November 25, 2022

5 holiday shopping themes for marketers

Dennis Cant
7 Communications
Vice President

For consumers, the holiday season is easily the best time of the year to score deals on the things they want for themselves and want to gift others.

For marketers, it’s a dynamic opportunity to examine trends and buyer intentions, thus informing the way we practice our craft during a lucrative selling season.

Here are a few of the major shopping themes we think you’ll see this holiday season.

1. Spending

Let’s start with some positive and, perhaps, unexpected good news: MasterCard is forecasting that Canadians will spend slightly more this holiday season. Even with word of inflation seemingly overshadowing every news feed, the credit card company anticipates a 5.7% increase in retail sales (excluding automotive) this year versus last.

Consumers are also feeling more comfortable about in-store shopping (more on that in theme #5) and, as a result, are reverting to last-minute tendencies with projections for retail shopping on December 23rd and 24th this year up double digits compared to 2021. While some of that procrastination may be the result of bargain hunting (as inventories are up in some sectors with supply chain issues easing so deals are easier to come by), all together it’s a hopeful sign that Canadians are putting the past two-and-a-half years behind them.  

Assorted gift bags creatively arranged with tissue paper.

2. Quality over Quantity

Another tendency we’re seeing permeate other aspects of marketing is the preference for “better” over “more.” According to the Retail Council of Canada, 62% of consumers cite a change in their gift-giving bias driven primarily by a desire to give more meaningful gifts, but to fewer people.

One lesson the pandemic seems to have imparted is a true appreciation for the things we lost access to and tighter circles that consumers will buy for. That has translated into consumer focus on higher quality, more memorable products, services, and experiences, which is where people are directing their hard-earned dollars this holiday season.

Hand holding a gift box wrapped in Christmas paper against a backdrop of blurred lights.

3. Prioritizing Sustainability

Another factor helping holiday shoppers choose which companies to buy their gifts and goods from is sustainability. In short, people prefer to know that the brands they’re supporting with their business are doing right by the environment.

According to a report by IBM, 54% more consumers are weighing the sustainability of products in their shopping decisions as compared to last year. They’re also willing to pay more for it—as much as 41% for sustainable products, 34% more for sustainable air travel, and 37% more for sustainable lodging.

Chalkboard sign with the message 'Thank you for shopping local'.

Chalkboard sign with the message 'Thank you for shopping local'.

4. Embracing the Omnichannel

An omnichannel approach has never been more important. Today’s shoppers utilize a variety of options and platforms to research, purchase, take delivery of, and sometimes return their goods, making it increasingly vital for retailers to have a robust presence across both traditional and digital media. It’s about meeting shoppers where they are and having the right options at the ready.

Online-and-in-store shoppers are on track to become the new norm as searches containing “near me in stock” rose by 90% in the U.S. since last year, and “store open” has grown globally by 400% year over year. Further, 64% of U.S. holiday shoppers who used Google did so for “discovery and inspiration”—while some will follow that purchase through digitally (greater rates than ever), many will go in-store to buy what caught their eye online.

BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) is another trend that went mainstream during COVID times and has stuck around. According to Statista, the trend is set to continue to grow at a rate of 15% per year until 2024.

A middle-aged person seated at a table, holding a shopping bag and a wine glass, engaged with her phone.

5. Seeking the Human Touch

While our world is increasingly digital overall, people are gravitating toward products that are attached in some form to other people as there’s real and newly appreciated value in human connection. That truth is playing out in a least two forms this holiday season: increased in-store shopping and more in-person celebrations.

Shopping in-store is rebounding as consumers grow increasingly comfortable with returning to bricks and mortar as physical experiences deliver more of the Christmas spirit that people feel has been lacking from the past couple of years. The Retail Council of Canada’s Holiday Shopping Survey indicates 63% of retail spend will take place in-store this year (up from 58% in 2020, down from 72% in 2019). Interestingly, there are significant regional differences in our propensity to go back to stores, with Ontarians more likely (at 59%) than Quebeckers (42%) or the national average (56%).

The number of in-person celebrations are also expected to rise this year. That is evidenced by forecast purchase increases in categories such as food, alcohol, candies/sweets for entertaining, clothing, and food & beverage services, all of which are expected to comprise the biggest chunk of consumers’ holiday budgets this year.

Here at 7 Communications, we have deep appreciation for that humanity as well as the commitment displayed every day by our great clients, and our amazing team that delivers exceptional ideas for those great clients. Check out some of our recent work to see what we mean.

And feel free to contact us anytime to see how we can help your brand forge stronger human connections.

Until then, Happy Holidays—and Happy shopping!

Group of friends raising their wine glasses in a celebratory toast.