The holiday season is consistently the busiest period of the year for shoppers and businesses alike. In 2021, total retail spend during the holiday season reached $886.7 billion, up by 14.1% over 2020. A steadily increasing portion of this spend is driven by social and eCommerce purchases, which grew by 11% from 2020 and were up a massive 64.1% when compared with 2019.
But can we expect this level of growth again in 2022?
Following a difficult couple of years for shoppers and their finances, Q3 and Q4 2022 have hit people hard. Utility bills are soaring, inflation is sky-high, and currencies are crashing, leaving a sense of deep uncertainty.
How will these factors affect customer behavior in the 2022 holiday shopping season? And what are the key trends that brands need to be aware of?
Dig deeper > 3-minute read.
Key trends for this year’s holiday shopping season
It’s not all bad news. There will always be factors affecting consumer purchasing decisions, both positively and negatively, it’s how we respond to those factors that matters most. Knowledge is power, so for brands, awareness of this season’s trends is key.
1. The holiday season is starting earlier... Again!
Specific shopping days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become less important over recent years and that trend is predicted to continue in 2022. Although these peak days still hold a great deal of value, retailers need to adjust to changing consumer demands.
Retail brands should expect holiday season shopping to start earlier this year, with consumers potentially spending more time in the ‘consideration’ phase.
Many experts are predicting that consumers will start their holiday shopping earlier this year, maybe even as early as October.
The driving force behind this uptick in early shopping is consumer concerns over inflation and price hikes. In fact, 44% of consumers believe that it is better to purchase early over fears that prices will rise as the year progresses.
This is likely to have a knock-on effect as we get further into the year, with promotions like Amazon's Prime Early Access Sale (Oct. 11- 12) meaning that shoppers may have purchased many of their goods before traditional windows, leading to a drop in spending in what we consider the main buying period.
It is key for retailers to pounce on this trend and not be concerned about offering holiday deals and promotions earlier in the year. Fail to capitalize early and you could find that consumers have gone elsewhere before you even had a say.
2. People are hunting for a bargain
According to SimplicityDX’s State of Social Commerce Q3 report, 35% of people report that getting a great bargain with a discount or promotional offer will be their key purchase trigger on social media this holiday season.
Customer loyalty was heavily influenced by convenience and safety in previous years, with shoppers looking for a seamless online shopping experience. But in 2022 this loyalty will be more closely tied to pricing and value.
Salesforce research showed that 50% of all shoppers will switch brands if a lower-priced competitor is available. This is likely to disproportionately impact higher-end brands, including luxury labels and upmarket department stores.
For most brands, it is crucial to be aggressive with discounts and promotions to try to retain as many customers as possible this holiday season, as well as poach potential shoppers from competitors who may not offer the same deals.
3. Live streaming events could be big to support promotion and discounts
Livestreaming shopping events have been growing in popularity recently, with recent SimplicityDX research indicating that 38% of respondents had attended such an event, with a further 22% who would consider doing so.
These types of events can be a great way to showcase products and give consumers an idea of exactly what they are buying. They can also be used to show off features and give shoppers information on how the product functions — something 15% of customers said they found valuable when making purchasing decisions on social media.
It’s important to note here that 51% of respondents said that they would prefer to purchase a product from the brand directly during a live streaming event, rather than from the influencer showcasing the product.
4. 'Buy now, pay later' option is a must
‘Buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) options at checkouts are something that more and more customers are looking for when completing purchases online. Brands like ASOS and Next have offered this option for years and the convenience of not having to pay immediately is enticing for many.
But now, with soaring inflation and many shoppers looking to spread their holiday spend out over a longer period, BNPL has become imperative.
Aside from the convenience offered by BNPL, 48% of consumers look to flexible payment schemes to facilitate online shopping when their finances are squeezed, and 64% already using this payment method have reported using it more frequently than other options in the past 6 months.
If you do not already offer a BNPL option at checkout, look for a way to integrate this solution into your online storefront to avoid missing out on potential sales.
