Nov 16, 2018

Holiday Shopping Guide: Where, When and What Are People Buying?

Breaking news! People have started their holiday shopping. But you may not realize just how early some people made their first purchases. Shoppers who roll their eyes when they see holiday displays in September might fall out of their chairs.

According to InfoScout OmniPanel data, most people start shopping for Christmas and Hannukah before Halloween. In fact, about a quarter start as early as the summer, spring or the previous winter!

But we still have plenty of procrastinators. 75% of shoppers won’t finish their Christmas shopping until December, with about 20% taking it down to the wire just before Christmas.


As more and more of these holidays shopping trips move online, could Cyber Monday catch up to Black Friday? How much has the gap shrunk between brick-and-mortar and e-commerce? What categories do people plan to buy this year? Let’s dive into the holiday shopping data for answers.

Is Cyber Monday Poised to Leapfrog Black Friday?

Data from the InfoScout OmniPanel shows that brick-and-mortar stores still outpaced e-commerce channels in terms of 2017 Black Friday shopping trips (31.4 million vs. 20.9 million). However, e-commerce saw a 11% growth in trips compared to just 1% growth for brick-and-mortar.

Looking at trips from the entire holiday weekend, e-commerce trips almost caught up to brick-and mortar on Thanksgiving Day. E-commerce showed consistently strong growth every day but Sunday, while Cyber Monday trips increased 14% from 2016.


E-commerce shopping trips on Cyber Monday (25.7 million) weren’t too far behind brick-and-mortar shopping trips on Black Friday (31.4). In fact, data suggests that there’s a very real possibility that Cyber Monday could overtake Black Friday as the biggest shopping day of the year.

According to our Holiday Shopping Survey, 53% of shoppers say Cyber Monday is important for holiday shopping, compared to 43% for Black Friday. E-commerce channels saw growth of $143 million in Cyber Monday basket sales for gift trips in 2017, and we expect even more growth in 2018.

Gifts People Plan to Buy in 2018 and Where They Plan to Shop

Apparel (76%), gift cards (74%) and toys (67%) made up the clear top tier when shoppers were asked what types of gifts they play to buy this holiday season, according to our Holiday Shopping Survey. Electronics (52%), entertainment (51%), health and beauty (38%) and books (37%) round out the next tier.


41% of shoppers plan to split their gift shopping between online channels and brick-and-mortar stores. 34% said they plan to buy most gifts online, which is more than double the number of shoppers who plan to buy most gifts in a physical store. This would indicate that shoppers plan to do the majority of their holiday gift shopping online.

Give Shoppers What They Want

Our InfoScout OmniPanel Holiday Shopping Survey asked shoppers what a retailer or brand could do to make holiday shopping easier. Here are some of the top responses:

  • "Make sales longer & earlier than just Black Friday.”
  • “Free shipping!”
  • “Have plenty of the advertised sale items in stock! So frustrating when something is gone the first day on sale.”
  • “Provide quality customer service. Everyone has customer service, but not QUALITY customer service.”
  • “Keep checkout lines very short… lines make me want to shop online more.”

Key Takeaways

This could be the year that Cyber Monday overtakes Black Friday as more and more holiday shopping shifts online. Brands need to find out how quickly their product categories are moving online and where shoppers plan to look for those items.

With more trips moving online, retailers and brands need to make sure their online presence is on point. Make shopping and purchasing as simple and seamless as possible and make sure customer service offerings, from chatbots to live agents, are ready to help.

Brick-and-mortar and online channels both need to tighten up sales forecasts to maintain proper inventory levels and avoid out-of-stocks. People have already started looking for sales and discounts, so consider expanding offers on the hottest items.

Click here to set up a demo and learn more about how Numerator, powered by the InfoScout OmniPanel, can provide the insights you need to maximize holiday sales this season and beyond.