'Tis the season for festivities and cheer, but lurking beneath the tinsel and joy lies a complex global economy that's impacting the way we shop.

That’s why Sitecore recently conducted a holiday expectations survey. This holiday season it’s more important than ever to unpack what retailers need to know about how consumers expect to spend their holidays – and how they plan to spend their money.

With prices steadily on the rise, shoppers worldwide are tightening their purse strings and rethinking their spending habits. As wallets feel the pinch of inflation, gift-givers are opting for more affordable options, often seeking out practical presents that won't break the bank.

This global economic reality should nudge retailers to strike a delicate balance between offering value and preserving the holiday magic. Amidst these challenging times, it's clear that retailers need to stay nimble and respond, adapting to shoppers' changing priorities, and ensuring that their offerings remain attractive and affordable despite the financial uncertainties in the air.

Sitecore’s Acting CMO Hannah Grap explained that “throwing one-size-fits-all content at consumers simply won’t cut it if brands want to break through and engage with shoppers. Having a martech strategy in place that delivers content and experiences that are targeted to consumers is going to be key. If a brand showcases luxury-priced goods to someone looking for affordable options, it runs the risk of losing that shopper. Based on our findings, it may be as simple as the wrong image featured on a homepage that results in lost revenue.”

Understanding these nuances will help retailers succeed in capturing shoppers’ wallets this year.

10 holiday shopping trends to inform a winning holiday strategy

  1. Budget-Conscious Shoppers: Shoppers are actively looking to reduce expenses by purchasing cheaper and fewer gifts during the holiday season. With this, many shoppers report having started their saving early in order to afford the gifts they do plan to give. Offering an engaging shopping experience across every channel early to support the true browsing and researching experience is imperative.
  2. Personalized Discounts: The state of the economy has shoppers seeking discounts and promotions wherever they can. With shoppers being more planful and strategic with the dollars they do spend, retailers should expect their discounts and promotions to be personalized, flexible, and relevant if they’re going to earn a seat in the cart.
  3. Free Shipping Imperative: Offering free shipping is a must, as a significant majority of shoppers prioritize it when making purchase decisions. Some shoppers state they won’t purchase an item altogether if it doesn’t offer free shipping. Retailers should consider the cost of lost revenue over the cost of shipping this holiday season, and consider things like endless aisle strategies or drop shipping options where possible.
  4. Black Friday Revival: Black Friday is regaining popularity, with more consumers planning to participate in both online and in-store shopping on this day. Beyond the fact that it’s fun to shop on Black Friday, most shoppers say it’s more financially advantageous and it helps them avoid last-minute shopping. Having a strategy to both engage shoppers and handle a potential increase in traffic is a must this year.
  5. Trust in Inventory Visibility: Shoppers want to see inventory levels to understand what products are available and when. If they know an item is low in stock, it often leads them to purchase sooner. However many shoppers don’t believe it when retailers say things like “only one left in stock.” And shoppers are wary of poor experiences where they’ve purchased an item only to be told after the fact that it is actually out of stock. This year, real-time inventory visibility is vital for earning shoppers' trust, with accurate stock information being a key factor.
  6. Online Dominance Continues: Online shopping remains the primary channel for holiday purchases, with in-store visits primarily for research and browsing. Convenience is key – retailers should expect to be anywhere their customers are.
  7. AI and Personalization Strategies: Retailers should explore AI-driven solutions for personalized shopping experiences, ensuring that content and recommendations match consumers' preferences and budgets.
  8. Omnichannel Excellence: Retailers should focus on creating effective omnichannel strategies to cater to the evolving shopping behavior of consumers. AI can also play a role in improving shoppers’ experience as they move from one channel to the next. Whether it’s smarter cross-channel inventory management, smarter store associates, or more effective cross-sell and up-sell categories, optimizing the omnichannel experience is important this year.
  9. Gift Preferences Evolving: This year is as much about how people are buying as it is about what they are buying. Shoppers are leaning toward functional, sustainable, and experiential gifts, with a growing interest in upcycled or vintage products.
  10. Social Media Influence: Social media, particularly platforms like TikTok and Instagram, has a significant impact on shoppers' gift choices. Social content and advertisements are successfully influencing holiday purchase decisions. And they’re also turning into channels where shoppers expect to purchase gifts.

We hope these holiday shopping trends provide valuable insights for retailers, guiding you towards crafting strategies that align with consumers' preferences and expectations this year. By harnessing the power of modern digital experience (DX) technology, embracing an omnichannel approach, and fostering trust with shoppers through things like inventory transparency, retailers can embark on a transformative journey to meet the needs of the modern holiday shopper.

Want more holiday expectations survey findings? Explore the full reports here:

Sitecore’s modern content and commerce capabilities are here to help! Let us show you how you can orchestrate and deliver content in the right context so that it drives impactful shopping experiences … everywhere.