5. Social commerce shopping is on the rise for gifts this holiday season - particularly for Gen Z
It’s clear that social commerce shopping is growing and will play a major role in holiday season sales in 2022.
This is particularly true when looking at Gen Z shoppers. 48% of Gen Z respondents are planning to do all or the majority of their shopping on social media and a further 30% plan to do some of their shopping on socials.
Although they may not have much spending power currently, the younger generations have always dictated the trends and will become a major force in the market in the next few years.
Targeting Gen Z consumers with your social commerce promotions now will go a long way to building brand awareness, boosting sales, and potentially securing new customers for years to come.
6. Be authentic and execute with consistency and integrity
Speaking of targeting Gen Z, in an era of misinformation and corporate pandering, authenticity and integrity count more than ever. And if you are hoping to appeal to Gen Z, this must be at the top of your mind at all times.
Growing up with social media and with fake news at an all-time high, Gen Z trust in both social media sites and brands is alarmingly low. SimplicityDX’s research showed that 67% of Gen Z either don’t trust social media sites with their data or believe that they somewhat abuse their data. 54% of Gen Zs feel the same way about brands.
Gen X have similar levels of social media distrust, with 70% not trusting social media sites or believing they somewhat abuse their data — but over half (52%) do completely trust or trust brands not to abuse this information.
Sustainability is also more important for consumers today. Lip service is no longer enough — customers expect concrete action. In fact, recent research from Salesforce found that 88% of consumers now expect brands and retailers to clearly state their values. And 64% will stop doing business with a company if corporate values don’t align with their own.
All of this combines to create an environment where brand authenticity, integrity, and transparency are at the forefront of shoppers’ minds at all times when making purchasing decisions. Make sure that your words count this holiday season and avoid inauthentic marketing babble to truly engage consumers and help drive sales.
7. Customer experience counts
Although price and promotion will be the number one purchase trigger this holiday season, the quality of the purchase experience comes in second. SimplicityDX research found that for 14% of people this will be their primary purchase trigger.
So, what are shoppers looking for when it comes to customer experience?
The overwhelming majority of consumers are looking to purchase directly from the brand site, with 69% saying they would rather visit the brand site to complete their purchase than do so through social media.
There are a few key reasons for this. Firstly, touching on the previous point, it is a higher trust environment and customers feel more secure purchasing directly on the brand site. Secondly, it is more commonly understood as a purchasing path and many may not even be aware that they can complete their purchases through social media.
Finally, there is a greater level of transparency when it comes to things like shipping, delivery times, and returns. Only 20% of shoppers know to contact the social media site when looking to return a product purchased through social channels. 34% erroneously believe that they should contact the brand in question, with 42% being unsure who to contact at all.
However, simply sending shoppers to the brand site does not remove all of the pain points in the customer journey. Our latest State of Social Commerce report revealed that 64% of respondents had experienced issues when traveling from social media to the brand website in the last 90 days. Most commonly, reported by 29% of customers, was that the product was out of stock on the brand site.
Other common issues encountered migrating to the brand site included broken links (26%) and unresponsive landing pages (16%).
In other articles, we go into greater detail on customer experience. But, in summary, make sure the following are on your customer experience checklist this holiday season:
- Create a consistent omnichannel shopping experience
- Know your customer and choose the social platform carefully
- Know when and when not to use social checkout
- Leverage social proof, UGC, and influencers
Adapting to 2022’s consumer behavior will be essential for brands looking to succeed this holiday season, and when consumer behavior changes then marketing strategies should too.
Download the SimplicityDX State of Social Commerce Q3 report to stay up to date on all of the trends influencing purchasing decisions this holiday season. And if you’re looking to optimize your landing page experience and eliminate the largest source of revenue leak in eCommerce today, head over to our site and find out how we can help.
Read our other articles on the latest trends in social commerce.
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When is the best time to post on social to encourage eCommerce sales?
The Truth about Meta's Social Commerce Market Share
Impulse Buying in Social Commerce: Fact or Fiction?
Key Considerations for your Social Commerce Strategy
Should All Brands Sell on Social Media
Shopping at The Edge – The New eCommerce Reality