What Holiday Shoppers Expect and How Retailers Can Deliver

October 29, 2015

By: Jim Davidson,
Author Title: 
Head of Research
, Bronto Software

We all have people on our holiday shopping list who are impossible to buy for. Maybe they already have everything they need or have very niche interests. Or maybe, for one reason or another, you need to buy them a gift but don’t actually know them all that well. Wouldn’t life be easier if you could just ask them what they want so you can find the perfect gift?

This awkward situation happens in the world of ecommerce, too. Shoppers have put a lot of pressure on retailers to meet their demands, but their ever-changing expectations can often leave retailers guessing. Consumers are constantly finding new ways to shop and developing new opinions of what makes a good deal. They also expect to seamlessly move between sites and stores to find those holiday deals.

So how do retailers get it right? How can they make sure their marketing strategies pay off this year? Wouldn’t it be nice to just ask shoppers what they want during the holidays so retailers can actually deliver?

Well, we did just that. We asked 1,000 shoppers what they want to see during the upcoming holiday season and what will motivate them to buy. Separately, we asked 100 retailers how they plan to meet consumer expectations and what they believe will create the most sparkling holiday season.

The results of our survey showed some surprising mismatches. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • More than half of retailers (53%) launched holiday marketing campaigns in September or earlier, but only 29% of consumers actually start shopping during that same time. Most (52%) wait until October and November

  • More than a third of holiday shoppers (38%) say they won’t shop a site that doesn’t offer free shipping, yet only 18% of online-only merchants and only 30% of multi-channel retailers plan to offer free shipping on all orders during the holidays

  • More than half of shoppers (52%) say they like buy-one get-one (BOGO) promotions, but only 38% of retailers plan to use them this season

  • While 61% of shoppers admit they will use their phones to find a better deal elsewhere, only 41% of marketers believe they will

These disconnects could be costing retailers sales during the busiest time of the year. What can you do to appeal to shoppers and make them think of you first? How can you be ready for shoppers when they decide to tackle their holiday gift list?

Here are some suggestions based on our data:

  • Marketing to millennials – Pump it up for Black Friday. Most 18-29-year-olds will start their holiday shopping later, in November, and they love Black Friday specials more than any other age group.

  • What about the senior set – Nearly a quarter of shoppers 65 and older start shopping in September or earlier.  But seniors also represent the largest group of last-minute shoppers; 30% of shoppers 50 and older will wait until Cyber Monday.

  • Thinking of a flash sale – It will be a hit with the younger crowd; 54% of millennials love them. But interest in these limited-time sales declines with age. Flash sales entice only 39% of shoppers ages 30-39 and only 16% of shoppers age 50-64.

  • Planning to host a door buster sale – Seventy percent of retailers consider these to be effective sales tools, but only 28% of holiday shoppers say they love them.

Holiday shoppers definitely have their own agenda. During the rush of this shopping season, they often toss brand loyalty out the window in a frantic search for the best deals on their holiday gift check list. Put this data to work for you and strategically stack your holiday calendar with promotions to reach the right segment of shoppers at the right time. Understanding when certain demographics shop—and what motivates them to buy—can help you keep shoppers engaged and buying from you throughout the holiday season.

About Jim Davidson
As an expert in email, mobile and social strategies, Jim brings over 15 years of experience in online marketing, managing email and cross-channel programs for top retail clients. From strategic vision to implementation, Jim has led clients to successfully meet aggressive revenue and performance goals. As Bronto's Head of Research, he regularly publishes industry-focused white papers, research reports and contributes to the Bronto blog. His articles can be found in publications such as DMNews, ClickZ, Total Retail and Multichannel Merchant. He has also spoken at numerous industry events, including IRCE, eTail East, eTail Canada, MarketLive Summit and Magento Imagine, and has been featured in Forbes, USAToday and NPR’s Marketplace.

About Bronto
Bronto Software , a NetSuite company (NYSE: N), provides a cloud-based commerce marketing automation platform to mid-market and enterprise organizations worldwide. Bronto is the number one ranked email marketing provider to the Internet Retailer Top 1000, with a client roster of leading brands, including Armani Exchange, Timex, Samsonite, Theory, Vince Camuto and Christopher & Banks. Find the complete Holiday Planning Report and an array of helpful holiday tips at Bronto’s Holiday Resource Center.