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Free shipping, returns beat discounts for holiday shopping; health items top list

A holiday survey reveals what makes holiday shoppers choose one brand over another, the top purchase categories and what group is driving online spend.

When choosing a brand or retailer to shop with this holiday season, 57% of U.S. consumers consider fast, free delivery for online orders to be one of the most important considerations, according to the Coresight Research x January Digital 2021 U.S. Holiday Insights Survey. Product pricing was the second top consideration, followed by easy, free product returns for online orders.

Discounts and promotions placed fifth among top considerations, demonstrating that shoppers are prioritizing convenience and value in the last mile as opposed to heavily discounted products this holiday sales season, the study noted.

On average, U.S. consumers expect that 59% of their holiday spending will be online, up from 52% in 2020 according to the survey. Interestingly, consumers over the age of 60 will account for much of the rise in E-commerce this holiday a significant shift compared to 2020, with 71% of consumers over the age of 60 expecting to spend more on online orders for home delivery this holiday season than they did last year. In the same age group, 16% indicate they will spend more on buy-online-pickup-in-store or curbside-pickup orders this holiday.

In another surprising finding, one-third of shoppers aged 30-44 reported that they would spend more in store than they did in the 2020 holiday season — a higher proportion than seen among other age groups.

“The ways in which different generations of consumers plan to shop are more nuanced today than ever before, with our over-60 shoppers driving online spend and our under-44 shoppers unconcerned about discounts and promotions,” said Sarah Engel, chief marketing officer and chief people officer, January Digit.

The survey uncovered that the top purchase category this holiday season is health, with 56% of consumers planning to purchase more health products in 2021 compared to 2020 (a net gain of 43% year-over-year in this category). More men (52% net more) than women (35% net more) expressed their intent to buy more health products this holiday season, including vitamins, supplements and therapeutic devices, which is consistent for almost all age groups.

Groceries came in as the second top category consumers plan to spend more on this holiday season (22% net more year-over-year) followed by fashion (18% net more year-over-year) including items such as apparel, footwear and fashion accessories.

Additional findings from the study, entitled “Where, What and How Will U.S. Consumers Shop for Holiday 2021?,” are below.

Half (50%) respondents who stated they’d be using social media channels for holiday shopping plan to use Facebook as their social shopping channel of choice, followed by YouTube (18%) and Instagram (11%).

• Nearly one in 10 U.S. holiday shoppers said they discover products through influencers.

• Younger consumers believe that social media posts from influencers or celebrities are more trustworthy than from brand representatives and store associates — with 18% of holiday shoppers aged 18–29, and 17% of those aged 30–44, reporting as such (compared to less than 10% in the older age cohorts).

“These findings align with our broader viewpoint on the upcoming holiday season,” said Deborah Weinswig, CEO and founder, Coresight Research. “We are expecting strong growth, with shoppers using both online and in-store channels. While we are expecting outperformance in apparel, particularly occasion wear, as well as toys and beauty, retailers are not going to be handed success on a platter. They will need to take a granular look at the trends, generational differences and category spending plans, and execute their promotional strategies to that playbook, keeping a laser focus on inventory and shifting demand.”

To download the full report, click here.

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