COVID-19 holiday shopping patterns provide valuable retail marketing insights

Make no mistake—consumers still want to buy gifts this holiday season, COVID-19 or not.
However, they will choose where and how to stretch their dollars more strategically this year. They’ll be shopping not just based on price, but on convenience and safety as well. They’ll be looking for all-around value in terms of convenience, availability, and loyalty rewards. No doubt, 2020 holiday shopping patterns will be somewhat different than years past, but there are plenty of opportunities for retail brands to evolve in productive ways that will make them more competitive in the future.  

2020 Holiday Shopping Patterns: What to Expect

Shopkick has been surveying tens of thousands of consumers since March. The most recent batch of surveys reveals insightful consumer shopping trends that can help retailers plan ahead. Our latest report reveals for What, Where, Why, When, and How consumers plan to shop as we prepare for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the rest of the holiday season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHAT Are They Buying?

This year is expected to buck the recent trend of purchasing “experience” gifts like restaurant vouchers, hotel stays, and tickets to concerts, movies, sporting events, and theater performances. While this category has increased 40% over the last 5 years, present uncertainty regarding future lockdowns and restrictions will have gifters thinking twice. 

Shopkick surveys found this year’s top categories to be: apparel (25%) electronics (21%), and toys and video games (21%). Categories related to home, wellness, and fitness are also expected to do well.

To stretch consumer dollars: 

  • 73% will use couponing apps/digital coupons.
  • 67% will purchase items that are discounted/on sale.
  • 63% will use shopping apps like Shopkick.
  • 55% will shop at budget-conscious stores.

According to Shopkick GM David Fisch, consumers may feel more optimistic toward the start of 2021 and buy more clothing to refresh their wardrobes, as well as those of family and friends. “This presents a great opportunity for fashion and apparel retailers who may have experienced dips in sales earlier in the year,” he commented, adding: “Retailers should capitalize on offering special rewards to shoppers to help boost sales now and throughout the holiday shopping season.”

WHERE Are They Buying?

Due to the pandemic, 67% of shoppers are expected to do the majority of their holiday shopping online to avoid crowds and exposure. However, the majority of shoppers surveyed (71%) by Shopkick did note they would shop both online and in-store, compared to just 13% who said “online only” and 9% who said “in-store only.” To capture this ever-changing shopping preference among consumers, it is best to adopt omnichannel operational capabilities. That way, you can meet the needs of consumers no matter what their shopping preference is. 

Some key insights found include: 

  • 82% of in-store shoppers will use their mobile phones to compare prices and conduct research. 
  • 65% of in-store shoppers will mainly visit big-box retailers, 11% will visit off-price retailers, and 10% will visit department stores. 
  • 65% of online shoppers will heavily rely on Amazon, 18% on big-box retailers’ eCommerce sites, and 6% of department stores’ eCommerce sites. 
  • 44% of consumers will take advantage of BOPIS (buy online pick up in-store).

However, it should be noted that 82% of in-store shoppers still have concerns regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

WHY Are They Buying?

The pandemic has caused financial strife among all types of shoppers, causing their motivations and priorities to shift a bit. Here’s what we found: 

  • In-store shoppers will be motivated by prices and deals (73%), the immediate gratification of taking products home same day (49%), product availability (47%), aisle-browsing inspiration (42%), and ease of comparing products (42%). 
  • Online shoppers will be motivated by prices and deals (73%), avoiding exposure (71%), convenience and ease of shipping and returns (63%), saving time (57%), and product availability (50%). 
  • Of those surveyed who noticed rising shipping costs, 72% said it would impact their decision to shop online vs. in-store and 84% said it would impact which retailers they shop with. 
  • 54% are most incentivized by free shipping. Only 24% of shoppers believe low prices matter most in 2020 (which was the #1 priority in 2019).

Consumers’ holiday shopping lists are most influenced by requests from children (52%), the opportunity to earn rewards (42%), weekly circulars (32%), word of mouth (28%), and digital advertising (22%). 

WHEN Are They Buying?

The holiday shopping patterns of 2019 found shoppers as early birds, with only 3% planning to conduct the bulk of their shopping on Cyber Monday. Most consumers planned to get their lists started before Thanksgiving (35%) or between Black Friday and Cyber Monday (23%). We note the same trend in 2020, except that shoppers are starting to browse for gifts as early as October. 

  • 34% plan to get their shopping done from October through Thanksgiving.
  • 27% plan to shop between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  • 17% expect to shop on Black Friday. 

Savvy retailers will begin marketing their deals early, with different offers throughout the season. As we get closer to December, emphasis on availability and shipping will be necessary to maintain consumer confidence and keep sales volume strong.

HOW Are They Buying?

The good news is that shopping budgets are comparable to 2019. At this point, many Americans plan on hosting the usual family gatherings. Shoppers will be using their mobile devices in the shopping process and taking full advantage of special offers like free shipping, curbside pickup, BOPIS, and same-day delivery.

holiday shopping patternsOther important statistics include:

  • 57% of shoppers plan to spend between $101 to $600.
  • 23% of shoppers say they’ll spend less than last year, while 14% will spend more.
  • 61% of shoppers note that environmentally friendly purchases will be important to them. 
  • 54% note that the outcome of the 2020 election will determine how much they spend this holiday season, and 27% are even planning to wait until the election results before holiday shopping. 

This holiday season more than ever, shoppers are utilizing technology to inform and expedite their purchases. To gain visibility, retailers must position themselves wherever holiday shoppers are. 

Get Your Shoppers Into the Holiday Spirit With the Shopkick App

To appeal to the deal-hunting, mobile-wielding, convenience-driven shoppers of 2020, retailers and brands can partner with Shopkick to add value to the typical trip. With the Shopkick mobile app, consumers earn “kicks” (reward points) for various interactions, which they can accumulate to eventually redeem for a free gift card of their choosing. Rewarded engagements include watching branded videos, browsing curated lookbooks, walking into physical retail stores, scanning barcodes of select items with a smartphone, and making purchases either online or in-store. 

Partnering with Shopkick provides an easy way to take the next leap into providing an omnichannel experience for your customer base while boosting brand visibility to new audiences and fostering loyalty among existing customers.

Shopkick can help brands and retailers engage shoppers and drive sales whether they’re choosing to shop in-store or from their couch this year. With a significantly larger amount of people shopping online as a result of the pandemic, retailers need to prioritize an omnichannel strategy more than ever before, and Shopkick is the perfect solution.

Looking to create an insightful, effective mobile holiday campaign? Read Shopkick success stories, learn more about becoming a partner, and contact us to capitalize on omnichannel holiday shopping patterns.

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Image courtesy of Roman Samborskyi



Shopkick is the fun and easy way to earn free gift cards for the shopping you already do. Download the app now!

COVID-19 holiday shopping patterns provide valuable retail marketing insights



Shopkick is the fun and easy way to earn free gift cards for the shopping you already do. Download the app now!

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