2022 has marked another unprecedented year of challenges – just as we were getting comfortable with Covid-19, we saw a resurgence of new variants alongside an unstable economy, political unrest, global tensions and concerning social issues. But even against this complicated backdrop, consumers will not be held back this holiday season.
Regardless of Covid concerns, consumers will do everything they can to spend time with loved ones. Amidst inflation, gift-giving will carry on as people build budgets and find deals to ensure they can find the perfect gifts. And in addition to choosing the perfect gifts, consumers will be selective about the brands they buy. While the holidays typically place a spotlight on being selfless, after a rough couple of years, consumers will put their wants and needs first and do whatever they can to maximize their own personal joy this holiday season.
To dig deeper into consumers’ outlooks, attitudes, and behaviors this holiday season, Vox Media partnered with Woo Brand Research on a survey of 2,000 general consumers. As excitement builds and plans are made, now is the time for brands to build meaningful relationships with consumers as they prepare for their holiday celebrations and build out their gift wish lists.
HUMAN CONNECTION IS PRIORITY #1
Consumers are looking forward to large, in-person holiday gatherings once again. 79% of those surveyed say their main priority is being able to spend quality time with loved ones given everything that has happened. If they had to choose, half say they would rather spend their money on whatever is needed to ensure they can celebrate in-person with family and friends, emphasizing the importance of being with loved ones.
As gatherings will be more pronounced, we anticipate higher spending on food and drink. Holiday hosts will opt to do all the cooking themselves or get help from family and friends rather than cater from a restaurant. Over half (54%) plan on personally doing all the cooking and another 20% will be having a potluck.
Excitement is rising, but the holiday season can be stressful, particularly as we resume full-scale social gatherings. Consumers will welcome any help they can get, seeking resources to help spark ideas and give guests a memorable experience to make up for lost time.
OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
Looking back, consumers admit they felt stuck with holiday traditions they disliked, lacking the courage to speak up or embrace new traditions. Covid-19 gave people permission to shake things up and find new, creative ways to celebrate without being confined to old holiday traditions. Eager to celebrate in ways that make them truly happy, over one in four consumers say they have a new holiday tradition they created in the past two years that they will be using this upcoming holiday season.
INFLATION WON’T GET IN SANTA’S WAY
People are heading into the holiday season with inflation and a recession weighing on their minds. 64% feel inflation is a bigger threat than Covid this holiday season. But even though consumers are cautious heading into the holidays, nearly everyone (91%) will still buy gifts for family and friends.
To counter concerns of inflation and recession, people will leverage fintech brands to earn rewards and have more flexibility. We can expect an increase in usage or trial of buy now, pay later (BNPL) services and online shopping reward portals, particularly among Gen Z and Millennials.
While a third have used a BNPL app or online shopping portal before, this will be the first time they will be using it for holiday gift shopping, and one-fifth will be trying it for the first time ever.
HOLIDAY SHOPPERS ARE ALREADY OFF TO THE RACES
This year, consumers will prefer a hybrid approach to shopping, utilizing both in-store and online about equally. Half of shoppers (52%) say they will be shopping online, and about half (48%) say they will be shopping in-store. Retailers will need to deliver a seamless shopping experience across online and in-store, offering consistent pricing and deals across channels or real-time updates of product availability.
In line with their value-seeking behaviors, consumers expect to start holiday shopping earlier to get the best deals. About half of consumers are also concerned with supply chain challenges, which is another key motivator to start shopping earlier. One in four consumers will have started their holiday shopping by the end of September, and half plan on having most of their holiday shopping done by the end of November.
To meet the needs and behaviors of shoppers, brands must start marketing earlier and promote value from the jump. With tighter budgets this holiday season, shoppers will be most attracted to tactical messaging relating to value and cost savings. 69% want brands to offer sales and promotions, and over one in three want brands to offer payment plans.
CONSCIOUS CONSUMERISM CONTINUES TO RISE, AND MARKETERS NEED TO PAY ATTENTION
While price remains important, shoppers, especially young consumers, will go out of their way to identify brands and gifts that are empathetic and supportive of social causes.
THE YEAR OF CONVENIENT, EXPERIENTIAL, AND SELF-CARE GIFTS
62% of gifting budgets will be dedicated to gifts for family and friends with the remaining 38% meant for self-gifting. Gift cards are the most popular choice for holiday gifting for others this year, as they’re convenient and easy to budget for. Experience-based gifts like concert or sporting event tickets are also seeing growth as consumers look to resume normal life.
In terms of self-gifting, appearance and beauty-related items are seeing some of the most growth. Compared to last year, consumers are more likely to buy jewelry, apparel, shoes, and beauty products for themselves. As people anticipate resuming full-scale celebrations this holiday season, they want to look and feel good.
DIGITAL CONTENT WILL BE HOLIDAY SHOPPERS’ BEST FRIEND
47% of shoppers say they will need more help with gift ideas this year since they need to balance cost with quality, and 43% will be putting more pressure on themselves to come up with the perfect gift since they are scaling down. Digital marketers have huge opportunities to wield a large influence this holiday season as receptivity will be high.
VOX MEDIA ATTRACTS DETERMINED HOLIDAY SHOPPERS
While inflation is a top concern for everyone this holiday season, Vox Media consumers feel more comfortable spending money this year. Determined to put together the best celebrations, Vox Media consumers will spend 3x more on outfits and beauty products to prepare for holiday events and 2x more on holiday decor. They also plan on spending more on gifts for family and friends as well as on themselves. Vox Media consumers plan on spending over +50% more on gifts, and they are twice as likely to say they will buy themselves a gift this year compared to non-Vox Media consumers.
USING THEIR WALLET FOR GOOD
While value is a priority for Vox Media consumers, they are more likely to be social cause advocates who make gifting decisions based on their values and choose brands that “do good.”
KEEP THE GIFT GUIDES COMING
The Vox Media audience is reliant on digital channels and content much more than non-Vox Media consumers to guide their holiday shopping. They are highly influenced by online gift guides, and they trust curated product recommendations, like the ones found across Vox Media sites, to spotlight high-quality products.
Between Covid, inflation, and ongoing social issues, we all have concerns about being able to make the holidays special this year. Nevertheless, consumers are determined to make the most of the holiday season, as it marks a return to normalcy and large, social gatherings with family and friends. It will be essential for marketers to give consumers the tools and solutions they need to overcome any obstacles and bring joy back to the holiday season - a feeling we’ve all missed out on for way too long. Messaging should focus on the importance of family time, give consumers the confidence that they are making the “right” gifting choices, and place brands’ social values front and center.
About Woo Brand Research:
Woo Brand Research is an insight and strategy consulting agency specializing in helping brands understand the consumer mindset and shopper journey in the digital age. We develop custom quantitative and qualitative research to understand consumers from all angles including generational trends to effectively develop marketing communications and campaigns and brand positioning.