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Research Roundup: Preparing for the 2019 Holiday Shopping Season

Sara Matasci
November 1, 2019
Research Roundup: Preparing for the 2019 Holiday Shopping Season
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It’s November 1st, and the winter holiday season is officially upon us. As always, the stakes are high: sales in November and December, the “official” winter holiday shopping season, account for as much as 30% of annual sales for retailers. Here’s what top industry experts are saying about the 2019 holiday season – and what shoppers across the globe are looking for.

Shoppers across the globe are ready to spend, especially on eCommerce

Each year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) releases a comprehensive U.S. holiday sales forecast, and in 2019, NRF says holiday sales in the U.S. will grow at a reasonable rate of between 3.8 and 4.2 percent, in line with the 3.7% average over the past five years. Online and other non-store sales are a big contributor to that growth, increasing between 11 percent and 14 percent over last year.


It’s a significant jump from last year’s overall growth rate of 2.1%, which was unusually small due to a government shutdown and stock market volatility in the U.S. In the U.K., things are a little more uncertain: PwC reports that while 18% of consumers plan on spending more on holidays this year, 25% will spend less than last year. 

NRF projections for 2019 U.S. holiday sales, Bain is slightly more optimistic than NRF when it comes to this year’s U.S. eCommerce growth, pinning its projection at 15%, and stating that eCommerce sales will make up nearly 20% of all forecasted holiday sales for 2019. (Forrester says that 2019 U.S. online holiday sales will reach $138 billion, representing 12.7% year-over-year growth.)


According to Bain, this year’s overall growth is due in part to a magic combination of modest inflation, more disposable personal income, and a lower unemployment rate (3.5%, the lowest since 1969). Bain projects that eCommerce sales will grow at nearly twice the rate of last year.

What your customers are looking for this holiday season

McKinsey’s 2019 Holiday Season Shopping Report, which surveys consumers in Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, is packed with insight on what shoppers want this year, and how they’ll be shopping for it – all with major implications for retailers.

First and foremost: shoppers are looking for help with their gift lists. Across all of the countries surveyed, the number-one concern for shoppers (47% of respondents) is not knowing what gifts to buy. It’s a big opportunity for retailers to strengthen their positions as go-to brands by building campaigns and offers that can guide their customers.

This year, omnichannel shopping is truly hitting the mainstream. The majority (62 percent) of consumers surveyed are planning on using both online and in-store channels to make their purchases. Travel and consumer electronics top the list of categories that shoppers are purchasing from online. In addition, conducting online research in the early stages of shopping is more common this year, coinciding with more than a third of respondents naming crowding and queues in stores as a concern. (In the UK, that number topped out at 42%!)

A third of shoppers also reported that they were concerned about being unable to find the products that they wanted. It’s not an unfounded fear, and retailers need to take it seriously: plan poorly, with too many out-of-stock products, and you could lose loyal customers. Mirakl’s own research has shown that more than half (56%) of female shoppers will actually switch to a different retailer when a product that they want is out of stock.

As in years previous, Amazon is expected to be the low-price champion this holiday season, with Walmart running 4.1% higher, and Target running 10.6% higher. Category specialists are running 20%+ higher in key categories – underscoring the need to compete on more than just price by offering more personalized services and products to buyers.

Getting ready to take on the holidays

It’s back to business as usual in the U.S. after a turbulent 2018 holiday shopping season. Your customers are looking for guidance on what to buy – and they want both online and in-store options. Get ready to give customers what they’re looking for by creating smart campaigns and a strong selection of offers at a competitive price.

This is the first piece of coverage in Mirakl’s holiday shopping series. Subscribe to the Marketplace Strategy Blog to be the first to hear what to expect, what leading retailers are planning for the rest of the year, and how you can make the most of the holiday season.

Written by
Sara Matasci
Director, Corporate Marketing at Mirakl

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