4 ways buyers have changed since the start of the pandemic

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Shoppers climb up and down an escalator at Willow Grove Park Mall in Willow Grove, Pa. On November 14, 2020.

Mark Makela | Reuters

As holiday shoppers gear up for the celebrations, they gear up for a season that will be significantly different from a year ago.

Big celebrations with family and friends. Lively shopping centers. A trip to see Santa Claus. Maybe even a hot weather getaway. Consumers are seeing more of these holiday rituals again than possible. Nearly three in five Americans are vaccinated against Covid-19, and the rate of new coronavirus cases has fallen below the rate of the summer outbreak, giving people more confidence to return to their holiday traditions.

However, not everything will go back to how it was before the Covid strike.

Buyers have taken on new habits and new anxieties have arisen. Factory closures, congested ports, and labor shortages can mean gift selection can be limited and consumers could easily miss out on a toy or giveaway they are hoping for. . The prices could also cause a shock on the stickers.

Consumers are likely to move nimbly from online shopping to in-store shopping, and take full advantage of methods such as curbside pickup. (Although on this holiday convenience – not crowd avoidance – will drive the decision.) Stores have largely ditched the layaway, but other ways have emerged for cash-strapped consumers to finance their vacation purchases.

“Black Friday will be like no other,” Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette told analysts on a earnings conference call on Thursday. “We’re closed on Thanksgiving Day, which is a big change from where we were in 2019. But we expect our digital activity to follow very strongly throughout the day during the holidays… and we are. ready for all expected traffic that is about to start [in stores] at 6:00 am the day after Thanksgiving. “

Here’s a look at some of the ways this holiday season should be different from the past:

Slowdown in the growth of e-commerce

Holiday e-commerce sales have grown by at least one teenage clip from the previous year for as long as Adobe Analytics has been keeping tabs. This year, that is about to change.

Online sales in the United States are expected to increase 10% to $ 207 billion, according to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index. This is after a massive 33% increase due to a pandemic last year. Adobe has tracked more than 100 million products online across 18 product categories on the Internet.

“There are a lot of macroeconomic factors at play here… that could cause consumers to oscillate between buying online and offline,” said Vivek Pandya, senior analyst at Adobe Digital Insights.

Stories about the supply chain and on-hold ports are likely contributing to more people buying in stores rather than online, when possible, he said. And after an unprecedented increase in e-commerce spending last holiday season, growth was likely to slow, Pandya added. Yet Adobe predicts it will be the first holiday online spending breaks the $ 200 billion mark.

Buyers return to stores

Holiday shoppers search for deals during the Black Friday sales event at the Pentagon Center Mall in Arlington, Virginia on November 29, 2019.

Loren Elliott | Reuters

Planning to hit the mall on Black Friday? You’re not alone. Stores are going to be a lot busier than a year ago as shoppers’ anxieties about venturing out of the house have eased considerably.

The National Retail Federation said it expects nearly 2 million more people will shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber ​​Monday, even though 61% of shoppers have already started buying gifts. The retail group worked with Prosper Insights & Analytics to survey 7,837 adults from November 1-10 on their plans and progress.

On Black Friday, 64% said they plan to visit stores to shop, up from 51% last year, the NRF said.

ICSC, a trade organization that represents the shopping mall industry, conducted its own survey of 1,005 people from September 24-26 and learned that half of U.S. consumers plan to take more trips to stores to purchase items. gifts this year. Last year, 45% said they plan to visit malls.

Consumers cited the ability to touch and smell the products, get what they want immediately, and look for gift ideas as the top reasons for making the trip. More than three-quarters of people said they plan to visit malls for a bite to eat or to take advantage of other mall services.

“The vaccination rate is improving in some of our regions, and particularly in California,” said Jean-Marie Tritant, US president of global shopping center owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. “So people feel even more comfortable coming back to places where they can come together. “

Buy gifts now, pay later

Affirm Holdings Inc. website home screen on a laptop computer in an arranged photograph taken in Little Falls, New Jersey, USA, Wednesday, December 9, 2020.

Gabby Jones | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Gone are the days of the old-fashioned layaway. Consumers have a new way to cover the cost of travel during the holidays: buy now, pay later.

The use of installment payments is expected to gain popularity this holiday season. These services allow a buyer to purchase an item, bring it home immediately, and pay for it in fixed increments. Layaway, on the other hand, required a retailer to reserve an item and keep that purchased item hidden from the consumer.

BNPL has become more mainstream as retailers like Macy’s, Walmart and Target make deals with companies like Affirm, Afterpay, based in Australia, and Klarna in Sweden.

Online revenue through buy now, pay later this year is up 10% from 2020 and 45% from 2019, according to data from Adobe Analytics. One in four respondents to an Adobe survey said they had used BNPL plans in the past three months, with clothing, electronics and groceries being the top three categories respectively.

Conclude memorable moments

Fans attend a concert by recording artist Machine Gun Kelly during a stop on their Tickets to My Downfall tour at the Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on October 16, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ethan Miller | Getty Images

Thermal days. Dine in a chic restaurant. Tickets for a concert.

These gifts are back on the wishlist this year as consumers feel more comfortable around other people and yearn for experiences they have missed.

About 43% of consumers plan to shift spending toward service experiences and giveaways this holiday season, according to an August holiday shopping survey of about 1,500 U.S. consumers by consulting firm Accenture. This is even higher among the younger generations, with 53% of millennials and 50% of Gen Z saying they are shifting towards more experiential spending, according to the survey.

Almost 70% of respondents plan to buy the same or more restaurant gift cards this holiday season compared to last year and 47% plan to buy the same or more beauty products or services as a gift, like a manicure.

Travel-related gifts, in particular, are on the wishlist. Forty percent of older millennials – consumers between 32 and 39 – plan to buy travel vouchers or plane tickets for others during the holiday season, according to the survey.

“There is a pent-up need to get the hell out of it,” said Jill Standish, Accenture’s retail industry group leader.


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