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Holidays 2016: Retail Trends to Watch

For retailers, the most lucrative time of the year has arrived: the holiday shopping season. And if the latest forecasts are accurate, they have reason to celebrate.

Survey data points to a strong 2016 holiday shopping season, with Americans planning to spend an average of $935.58, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. The same survey finds that, overall, sales are expected to be up 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion.

The ways in which people shop and the amount that they plan to spend continues to shift, though, so let’s take a look at what to expect this season.

Online sales will increase.

“Cyber Monday” might be a bit of an outdated term to describe the first Monday after Thanksgiving, but it’s still a much-anticipated day of sales, free shipping, and other online shopping deals.

In fact, this year Cyber Monday was the largest online sales day in history and for the first time, exceeded Black Friday in terms of popularity, according to Mashable. Black Friday generated a record $3.34 billion (over 21 percent growth compared with 2015), and Cyber Monday topped it, generating $3.45 billion (about 12 percent more than last year).

The NRF predicts that online sales will hit $117 billion this year, an increase of seven to 10 percent over 2015.

Millennials are spending more.

Millennials are growing up, and that translates into a bump in holiday spending. This year, they plan to spend an average of $1,427, up 33 percent from $1,072 in 2015, according to the Rubicon Project. Fifty-four percent of millennials plan to spend more than they did last year, and they’re going to make at least half of their purchases on a mobile device. Twenty-eight percent don’t plan to do any of their shopping in stores this year.

As for what they’re buying, 74 percent plan to purchase apparel and accessories, 66 percent are going to buy video games, and 65 percent are going to pick up gift cards.

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Shoppers are treating themselves.

It’s a given that consumers are going to purchase gifts for others, but this year, nearly six in 10 are also planning to buy for themselves. They’re expected to spend an average of $139.61 on themselves, up four percent from last year, according to the NRF survey.

In the 13 years the NRF has conducted the survey, this is the second-highest level of projected personal spending.

Men are outspending women.

It’s actually the men who are spending more on holiday shopping. The Rubicon Project found that men plan to spend an average of $1,360, compared to $1,028 for women. Male parents plan to spend $568 per child, compared with the $429 each that women are expected to spend.

However, women might also just be more conscientious shoppers: They are 73 percent more likely to look for deals and 84 percent more likely to comparison shop than men.

Shoppers are starting early.

There will always be last-minute shoppers, but the early birds are setting a solid example for the procrastinators. In an NRF survey, 41 percent of respondents said they started shopping in October or earlier, and the same percentage said they’ll start in November, while 18 percent will begin in December.

The reasons for starting early? Sixty-three percent said they’re trying to spread out their budgets and 49 percent are trying to avoid crowds and last-minute shopping stress (in other words, they’re trying to get away from the procrastinators).

As you plan your holiday marketing efforts, all of these trends are important things to take into consideration. It may alter which channels (like social media or email marketing) you choose to double down on, and what type of promotions you offer.

To make sure you’re maximizing holiday sales, read our ebook “Holiday Marketing Ideas A-Z.”

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