags
Personal and non-gift items for families topped this season's shopping list.
Considering online shopping has been the preferred shopping mode since the pandemic, it seems consumers loved bouncing between their favourite brands’ websites to find a perfect gift for their loved ones.
What changed? Understanding the shift in holiday shopping trends this year
Similar to the 2020 holiday season, which was anything but ordinary, in 2021 too, consumers spent less, sought better-priced alternatives, with heavy discounts and focussed on mindful spending.
The impact on people’s income chopped off consumers’ shopping budgets and more of them drifted to spending quality time with friends and family to celebrate the festivities.
The 2 big changes we noticed this year were, ‘people choosing local shops/small businesses and ‘brands are driven by purpose’.
What do brands need to know?
Consumers are always lured by discounts and deals, a no-brainer for brands and e-commerce portals, and consumers' obvious top expectations. A close next to discounts this year is the expectation of ‘loyalty rewards’, which brands should consider leveraging with the rise in direct-to-consumer (D2C) from brands and a big expectation from consumers to shop from their favourite brands online.
With the increase in online shopping, consumers expect hassle-free returns. Another key expectation from shoppers this year is ‘personalization’. An effective personalization operating model, when executed well, enables brands not only to take a lead but also to gain a sustainable competitive advantage. Moreover, personalized experiences drive up customer loyalty and brand stickiness.
The 2021 holiday shopping turned out to be a mixed bag with some consumers choosing between shopping in either physical stores or online stores only, and some combining both and making the most of it in their purchase journey. Brands should remain agile and use the consumer-centric, omnichannel approach to best reach and engage shoppers. To take the market lead, brands will need to reach their audiences both digitally and in the physical store.
Therefore, brands and businesses are recommended to maximize on early shoppers, direct-to-consumer, or improve their digital presence and work on fulfilling their consumers' expectations to make the most of the 2022 shopping season.
Want to understand your brand's consumer expectations and how can you drive loyalty with existing and new customers? Speak to our experts for insights.