It’s that time again – the holiday season has started. This means that an array of studies are being released, forecasting spending trends, retail destinations and shopping attitudes. This latest annual data hub (which will be updated periodically during the holiday period) highlights key points from holiday-related research for what is likely to be a season like no other, given the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

[Editor’s Note: as with last year’s holiday data hub, this year’s article will highlight one or two unique findings from each piece of research. Readers interested in more data are encouraged to follow the links provided to access the studies.]



Before getting to the list of research highlights, let’s have a look at the broad forecasts for this holiday season.

  • Although the NRF is holding off on releasing its official outlook for the 2020 holiday season until they have “more solid data to make more reliable projections,” a recent survey of more than 7,600 US consumers reveals that consumers plan to spend more than $997 on gifts ($650), holiday items such as decorations ($230) and other non-gift items ($117). This is about 4.7% less than they planned to spend during the holidays last year.
  • In the meantime, Deloitte forecasts that holiday sales will increase by a modest 1-1.5% to roughly $1.1-$1.2 trillion. The increase, which includes projected e-commerce sales year-over-year (y-o-y) growth of between 25% to 35%, is below the 4.5-5.0% growth forecast last year.
  • The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) predicts a similarly low year-over-year increase in spending (1.9%). Again, this is well below the increase of 4.9% in sales ICSC estimated last year.
  • Taking into account the COVID-19 induced recession, high unemployment and general economic uncertainty, eMarketer’s forecast for US holiday retail sales is even more modest than the others. Forecasting a rise of a mere 0.9% to about $1 trillion overall, eMarketer estimates e-commerce sales will increase 35.8% and account for 18.8% of total retail sales. At the same time, in-store sales are predicted to drop by 4.7%.
  • On the other hand, the consulting firm AlixPartners projects slightly more optimistic holiday spending growth of 1-2.6%, with its holiday period stretching from October through December.
  • NetElixir’s e-commerce forecast expects that online sales will represent a larger portion of total retail sales in Q4 than they did a year ago, forecasting that one-quarter of all retail sales will happen online (compared to 16% in Q4 2019).
  • For its part, Adobe predicts that e-commerce spending will grow 33% y-o-y, to hit $189 billion – more than double the growth projected for last year (14.1%). Adobe’s data also adds that online sales could possibly grow even more (47%) and reach $200 billion if people avoid shopping in stores.

Other Key Holiday Data

The following list highlights key points from the studies cited above, along with others. We generally disregard data regarding top gifts and shopping times, as the surveys disagree wildly with respect to these. (You can follow the link to the research to find each one’s results on those.)

Likewise, we’ll largely avoid shopping destinations data for the same reason, unless there are noteworthy results to highlight.

Data from Deloitte is one such prediction worth nothing. In a survey of holiday shoppers which found that 51% of shoppers are anxious about shopping in-store during the holiday season due to COVID-19, the results also suggest that nearly two-thirds (64%) of holiday budgets will be spent online this year compared to 28% which will be spent in-store (down from 36% in 2019). PwC reports a similar gap between the share of spending being done online (61%) versus in-store (39%).

Here are some highlights from the myriad surveys and research pieces that have been released in recent weeks. Links to the research are provided at the end of each bullet point.

  • With more consumers turning to online shopping this holiday season, Adobe Analytics estimates that 42% of online shopping will be done via smartphone. This represents an increase of 55% and some $28 billion over last year. (Link)
  • Shopping via social media is also on the rise, especially among younger consumers. Bazaarvoice reveals that 6 in 10 (61%) businesses expect to see higher engagement and purchases through social media during the holidays. (Link)
  • The influx of online orders will also mean delivery services will be burdened with getting parcels to their destination on time. Salesforce projects that traditional delivery providers will exceed capacity by 5% worldwide between the week prior to Cyber Week and the day after Christmas. (Link)
  • Along those lines, Convey reports that more than half (58%) of consumers would be more likely to purchase from an online retailer that provided estimated delivery data in their shopping cart. (Link)
  • However, not all online orders will be sent out for delivery. Although shoppers are showing a tendency to not shop in-store, they are taking advantage of the growing trend of shopping online and picking up at the store. Tinuiti research found that this practice is set to increase by 20% over last year, with more than half (52%) of shoppers using in-store pickup during the holidays. (Link)
  • Anticipating inventory problems or shipping delays, 3 in 10 (31%) shoppers say they will start their shopping earlier this year. Likewise, the survey of more than 2,000 consumers by RetailMeNot also found that more than one-third (36%) of shoppers are planning to spread their purchases over a greater period. (Link)
  • Data from Redpoint Global illustrates that personalization goes a long way. Some 70% of consumers surveyed claim they will shop exclusively with brands that demonstrate they personally understand them this holiday season, with 49% saying they will be more likely to shop from retailers who send personalized content or offers during the season. (Link)
  • Older shoppers are more likely to avoid brick-and-mortar shops during the holidays due to COVID-19. MiQ reports that only 28% of shoppers ages 18-29 plan to avoid shops in general and 35% will avoid shopping centers or malls. In the meantime, 34% of shoppers representing each of the older age groups plan to avoid shops in general and a full 56% of shoppers older than 60 will be avoiding larger shopping areas like malls. (Link)
  • How a brand reacts during a crisis has been shown to affect customer loyalty. As such, Accenture’s annual holiday shopping survey of more than 1,500 US consumers found that some 6 in 10 (57%) would be inspired to shop with a retailer that supported its staff and customers during the pandemic, while 4 in 10 (41%) won’t shop with retailers that have laid off staff or reduced benefits because of the pandemic. (Link)
  • The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) estimates that about 183 million US adults (81%) plan to purchase technology gifts this year. The CTA’s survey also found that the average spend on tech products during the season will be $528, with 38% planning to acquire a gaming console this holiday season. (Link)
  • A report from OpenX and The Harris Poll looking at the impact COVID-19 has had on consumers and marketers indicates that three-fifths (58%) of consumers expect to spend the same or more than recent years this holiday season. Surprisingly, almost half (46%) of consumers who have had their jobs impacted by COVID-19 also believe they will spend the same or more than they have in the past. (Link)
  • The pandemic may also have brought about new-found support for small business. A Constant Contact survey of 3,000 respondents found that 7 in 10 (71%) planned on buying from small businesses during the season, with 6 in 10 (62%) saying they plan to visit new small businesses they’ve never shopped at before the end of the year. (Link)

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