Dec 12, 2019

Who’s Getting Gifts this Holiday Season?

Person holding holiday gift in front of Christmas tree
Holiday shopping is in full swing, and at this time of year, most shoppers shift their focus from buying for themselves to buying for others. As consumers check their lists twice to make sure they haven’t forgotten any gifts, we’re checking in with them to learn more about their gift buying habits. Who are they shopping for, how does that impact their planning process, and what does their overall journey look like as they search for the perfect gift?

Last week, we took a look at Cyber Weekend shopping habits, surveying over 10,000 consumers who had made a holiday-related purchase between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. Of those shoppers, we found that 99% were shopping for holiday gifts, and 81% were already at least half way done with that gift shopping. 

In the spirit of the season, we decided to lean into gifting by following up with that 81% to learn more about their gift-buying habits. We wanted to know if their gift-buying process differed at all depending on the intended recipient. And since these shoppers are part of Numerator’s modern consumer panel, we have the ability to continue monitoring their verified purchases throughout the remainder of the holiday season— and beyond. 

It’s the Thought That Counts

Overall, about 31% of individuals do extensive planning and know exactly what they’re going to buy someone before they even go shopping. Another 55% have a good idea of what they’ll get, but don’t make the final decision until they’re at the store— or on a website. What does this mean for brands? If you’re not getting into the minds of consumers before they start their wish lists and shopping lists, you may already be too late. Gifts purchased for young children (five and under) are the least likely to be planned ahead of time, while gifts for significant others are the most likely to be thought through prior to shopping, so there is a bit of flexibility depending on your target customers. 

The top way consumers come up with gift ideas is by— wait for it— directly asking the recipient what they want. Other popular methods include working off of a wish list, browsing retailer websites for ideas, or asking someone close to the recipient— like a parent or significant other— what they want. There was a bit of variability here based on who the gift was for. Older children, teens, and young adults were the most likely to provide wish lists and to directly share what they wanted. For young children, parent and guardian input was huge, and browsing advertisements and social media were also popular.  

Across the board, one interesting trend emerged: people were more likely to browse retailer websites than to go into stores and look around for inspiration. These two methods also ranked above browsing advertisements for all groups except children. If you’re looking to make it on gift lists holiday season, positive in-store and online experiences with your brand are just as important as the messaging and advertisements you release.

Fulfilling Wish Lists

For those shoppers who receive a wish list or direct input on what gifts are desired, 44% say they are “extremely likely” to get exactly what is requested, and another 48% are “somewhat likely.” Only 8% are neutral or unlikely to run with the ideas given to them. Those buying for significant others have a higher likelihood of purchasing what is asked for, while those buying for older children (ages 6-12) are the most likely to stray from the ideas provided. 

When it comes to the actual ideas provided, 36% say they’re given an exact brand and product. Older children, teens, and young adults are the most likely to give these clear-cut specs. The largest group— 44%— are given a more general idea: a certain type of product, but not an exact brand. Remaining shoppers are told a particular brand, but not an exact product; this method of requesting was seen more with young children and adult friends & family. 

The Gifting Game

Over half of shoppers said they’d be open to buying something different than planned if they saw a good sale, especially those shopping for significant others. Interestingly, those shopping for significant others were also the most willing to pay a premium or go outside of their price range to get the perfect gift.

The majority of shoppers prefer to stick to their typical retailers when purchasing gifts, but are willing to shop around, visit multiple retailers, and try new retailers in order to find the right gift. The most important factors in choosing which retailers to shop were the availability of free shipping, a flexible return policy, and in-store availability at a nearby location. There weren’t major differences based on who was being shopped for, but those buying gifts for young children were slightly more likely to be looking for expedited shipping and click-and-collect options.

Across groups, various categories popped as the top gift. For teens and adults, more than two-fifths of shoppers planned to give gift cards. Those shopping for young children were most likely to buy toys, for significant others: apparel and accessories, and for older children: a balanced mix of all categories. Most shoppers stuck to premium and mid-level brands for their gifting, but people shopping for significant others were almost twice as likely to purchase a luxury brand than other groups. Those buying luxury brands said that the brand name was important to them, while those buying other tiers of brands were less concerned with the actual brand names and status. 

When it comes to holiday shopping, Numerator knows not only what consumers are buying, but why. Surveys provide an invaluable look into the mind of the consumer, and tying it back to verified purchase behavior means more targeted, relevant, and actionable insights for your brand. This season, give yourself the gift of better insights, and reach out to Numerator today.