In October 2023, Applause conducted its annual holiday shopping survey to gather research on consumer trends ahead of the festive season. The survey, which included more than 5,500 respondents from across the Americas, EMEA and APAC, reveals the most up-to-date insights into consumer preferences, shedding light on their expectations around digital experiences, technology and payments. Here are the key findings retailers should consider as they enter the holiday shopping period.
Cost of living increases drive interest in deal days and promotions
Prompted by cost of living increases, 81% of respondents said they plan to change their spending habits this holiday season.
This explains why, more than ever before, price is by far the most important factor influencing online purchases. This year, 44% of respondents prioritized price compared to 32% in 2022, 39% in 2021 and 40% in 2020.
When asked how they plan to save on cost, the vast majority (72%) said they plan to make the most of sales and discounts. Over half (59%) also said they plan to target deal days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
At a minimum, most respondents are looking for a 30% discount. However, one third of consumers surveyed said they were looking for either a 50% discount or higher.
Debit cards overtake credit cards as most popular payment method for first time
This holiday season, 29% of respondents will opt for debit card payments, while credit card preference lags behind slightly at 27% — the first time it has not been top of the leaderboard.
While credit cards still remain the favorite payment instrument in North America, they have still dropped 6 percentage points from 56% in 2022 to 50% in 2023.
When it comes to device preferences for online shopping, mobile continues to grow in popularity over desktop, up from 61% last year to 68% this year.
Voice adoption lags behind while AI-powered experiences gain popularity
Voice technology is still slow to gain traction in the online shopping space: 45% of respondents say they never use voice for online shopping, showing a lingering lack of trust in the technology.
Attitudes towards AI-powered shopping experiences are more positive: 40% of respondents believe they add genuine value to shopping experiences, while only 24% find them gimmicky. However, 36% are unsure about how they feel about chatbots, perhaps due to the wide range in quality currently offered on the market.
Demand for omnichannel experiences is high, but satisfaction is low
A full 60% of respondents say they are either likely or very likely to use an option like curbside pickup, click and collect or buy online, pick-up in store.
However, many customers encounter issues with omnichannel. It appears that a lack of clear instructions is the main issue for customers that use or would like to use offerings like buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) or curbside pickup:
Most issues encountered when trying to return items bought online in-store related to difficulties finding where to return the order (32%).
Most issues with buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) come down to confusion around where to pick up orders (23%) or finding the BOPIS option on the website (22%).
For curbside pickup, most respondents experiencing issues could either not find the curbside pickup option (30%) on the website or find where to park to pick up their order (27%).
Digital quality is paramount for customer acquisition and retention
When asked at what point in the online shopping experience they were most likely to abandon a purchase if they encountered a bug, most (27%) said they would leave at any point of the shopping experience. A further 25% said bugs that happen during the checkout process were of most concern.
Most respondents (44%) also say they are likely to leave a brand with a poor omnichannel experience. A further 34% said they are unsure. This suggests that, in some circumstances, 78% of customers could abandon brands when omnichannel experiences disappoint.
While it is always important for retailers to make customer experience a priority, this year’s added caveat of economic uncertainty, where consumers are already planning to spend less, should have retailers keeping shoppers’ high expectations for quality at the very top of mind this winter.
Learn more about making quality a priority in your retail experiences.