10 Key Takeaways from the Sitecore Holiday Shopping Trends Report 2023

24 November 2023

By: James Gray, Head of Experience Marketing

Category: Blogs

Sitecore’s third annual holiday report for the UK market launched this month, revealing some of the biggest trends in shopping right now. Working with Advanis, Sitecore surveyed over 2000 UK residents to understand their biggest concerns and motivators going into the holiday season to help brands engage with their customers. 

We’ve broken down 10 key takeaways from the report.

1. Economic Concerns:Empty Wallet

It seems that whilst customers in the UK have the highest level of concern around rising costs, they are still set on enjoying the holiday period, whatever it takes. One in five Brits have said they will be spending less than last year, and over three quarters are looking for more budget-friendly gifting options. 

Amongst other changes, brands should seriously consider how they can cut costs across their operations to lower product prices while maintaining good margins. Using more agile technology and automation can help reduce operational costs and still give customers are quality customer experience. Find out more about how retailers can capitalise during the financial crisis in our blog: Tapping into New Markets and Driving Loyalty During Financial Crisis.


2. Changing Spending Habits:

Christmas shoppers will, as last year, be holding their pursestrings tightly this year, with only 6% planning on splashing the cash. Retailers will need to think about how they can compete for fewer spending pounds this year, especially in non-essential sectors (for example: home and furniture, fashion and apparel and beauty.) 

To secure customer’s spending, merchants should consider honing in on better experiences, offering special discounts or perks, and focusing on value-adds like free shipping. 

3. Prioritising Personal Needs:

Consumers are prioritising themselves over children, with a decline in emphasis on gifts for kids. Last year, 58% of parents said gifts for kids were a “must-have,” but according to this survey, only 39% of parents think this. 

One in five parents say that no time will be spent researching for kid’s presents. This may be attributed to shifting children’s preferences, favouring online experiences over actual toys. Brands need to take notice of this emerging behaviour, especially when planning out product innovations and marketing initiatives in the upcoming years.

4. Alternative Spending Methods:

Loyalty schemes are paying off for customers, with almost half of those surveyed planning to use loyalty points or rewards for holiday shopping, a 12% rise from Christmas 2022. In addition, customers are considering financing services or credit cards, and 22% plan to use Buy Now Pay Later schemes.

Brands must ensure they offer flexible spending options and robust loyalty schemes that customers can take advantage of, encouraging lasting customer retention. Causing any friction in payment, or failing to offer incentives to continue shopping will result in increasingly disloyal customers shopping elsewhere. 

5. Online Shopping Dominance:

While online shopping remains the preference for most, 32% of consumers plan to make in-store festive purchases. This means retailers should be prepared to manage seamless omnichannel experiences as customers meander between on and offline buying methods. 

Product availability and inventory levels are also crucial for online shoppers, with 75% wanting to see product stock. The survey respondents also noted that the majority of them had been burned by inaccurate inventory management, ordering products to then be told they were out of stock later. Brands need to have full control of their inventory to ensure they are not disappointing any customers.

6. Early Planning and Budgeting:

Whilst we may roll our eyes at the advent calendars stocking up as early as July, many shoppers are already well into holiday purchasing, with 44% claiming they had already started shopping by October. It seems that mainly Gen Z and Millennial generations are starting their shopping earlier. Smart brands should consider the right channels and messaging to target younger customers during the run-up to the holiday season. 

7. Black Friday Impact:

57% of respondents plan to shop on Black Friday, with online channels being the preferred choice. Reasons for Black Friday shopping include getting good deals and spreading out holiday spending but many are no longer convinced that Black Friday offers good enough deals. 

Brands should think creatively about how they position their Black Friday offers online to make sure that they get the most out of the peak period.

8. Shopping Influences:

Online browsing is the primary source of gift inspiration, with Instagram being the top social media platform to collect ideas, followed by TikTok. It also turns out that 53% would buy directly from social media, meaning brands should think carefully about their positioning on these channels to make sure they are optimising messaging for more sales.

9. Generative AI Usage:

Only 14% think family members should use AI for gift ideas. Younger generations are more likely to be using AI for any purpose in the holiday season, including searching for recipes, finding personalised gifts and creating gift ideas. 

However it seems AI still doesn’t play a particularly key role in holiday spending, so brands can rely on more traditional methods whilst still building quality, personalised experiences for shoppers throughout this season. 

10. Workplace Shopping Trends

Many are getting sneaky around the holiday period, with more than half of workers admitting they’ve done some Christmas shopping during the workday! 37% of these have been doing so in incognito browsers, creating challenges for brands that track customer behaviour. 

Many are getting sneaky around the holiday period, with more than half of workers admitting they’ve done some Christmas shopping during the workday! 37% of these have been doing so in incognito browsers, creating challenges for brands that track customer behaviour. 

With users increasingly choosing to block or reject cookies; and default third-party cookie blocking becoming more prevalent as standard with browsers like Safari and Firefox, brands need to consider other ways to collect vital customer & behavioural data. This is where the power of first-party data & CDP (Customer Data Platforms) really comes in – Read more about this in our blog: How CDPs and First Party Data can Help Solve the Cookie Crisis. 

Key Recommendations for Brands:

  • Brands are advised to tailor content and experiences to meet the specific needs of UK shoppers.
  • Consider automation and technology implementation to save costs operationally. This will enable retailers to cut costs and keep margins high. 
  • Retailers need to offer flexible spending options like Buy Now Pay Later and loyalty points. 
  • Discounting, free shipping, and strong data platforms for micro-targeting are highlighted as crucial strategies.
  • Use data and insights from holiday periods to inform future peak seasons.

If you’d like to explore your commerce challenges, and how you could optimise your digital storefront to deliver experiences that convert, get in touch with our team of experts.

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