How UK consumers are shopping differently for Christmas this year

Though not many people know exactly what they’ll be doing on Christmas Day this year, that doesn’t mean consumers are leaving their festive planning until the last minute. In fact, the opposite is true. In previous years, a few people started their research and shopping early, but most start around October. This year this has started even earlier, with Search interest in traditional Christmas categories surging in September. And, with research from the Office for National Statistics showing that e-commerce is surging to more than 30% of total retail sales, the time is now for businesses to be present in the right place, at the right time.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that many of these people will also do some of their browsing online for gifting options: nine out of 10 consumers do some of their research and discovery on YouTube, with 40% going on to purchase the results. Here’s what else we’ve seen.

Consumers are looking for Christmas items even earlier

As we hit the start of the festive season — the time you’d traditionally start seeing mince pies and seeing Christmas ads dropping on YouTube — it appears that many people have started their planning even earlier. Interest in several popular categories of gift has seen an early increase this year and Christmas must-haves have seen a surge in interest. Here’s what we’ve seen so far.

During the four weeks leading up to the 26th of September this year, Search interest for the term “Christmas tree” increased 32% compared with the same period in 2019. “Christmas stocking” (+26%), and “Christmas decoration” (+32%) have also seen spikes in search interest, as consumers look ahead to a festive season conducted mostly at home. And “Christmas card” has seen a 5% increase, perhaps thanks to consumers planning to connect via post when they can’t in person.

Shoppers are also happy to look further afield for gifts – in 2019, 73% said they’d consider buying from a different retailer at some point in the season.

Traditional home-gifting categories are on the rise

As shoppers spend more time at home, they’re heading online more and earlier in their purchase journeys as they look for gifts. The period from March to June this year saw 41% more searches related to consumers trying to find inspiration than the same period last year. Their thoughts are turning to making their surroundings more pleasant, with search interest in “bedding” and “cushions” up 25% and 40% respectively since 2019, and “tableware” is up 16%. Consumers are also looking for little luxuries: search interest in “bath bomb” is up 36%, and “pajamas” have seen a 42% increase.

Shoppers are also looking for ways to send some festive spirit to friends and loved ones now they’re socially distanced, with search interest in “hampers” up 91%. Use the Rising Retail categories tool to keep track of what’s proving popular and capture unexpected demand.

Consumers are supporting local businesses

Though customers are shopping online, they’re also browsing to find local shopping options. As of May, searches for “available near me” have grown globally by over 100% since last year.4

Smaller and medium-sized businesses can also benefit — searches for “support local businesses” have grown globally by more than 2000X year over year.5 This trend is likely to continue. Based on new research by Google and YouGov, 88% of consumers who are now shopping more locally say they’re likely to continue to do so in the future, while 51% of local businesses believe online reviews can boost business.6

As more shoppers look for more gift inspiration online, free tools like Google My Business and reviews can help every level of business better engage with customers. For more detail on how every level of business can thrive, check out our digital marketing cheat sheet.

What marketers need to know this Christmas

With lockdown regulations and new trends surfacing and here for the long term, retailers who can remain fluid and adapt quickly are likely to do best over the coming season. That means using automated solutions to quickly react to unexpected demand quickly – like Smart Bidding, which analyses millions of consumer signals to make bid adjustments on every Search auction based on predicted business outcomes.

As the traditional Christmas ads start to appear, Video Builder, which allows you to reuse and remix existing video, image, and Search assets to create an on-the-fly campaign can allow smaller brands and retailers to reach some of the 20 million Britons who now watch YouTube on their TVs each month.

It’s going to be a very different sort of Christmas season, but still a special one for millions of people buying gifts and connecting with loved ones. Help them find what they need and plan for a good new year.

19 years’ experience in growing ecommerce businesses
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19 years’ experience in growing ecommerce businesses
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Copyright by Borthwick Consultancy Limited – Company Number 13501872.

Copyright by Borthwick Consultancy Limited – Company Number 13501872.