3 Early Holiday Shopping Trends for the 2021 Festive Season

The Christmas holiday shopping season is already in full-swing for many people across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). In fact, 21% of people in the EMEA region started their shopping as early as June, according to new research from Google and Ipsos.

Following the biggest ever holiday season for digital spending in 2020, the retail landscape continues to change. COVID-19 has caused logistical challenges, resulting in delivery delays and product scarcity, but the potential release of pent-up demand and people’s excitement about spending the holidays with friends and family this year means that there is cause for optimism as well.

To help navigate through the 2021 holiday shopping season, here are the early retail trends and consumer behaviours you need to know:

Holiday Shopping is Starting Much Earlier

Research conduced by Google and Ipsos (2021).

While we have seen the start of the Christmas holiday shopping season creep forward over the last few years, in 2021 the festive season was on people’s minds even earlier than before. 37% of holiday shoppers in EMEA say they will start their shopping earlier than they did last year.

With holiday shopping beginning earlier each year, it means that there is increased competition for retailers, who need to start their festive campaigns much earlier to capture demand from these shoppers — and ensure they stay in the front of the consumers mind. This means adapting messaging to tap into customer needs and reconsidering the best marketing channels to reach potential customers wherever they are in their holiday shopping journey.

People preparing early for the festive season is likely a response to their experiences last year, when traditional holiday shopping became challenging due to the pandemic. This year people are excited to see their friends and family again, and want to get ahead of any potential disruptions.

That means

The Impact of COVID-19: From Stock Shortages to Supporting Local

Research conducted by Google and Ipsos (2021).

The pandemic continues to disrupt people’s lives and their shopping behaviours, with 37% of EMEA consumers saying they expect COVID-19 to impact how they shop this holiday season. Some of these effects are smaller and more common these days, such as wearing a mask and social distancing. Others require bigger commitments, such as people becoming more conscious of who they buy from — and when.

Expected scarcity due to supply chain challenges

Pandemic-related supply chain challenges are causing delivery delays and stock shortages for the festive season. This has worried many EMEA holiday shoppers, with 49% saying they will confirm online that an item is in stock before going to buy it.

People have become more aware of the supply chain challenges caused by the pandemic and are using Google Search to understand product availability.

It is a natural behaviour for people to go online to find out where they can buy a product, which store has availability, and when a product is back in-stock. This was evident at the end of last year with demand for the new PlayStation 5. And if the news of delivery delays holds true for this holiday season, we expect to see increased searches for availability of this year’s hot ticket items too.

More support for local, small businesses

Another way the pandemic has changed the consumer mindset and behaviour is by making people more conscious about who they buy from. Smaller businesses have had an especially trying time during the pandemic and campaigns such as “buy local, or bye local” have popped up across the world in response.

This is a topic that has been in the front of people’s minds in the past 18 months, as 56% of EMEA holiday shoppers say they will shop more at local small businesses this festive season.

There is pent-up demand, but people are feeling the pinch

Research conducted by Google and Ipsos (2021).

This year has the potential to be a big holiday shopping season. Despite the rise in digital shopping in 2020, the festivities felt lacklustre, with shops shut in many countries and people spending the holidays away from loved ones. But the lead-up to the 2021 festive season paints a different picture.

Research conducted by Google has revealed that in many countries footfall to brick-and-mortar retailers has recovered to pre-pandemic levels. And with new data showing there has been a steep increase in European household savings since last year’s holiday season, there is potential for pent-up demand waiting to be released.

However, despite this increase in overall savings, there are also consumers who are feeling the pinch after the financial uncertainties and job losses over the last 18 months. This, combined with the pandemic leading to more cautious spending habits, means that 46% of EMEA holiday shoppers say they will hold off on buying gift items until they are on sale.

While consumer confidence is up ahead of the holiday season, people will be selective about where they spend their money.

What does this mean for Christmas shoppers?

There is still a lot of uncertainty about the upcoming holiday shopping season, from potential delivery delays and stock shortages to concerns about whether new restrictions might be introduced. This makes it more important than ever for shops to provide a frictionless and clear experience throughout the purchasing journey so customers know what to expect.

So, how can you make sure Christmas shopping goes to plan?

  • Hybrid Shopping – A mix between online and in person shopping ensures that you are getting what you want at the right time and the right price. By shopping around you can make sure that items you cannot find online can be found in store or vice versa. You may even discover exclusive online deals that you may not find anywhere else.
  • Make a List – Keep a list of all the things you need to buy this year, that way you do not over spend or purchase items that are not necessary. It also means you can prioritise the items that are most important to the least important.
  • Shop UK – This does not mean you should not buy from abroad at all, just keep in mind that delivery times may be much longer in the lead up to Christmas. Why not head down to your local city/ high street and see what unique items you can find on the shelves!
  • Contact Pages – When you are buying gifts online make sure you check the contact us page before hitting ‘buy’. If there are no contact details, ask yourself ‘what will happen if something goes wrong?’

As you can see, the key is preparation. As long as you stay prepared and make sure you plan for contingencies, your gift shopping will go smoothly. But remember, Christmas is not all about the presents – while a single item can make someone very happy, the most important thing is health and happiness. So, make sure you keep safe during this period too!

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