How COVID-19 could change holiday shopping behavior this year [New Data]

In 2020, B2C companies around the world changed their strategies as consumers began to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic not only forced people to live and work exclusively from home, it also put a financial burden on many households and businesses.

Now that the holidays are approaching, business owners both physical and online are wondering if they will still get the same booming business they saw last year.

Since we (unfortunately) cannot predict the future, we decided to interview a sample of nearly 300 general consumers about their vacation shopping plans.

Specifically, we asked, “How will COVID-19 affect your vacation shopping plans compared to last year?”

As part of the Lucid survey, participants were able to tick any check boxes related to the impact of their vacation shopping.

While you will find that some of the responses are in line with research-based purchasing predictions, the overall survey results might surprise you:

Data Source

While you aren’t shocked that many respondents plan to make more online purchases than they did last year, you may be surprised that nearly a third of them still plan to go to physical stores.

With 41% of respondents planning to spend less money or buy fewer gifts this year, you might be wondering if budget conscious consumers are still spending money on your products.

Remember, this is just a small survey of general consumers. If we had focused on a specific destination or location, the results could have been very different.

However, these answers should be kept in mind when navigating the holiday season. It also points out possible trends that could continue into 2021.

Below, I’m going to walk you through the top three vacation shopping malls consumers are planning on this year, as well as some business issues for handling each shift.

Click here for everything you need to know about designing holiday marketing collateral.

3 Pivots Holiday Shoppers are doing in 2020

1. Despite online growth, physical stores won’t be empty.

As expected, the most important change in shopping on vacation, cited by 47% of respondents, was “I plan to do more online shopping”.

That makes sense. In 2020, consumers who weren’t tech-savvy learned almost everything they needed to buy online. Those who have already shopped online regularly have now accepted this more strongly. Additionally, given the Christmas shopping season known for its crowded neighborhoods, some consumers may choose to stay home this year to avoid the crowds.

However, it does not appear that pedestrian traffic will stop completely.

To learn more about how abundant e-commerce is on offer this season, we asked, “Where are you planning your holiday shopping this year?”

As it turns out, a lot of people are still planning to shop in person this season:

We asked almost 300 respondents where they would like to shop this Christmas season.

Data Source

While 33% of consumers plan to shop “mostly” or “all” online, 34% plan to have an “even mix of online and in-store purchases”.

On the other hand, 33% plan to “mostly” or “completely” shop in store this year.

Although this survey is only a small piece of data and these results can vary by location, the responses suggest that physical stores may still do business despite increased online purchases.

Food stalls for business owners

Ultimately, online shopping is growing – and we see more online purchases with each new holiday season.

While our survey results show that people still plan on at least some of the in-store shopping, consider building an online presence and – possibly – an e-commerce strategy.

If you want to build an online presence, you can start with a company page on Facebook or Instagram or a Google My Business listing so that internet users can learn more about your brand and location.

When you’re ready and able to sell your products online, there are many digital tools like HubSpot and Shopify to help you create a simple but effective online store.

For example, if you already promote your brand with a Facebook Business Page or Instagram Business Profile, you can highlight and sell some of your most popular products on a Facebook store. This is a great way to test the waters with ecommerce by selling some select products online. Once you are confident in your shipping and supply chain, you can use one of these tools to start a full ecommerce website.

2. Buyers can’t be pampered – even with gifts.

Due to the uncertain financial times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, buyers have already cut their budgets and protected their assets. Now that plans for personal holiday gatherings are uncertain for many people, there are fewer reasons to shop for gifts and other vacation items.

However, since holidays are known to encourage people to indulge themselves more than usual, one might think that this time of year might be an exception to current shopping trends.

When asked about general consumers, 26 percent said, “I plan to spend less.” 15% said, “I plan to buy fewer gifts due to limited holiday gatherings.” Overall, 41% of consumers said they would like to spend less or buy fewer products this year.

While the data above is not surprising, it still confirms consumer predictions that could be important to business owners.

Food stalls for businesses

By now, brands have already seen consumers tighten their budgets and not cut back on essential purchases. Not to mention, studies by McKinsey and other organizations predict that consumers will continue to be more frugal through 2021.

But even if you are up to date on current market research trends, you may not be sure how to deal with these changes in consumer behavior.

Currently, buyers need additional motivation to purchase expensive or non-essential products. While the holidays might give them a reason to indulge themselves a little more than the year does, consumers will nonetheless want to invest in products with the best value – whether they are buying for themselves or their families.

As people look for the important products that they need or for items that are the best bang for their buck, focus your messages on answering questions like:

  • “Why does the consumer need this product?”
  • “How does this product or service solve one of your problems?”
  • “Why is the product worth its price?”

In addition to customizing your messages, you can also customize your content to answer the questions above. For example, you can post content that highlights sales, offers, and promo codes that people with tighter budgets may use.

Alternatively, if you can’t offer a sale or deal, you can use testimonials, reviews, or user-generated content from your current customers in your marketing. When you share a satisfied customer’s review or testimonial, prospects can hear stories from people who have benefited from your products. This can create a sense of authenticity and brand trust that ultimately leads to purchases.

3. Buyers will take social distancing seriously.

Above we found that our respondents still want to shop at least partially in stores this year. However, many of them may also want to avoid the busy crowds that have historically been seen during the holiday shopping season.

Because of this, the third largest change in shopping on vacation was – 33% of respondents said “I still plan to shop in stores but will be more careful about social distancing.”

Food stalls for businesses

While small business owners would love to see crowds line up to enter their stores during the holiday season, it’s clear that things will be very different this year. Not only will customers watch out for social distancing, but other research shows they are more concerned about their health and safety when shopping than ever.

If you are looking to take advantage of the personal walking opportunity this holiday season, it’s important to know that people may be scared of crowds or get too close to others. This is why you should invest in PPE for your employees while considering protective barriers, one-way streets and other solutions to keep people far apart.

Not only does this make customers feel more secure in your business, it also gives you a competitive advantage over businesses that take fewer precautionary measures. After all, customers trust brands that care about them and their safety.

Navigating a unique holiday season

While we can provide suggestions and basic data on how vacation shopping will change this year, it’s important to keep in mind that results can be different for each business – whether physical or online.

While planning a vacation strategy during a pandemic can feel daunting or nigh on impossible, a few tips can still help you make sales and mesmerize consumers who are ready and able to shop.

  • Market the value of your product: Now – and in the near future – consumers need to be convinced that your product is valuable, better than a cheaper option, and worth investing in. If Your News, Reviews, or Online Content Don’t Get These Things Out, A Budget A careful buyer may very well be buying something from a competitor – or avoiding buying a product in your industry at all.
  • Build an online presence: Even if you want to rely on pedestrian traffic this year, you’ll still want to build an online presence so customers can learn more about your business, your location, and the deals you offer. When you are ready to step into the world of e-commerce, there are many easy-to-use tools that can help you start a scalable online store.
  • Worry about your customer: This year, customers are paying extra attention to how brands treat them. If a brand makes an effort to ensure a comfortable and safe experience, customers will remember and trust them more. Even if your business is mostly online, you can show your customers that you care by providing helpful and responsive customer service, answering customer questions on social media, and offering offers or content that is appropriate for your ideal customer.

To learn more about how COVID-19 has affected the entire business landscape, check out our six-month retrospective, which is based on data from thousands of HubSpot users.

Holiday design kit

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