How Consumer Behavior Changes During the Holiday Season

By Madison Taylor
November 15, 2023
A flat lay image of a box being wrapped in red ribbon.

The holidays — a season of joy, stress eating, and financial ruin. Each year, consumers morph into tinseled spendthrifts, budget priorities flying out the window, along with Aunt Edith after too much eggnog. Consumer behavior during the holiday shopping season undergoes a significant transformation when festive marketing fills the air with gingerbread scents. To thrive in this seasonal shopping frenzy, businesses must adapt quickly.

We’ll explore the dramatic transformations in holiday shopping consumer behavior and consumer trends and how businesses can align their marketing strategies. From early planning to online splurging, consumers take on a whole new persona during the most wonderful time of the year. To ring the revenue bells this holiday season, today’s savvy marketers need to get wise to these yearly changes and prepare to deck the halls with sales.

Price Sensitivity Heightens

It’s the most expensive time of the year.

The biggest impact of the holiday season is a heightened price sensitivity among consumers. 84% of shoppers worry about inflation affecting their holiday spending. As wallets tighten, bargain hunting ramps up.

71% of consumers have noticed rising in-store prices over the past six months. This inflationary impact has already changed shopping behaviors:

  • 67% reduced spending on non-essential items like vacations.
  • 47% reduced online shopping due to digital price increases.
  • 35% look more frequently for discount codes.

These stats indicate that holiday marketing should emphasize competitive pricing and savings opportunities. Promotions like percentage-off sales, dollar-amount discounts, and free shipping will be highly effective at incentivizing purchases.

Purchase Planning Starts Earlier

Procrastination goes out the window when it comes to holiday shopping. 37% more Americans plan to start gift buying earlier this year.

In fact, 22% had already begun making holiday purchases by August. Reasons for this early preparation include wanting to spread out spending and avoid inflated holiday prices.

For businesses, this presents an opportunity to get ahead of the game with holiday-themed marketing as early as October. Savvy brands use holiday gift guides, countdown deals, and themed content to spur early ideation and conversion.

Motivations Change

Consumer motivations also shift dramatically during the holidays. Emotional drivers like spreading joy, creating memories, and bonding with loved ones overtake standard purchase motivators.

Gift recipients’ wishes become the top priority. Consumers browse gift ideas long before making specific product decisions. They may rely more on others’ recommendations to ensure gifts are meaningful.

Marketing should tap into these emotional motivations. Campaigns can highlight how products create holiday memories, bring family together, or celebrate meaningful relationships.

Impulse Buying Rises

The holiday frenzy also leads to more impulse purchasing, with 59% of Americans admitting to impulsive holiday buying, spending $280 on average per impulse purchase.

Younger generations are most likely to give in to seasonal impulse buys. Reasons include wanting to take advantage of holiday sales, find the perfect gift, and tap into the festive shopping spirit.

With consumers opening their wallets more freely, businesses should tempt them with enticing holiday promotions. Limited-time sales, gift-with-purchase offers, and seasonal products can prompt impulse spending.

Online Shopping Accelerates

It’s no secret that online retail accelerates during the holiday season. This year, over 166 million U.S. consumers are expected to shop online for gifts and other holiday items.

Key drivers of this digital purchasing include:

  • Wider product selection and availability online
  • Avoiding crowded stores
  • Delivery Convenience
  • Price comparison ability

Additionally, 64% of smartphone shoppers turn to mobile search for gift ideas before going into stores.

For retailers, it’s vital to optimize online holiday marketing across channels. Ensuring a seamless mobile experience, promoting delivery/pick-up options, and leveraging influencer collaborations can boost online holiday sales.

By understanding these holiday consumer trends and adapting strategies, businesses can fully capitalize on the e-commerce boom this season.

Don’t Miss the Marketing Moment

The holiday shopping season allows no time for complacency. As consumer behavior transforms, your marketing strategy must adapt in kind. Businesses should analyze changing preferences, motivations, and barriers to map out an agile holiday campaign.

By promoting the right products at competitive prices across relevant channels, brands can unlock success this season. The consumer appetite is out there – it’s up to nimble marketers to satisfy it.