Big business at Christmas: are customers really shopping sooner?

The Christmas trade has already begun. Spiced biscuits and gingerbread have been on sale since the beginning of September, acting as pre-Christmas heralds for the food trade. They suggest that the Christmas business is starting earlier and earlier. But that’s not true: the Marktjagd-Study (Shopping guide for local trade) reveals that, since 2013, the Christmas shopping season has always started in early September, in the 36th week of the year.

Traditionally, the pre-Christmas business is the most profitable time for many retail sectors. In some segments, up to 25% of annual revenues are generated in the last two months of the year. This is true of the book trade, for example. Toy retailers make up to 28% of their sales during this period.

One in two customers orders gifts on the Internet

According to the German Retail Association (HDE), online retailers achieve 27% of their annual turnover in the last two months of the year. According to a study published by Deloitte in October 2016, one in two customers plans to purchase at least one of their Christmas gifts on the Internet. For 2016, HDE predicted a Christmas turnover of 12.3 billion euros for online retailers. Online retail sales rose by 12.5% to 52.7 billion euros. For retailers of products that are particularly in demand during the Christmas period, the growth was even stronger.

On average, customers buy six Christmas presents, spending up to 299 euros. According to a survey conducted by Ernst & Young, a majority of consumers (54%) wait until December to buy Christmas gifts. Men only start to buy Christmas gifts in early December. However, women usually buy their gifts much earlier. That’s important information for retailers, since the search for presents begins even earlier. To use all the opportunities to make sales, brands and retailers should plan their Christmas marketing activities early on.

Pre-Christmas inspiration online

According to an EHI Retail Institute study on Christmas shopping, presents are always bought at short notice. Young people, in particular, seem to decide spontaneously and buy more frequently online. October and November are the high season for finding suitable gifts, with 90% of interviewees seeking inspiration, browsing, or choosing the most suitable gift during this time. However, the actual buying process does not take place until December.

Last year, the technology company for commerce marketing Criteo recorded some of the most profitable conversions as early as the beginning of November. The search for high-priced gifts begins in autumn. Users also often leave articles in their shopping cart for a long time before clicking “Buy”. Potential buyers should therefore be reminded regularly of these products to encourage them to make the purchase.

The good news: Customers use all channels for their Christmas shopping

It’s an oversimplification to divide customers into pure online or exclusive bricks-and-mortar customers. The distinction between bricks-and-mortar and online is clearly not so important to customers now. They use all channels, which means that retailers need to implement an Omnichannel concept in terms of communication and sales. A full 84% of customers go to shops and Christmas markets to buy their Christmas gifts. They also use offers online.

Of those surveyed, 41% buy as much online as in-store. Only 21% favoured offline shopping, with 38% buying more Christmas presents online than offline. Purchasing online is mainly done through classic desktop computers. However, 31% use their smartphone for Xmas shopping, while a majority use their smartphone to seek inspiration for presents online (52%).

Customers are no longer just using their smartphone to search for product information. In 2016, there was a massive increase in the number of mobile conversions. The Criteo report, “The state of cross-device commerce”, shows that, in the final quarter of 2016, 38% of all online purchases were made with smartphones.

The analysis of the shopping cycle for Christmas gifts clarifies the purchasing behaviour of consumers. It suggests that retailers should begin suitable marketing measures with product messages in the pre-Christmas months. In the actual Christmas month of December, however, the important messages are reliable availability and, in the online shop, a fast and guaranteed delivery.

Image: Shutterstock


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