As we gradually begin the build-up to this year’s holiday season, the pandemic has given many consumers a new outlook on life. They have a different view on how they spend their time and money, on what they give, and what they receive.

To shine a light on this change in attitudes, Sitecore commissioned research across more than 14,000 consumers and 14 different countries and regions. It reveals that many consumers agree the pandemic has “made me value time at home with my family and the simple pleasures in life more.” At the same time, the research shows a new focus on mental health needs and an appreciation for travel and other cultures.

Our research shows that these new attitudes on life, newfound values and focus on experiences will influence how consumers spend, shop, gift, and receive this holiday season. In this blog, we explore the key trends for the 2021 holiday season.

All about experiences

When it comes to receiving gifts this holiday season, many consumers agree that they “don’t need any more stuff and would prefer experience-based gifts.” Seven in ten consumers in France, Italy, and the UK responded this way, rising to 75% of Benelux consumers and 77% in the Middle East. Consumers also want to get back to experiencing the things they associate with the holidays — such as buying food and other items only available during the holiday season, enjoying the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, and experiencing the holiday window displays.

As well as traditional in-person experiences, many consumers say they’re interested in digital experiences this holiday season, such as VR home makeovers or trying on make-up using augmented reality. They plan to use these experiences to get inspiration for gifts and find holiday treats for themselves.

Giving and spending

When it comes to choosing gifts for others, importance is being placed on quality rather than quantity. In countries including Spain and the US, around half of consumers agree that they plan to buy less but make bigger and more considerate holiday purchases for loved ones this year. Notably, many of our survey respondents said they have more savings set aside for the holidays this year, as a result of decreased spending on social activities and events.

Interestingly, a sizable proportion of consumers in some countries are also keen to spend their holiday savings on treats for themselves such as travel or beauty treatments, as well as material items such as clothes — a contrast to the more sustainable buying attitudes consumers are expressing in the gifts they buy for others.

Despite this trend toward high spending on self and others, equally large numbers — as many as 93% in Southeast Asia — say the pandemic has made them think more carefully about what to spend their money on. So, while customers are looking to spend big, they may be more cautious about an impulse buy.

Socially conscious shopping

This trend toward more considered spending is apparent in other areas too. Shoppers are becoming more conscientious, not just about how they spend their money, but where they spend it.

Consumers across several countries state the importance of supporting Black and minority-owned businesses. And although the pull of big online retailers such as Amazon can be strong, when it comes to gift giving, consumers in many areas are keen to shop local and promote local products — even if it requires spending a bit more.

Lessons to be learned

Since these surveys were conducted, the situation with COVID-19 has remained uncertain, with some areas improving and others seeing a case resurgence in the countries and regions we surveyed.

Despite this, consumers are looking forward to experiences this holiday season and they have the money and desire to spend on them. But the reality is we don’t know what safe gatherings will look like next week, let alone two months from now.

To combat this uncertainty and provide the experiences customers are craving, brands must stay nimble. Those who have embraced agile tools and methods of working will be best prepared to deliver both digital and in-person experiences that help foster the joy of the holiday season and go beyond customer expectations.