With online sales from Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday reported to be up more than 15% over last year, we saw a distinct shift in shopping preferences. Conversion among all digital devices was in double digits, higher than any previous year. The dip in crowds and cacophony at physical retail stores showed the new tendency of shoppers. More of them are opting out of traffic jams andcheckout lines and opting in for convenience, ease and privacy in their shopping experiences. The much anticipated past four days in the annual retail cycle showed us the steady and indisputable win of e-Commerce, with mobile taking its boldest bow yet. Salesforce’s retail intelligence unit says 42% of Black Friday orders were placed on a smartphone.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping data came as no surprise on the back of the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey. “Consumers voiced greater certainty about their expectations for income, employment, and inflation. Inflation expectations have shown the smallest dispersion on record, and increased certainty about future income and job prospects has become a key factor that has supported discretionary purchases.”
While last week saw solid gifting momentum, the bulk of holiday gift purchases are skewed toward the month of December leading to Hanukah and Christmas. November though still serves as the bellwether for the remaining 33 days of this year. Our prediction at SmartGift is that total holiday gift spending should see a 3.5% increase YOY with consumers, on average, planning to buy about 15 gifts including gift cards this holiday season.
The Paradigm Shift In Gift Shopping
1. Gift Shoppers Are Highly Engaged
Snugly fitted with their mobiles phones as the natural extensions of their hands, holiday shoppers this season are highly engaged.
In the first step of gift shopping, The Idea Generation Phase, gift shoppers are turning to digital content such as holiday gift guides and powerful brand stories to find inspiration. They are tuning into their social feeds to find gifts that fit a person's personality or lifestyle, with 39% of shoppers around the world saying that social networks provide their main inspiration for purchases.
According to Google’s VP of Marketing for Americas Liza Gevelber, their internal search data shows growth in consumers searching for products “to avoid” and “worst.” Consumers are more empowered andmore curious, and information is at the tap of their fingertips. “People want to feel confident and ensure that the choice they’re about to make is worth it for them—literally. In fact, “is ____ worth it?” is another area that’s seen growth on mobile search (over 80%) in the past two years.”
These “hurried” shoppers who would have been previously profiled as gift card buyers or inattentive gift givers are now finding immediate help to spark ideas because of their constantly connected nature. It’s also worth noting that these mobile idea seekers are converting into mobile gift buyers, with mobile share purchases jumping 40% over the four days of Thanksgiving holidays compared to rest of the year.
Tip: Be compellingly present in the Top-of-the-Funnel moments with ideas, inspirations and genuine stories regularly as opposed to just being there in seasonal moments.
2. Delightful Digital Experiences Matter
Today’s shoppers expect immediate, seamless and beautiful end-to-end experiences.
This year, we are seeing gift-centric, innovative and highly sought-after brands such as Cole Haan, New Balance, Tory Burch, TUMI and others embracing exciting new gift technologies. They are no longer resting on the old-fashioned e-gift card as their only digital gift strategy but moving toward more personalized, mobile-centered and data-fueled gift shopping and receiving experiences.
Our data from the four days of Thanksgiving showed that 58.6% of smart-gifting took place on mobile. These fast-paced, point of inspiration gift purchases, in which gift givers texted or emailed their gifts directly to their friends/family, helped reduce friction (uncertainty of the “right” gift) and made sure that the gift recipient was happy (by exchanging for another item or choosing a different size/color). On average, the entire gift path (from sending a gift to accepting it) was completed in well under 60 minutes.
When it comes to purchasing books, music, movies and video games, 60% of global shoppers prefer to purchase online, while 28% prefer to purchase in-store. Keeping in line with this data, Barnes & Noble distinguishes itself this holiday season by empowering its online gift shoppers with smart-gifting that gives them delight, surprise and an easy path to gift purchase.
Unlike impulse purchases, gifting is ripe with intent. While people know what brands they want, they are also opening up to different brands for the right experiences. Mobile searches for “____ brands” jumped during the 2016 holiday season and arerising again. Some examples are: “men’s watch brands” (+70%), “best purse brands” (+140%), “makeup brands” (+150%). In addition, last minute gifting is being stretched out to the final two days leading up to Christmas. Armed with 24-hour service and convenience, gift shoppers still expect to be able to seamlessly buy and have their gift delivered right up to the holiday. Mobile searches for “store hours” peaked on Christmas Day. It's the most popular day of the year for that search, as shoppers hunt for last-minute items.
Tip: Enable end-to-end digital experiences that are simple, beautiful and purpose driven. Tap into the procrastinators with innovative digital experiences that allow instant gift purchase and delivery to spread overall customer happiness and satisfaction this holiday season.
Monika Kochhar is the CEO and Co-founder of SmartGift, a gift experience and marketing platform for enterprise brands and retailers. She previously co-founded a data driven music platform that was acquired by a subsidiary of Sony Music and has traded retail and tech on Wall Street. She is an alumnus of London School of Economics and Mount Holyoke College. Kochhar is a champion of women in tech and advocates for girls in STEM. Her articles and thought pieces have been published in Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur andIntel Mag, among others.