There are a lot of theories about how inflation, supply chain constraints and other dynamics will impact consumer behaviors. While large-scale surveys help identify macro trends and predictions, micro-surveys can glean new insights into specific communities of users. eBay Ads recently surveyed both groups to understand the trending themes among 2,000 online shoppers in the U.S. as well as the distinct nuances of 1,500 eBay shoppers.
The eBay Ads holiday report found that shoppers still plan to spend despite high inflation and the ongoing threat of a recession: more than two-thirds (71%) of 2,000 U.S. online shoppers said they plan to spend the same or more than they did in years past. But clearly deal hunting is top-of-mind for older consumers: while 55% of Gen Z consumers said they plan to spend more on holiday shopping and celebrations, a mere 39% of millennial shoppers intend to do the same.
“What we’re probably going to see is not necessarily more items sold, but because prices are going up due to inflation, consumers are buying the same amount but ultimately spending more,” predicted Alex Kazim, VP and General Manager of Global Advertising for eBay in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We have these macro factors, as well as a new phase of the pandemic where people are out more and seeing friends and family, [so] the subset of people they’re buying gifts for also is far larger.”
And like many other surveys this year, the eBay Ads surveys conclude that online shopping will still be central to the holiday season. Looking at year-over-year behavioral changes among eBay shoppers specifically, the report found that 92% plan to do most of their shopping online. Last year, 79% of eBay shoppers said they planned to do at least some of their shopping online, while 55% said they would do all of their shopping online.
“I would’ve thought, with this phase of the pandemic, that more people would be doing more in-store purchasing, but that is an enormous jump,” Kazim noted. “I think it’s representative of people looking for ways to stretch their dollars and find great deals.” He added that online shoppers also have access to a greater breadth and depth of inventory, especially through marketplaces. Through these online destinations, consumers can access older models and even used goods, which allows them to get the most bang for their buck.
Taking an Agile Approach to Marketing and Advertising
Consumers’ largely digital-first approach, inspired by seamless product search and comparison as well as deal-hunting, aligns with the elongation of the holiday season. Nearly half (48%) of online shoppers said they have already purchased gifts (up from 31% of shoppers in 2021). However, many consumers are still leaving some of their gift buying for the holiday home stretch: 66% of all surveyed shoppers said they are likely to purchase items after December 18.
“It’s understandable that some people wanted to start earlier given inflation — they want to see how far their dollars will stretch,” Kazim said. “Retailers are trying to do earlier launches of sale events than they normally would, but there’s still a large segment of the population that is in ‘wait-and-see’ mode to see how the macro factors will play out in order to see how they want to do holiday shopping. For some consumers, holiday shopping isn’t simply on their radar right now.”
The bottom line is that brands and retailers need to rethink their approaches to holiday marketing and advertising. Kazim shared the following recommendations to help:
- Align your advertising to the extended season: “Brands and retailers need to understand their inventory and gauge what makes sense at different times through the year,” Kazim said. “We say ‘start early,’ but which products make sense for that? What inventory should you pull in now and then use your CRM to engage with consumers later in the year?”
- Consider shipping hiccups: As we get into December, brands and retailers need to consider backlogs of orders that need to be fulfilled. “Everyone is shipping at this time, so shippers will likely see delays,” Kazim noted. “The bulkier the item, the longer it takes, so you may want to pull your bulkier items into your advertising strategy earlier.”
- Let the data guide you: Consumers will show you what they want through their online behaviors. Leverage insights across channels to drill into what works and what doesn’t to ensure you can maximize return on your advertising investments. “Another great reason for starting [marketing and advertising earlier] is that it gives you data earlier that you can analyze,” Kazim said. For example, in the world of eBay, sellers can optimize keywords via promoted listings on the marketplace; they can download keyword reports and search query reports to understand where they’re seeing performance and then further optimize upon that. But even beyond marketplaces, brands can implement similar practices. Analyze how different creative components — from titles to images and even product descriptions — impact performance, especially as you advertise on increasingly crowded channels like social media.