Forget Rudolph, Consumers Looking to Digital to Guide Their Holiday Shopping

Shoppers Plan to Use Social Media, Mobile Phones and Online Destinations

Nov 11, 2009, 08:57 ET from Deloitte

NEW YORK, Nov. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Digital advancements continue to drive a new approach to shopping, with social media and mobile phones emerging as key influencers this holiday season, according to Deloitte's 24th Annual Holiday Survey of retail spending and trends.

Social media is gaining traction with almost one out of five (17 percent) consumers planning to use social media during their holiday shopping, and among those, three out of five (60 percent) plan to use social media to find discounts, coupons and sale information. More than half intend to use social media to research gift ideas (53 percent), while 52 percent plan to check the gift wish lists of friends and family.

Consumers in all age groups plan to embrace social media over the holidays. While more than half (52 percent) of those who expect to use social media during the shopping process are in the 18-29 years old age group, one-third (33 percent) are in the 30-44 years old age group and one in 10 (12 percent) are in the 45-60 years old age group.

The mobile phone is another emerging digital tool for the holidays and is expected to be used by nearly one in five consumers (19 percent) to assist with their holiday shopping. Those consumers plan to find store locations (55 percent), research prices (45 percent), find product information (40 percent), get discounts and coupons (32 percent) and read reviews (31 percent). One in four (25 percent) even expect to make a holiday purchase with their phone.

Online Growth Continues

The Internet ranks as a top shopping destination and continues to grow at a steady pace. More than one in five (22 percent) consumers anticipate they will shop primarily online this year and many are using the Internet to find special offers, with 44 percent of shoppers expecting to use a coupon they obtained online.

Reviews have become another key online source of information, with nearly four in 10 consumers (39 percent) indicating they often read consumer-generated reviews of stores or products online, and one-quarter (25 percent) saying they will likely purchase a product this holiday season based on an online recommendation. More than a third (34 percent) say that online consumer reviews and ratings influence their buying decisions more than advertising.

The Internet is also changing the traditional store-based purchase process. Nearly half of consumers (48 percent) indicate they like the convenience of shopping with multi-channel retailers, and more than three-quarters (78 percent) indicate they have purchased an item in a retailer's store after viewing or researching the product on that same retailer's website or catalog this year. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) have done the opposite and purchased an item on a retailer's website after viewing in the store or catalog.

"Consumers are turning to mobile, online and social media during their entire holiday shopping experience," said Stacy Janiak, vice chairman and Deloitte's U.S. Retail leader. "Retailers should consider harnessing this activity to turn browsers into buyers with one-click access to coupons, promotions and purchasing tools. This year's leaner in-store inventories may also open the door for retailers to lure customers to their online channels where it is easier to access inventory, no matter where it is located."

Consumers May Not Return to Old Habits

The survey found that consumers not only have changed their shopping habits, but these changes may be permanent for some. More than one-quarter (26 percent) say they have permanently changed the amount of money they spend while shopping and will not go back to spending as much as prior to the recession. One-third (33 percent) of consumers indicate that they have become less loyal to certain retailers and 44 percent say they have remained loyal to stores they like, but make fewer trips or purchase less at them.

"Consumers have become much more cautious about their purchasing decisions, and these behaviors could have a lasting effect," said Janiak. "Consumers will not return to spending levels seen before the recession anytime soon, and high-volume discretionary purchasing could remain a thing of the past. As retailers shift gears for a recovery during the holiday season and beyond, they should consider seizing the opportunity to reinvigorate their brand and relevancy to consumers who have embraced a new consumption mindset. That may include new marketing, pricing and promotion strategies that focus on re-engaging the consumer and differentiating a retailer's merchandise and services."

Men More Optimistic Than Women and Spending More

Women are less optimistic about the economy, with a greater number of women than men looking for ways to save while shopping this year. More than half (53 percent) of women surveyed said they would spend less this holiday season, compared to 43 percent of men. Nearly half (46 percent) of women indicate their household financial situation is worse than last year, compared to 41 percent of men. Looking ahead, half (50 percent) of women say the economy will improve next year, compared to 58 percent for men.

This year, men's expected dollar spend on gifts was 13 percent higher than the similar figure for women ($483 compared to $427). This is the largest divergence between genders in results back to 2005. Additionally, the survey found that 65 percent of women expect that all or nearly all of the gifts they purchase will be bought on-sale compared to 48 percent of men. Men plan to spend 53 percent more than women on their total holiday spending, which includes gifts, non-gift clothing, socializing away from home, entertaining at home and home-holiday furnishings.

Sustained Interest in Green

The number of consumers seeking out green retailers and eco-friendly products remains steady with last year's findings, as one in five say they plan to purchase more eco-friendly products this holiday season (20 percent) and shop at more 'green' (environmentally responsible) retailers (18 percent) than they did in the past. Almost half (47 percent) are willing to pay more for a green gift and more than one third (36 percent) are willing to pay 5 to 10 percent more.

About the Survey:

The survey was commissioned by Deloitte and conducted online by an independent research company between September 24 and October 2, 2009. The survey polled a sample of 10,878 consumers and has a margin of error for the entire sample of plus or minus one percentage point.

For more information about Deloitte's Annual Holiday Survey, including interesting statistics, historical data and useful links, please visit

About Deloitte

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SOURCE Deloitte