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09/28/2021

Survey: Holiday shopping starts on Amazon; followed by retail sites

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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holiday online shopping
A good digital experience is crucial to holiday success.

When consumers start looking for holiday gifts, they overwhelmingly turn to one source.

Eighty-percent of respondents will start searching for gifts on Amazon, according to a study of 1,600 U.S. consumers from digital experience intelligence firm FullStory. Coming in a distant second are retailers' own sites (50%), followed by Google (36%).

Only slightly more than one in 10 respondents will start looking for gifts on Facebook (12%) or Instagram (10%). But nearly one in five (18%) will begin their gift search on Etsy.

The survey also indicates respondents are generally much more satisfied with digital than physical shopping, although digital retail is not problem-free. In-store challenges cited by respondents include out-of-stock items and sizes (59%), a scarcity of staff to help in stores (50%), and inadequate COVID-19 precautions (41%). Forty-six percent of respondents say shopping in the store is worse than it was prior to the pandemic, and only 12% say the experience has improved.

In contrast, respondents gave digital retail a much higher grade, with 88% saying online experiences are "as good or better" than they were before the pandemic. Nearly one-third (32%) say the digital experience has improved, while just 12% say it's worse.

Other findings from the survey are below.

  • Overall, 31% of shoppers are planning to do more holiday shopping online this year than in 2020. However, three in 10 respondents find site and shopping cart glitches more frustrating during the holidays than any other time of the year.

[Read more: Survey: Delta variant will fuel holiday e-commerce boom]

  • More than half of respondents (55%) aren't likely to shop again with a retailer that provides a frustrating or poor digital experience. Respondents’ biggest digital frustrations are that the shopping cart won't complete a transaction (37%) or accept a gift code (36%), and pages that fail to load, time out or deliver a site error (34%).
  • Respondents want retailers to show them similar items in stock (66%), flag out-of-stock items before reaching the online shopping cart (60%), notify them when items are available again (51%), and scrub those items from promotions and search results on the fly (43%).

The survey also examined consumer attitudes toward mobile shopping, finding:

  • One in three (34%) respondents say phones are their primary online shopping channel, and 58% say at least half of their online shopping is conducted on their phones.
  • However, 46% of respondents say they run into fewer issues when using a computer versus a phone.
  • Mobile-first respondents are more likely to experience pages that fail to load (42% vs 35% of overall respondents) and difficulty in finding information on products or sizes (41% vs 35%).

"Consumers are relying more than ever on the digital experience to power them through the holiday season, but the combination of high expectations and site performance issues can lead to disappointment and lost opportunities for retailers," said Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, chief marketing officer of FullStory. "Product shortages and shipping delays will inevitably be a reality this holiday, so retailers who emerge as winners are the ones who will be able to quickly learn, adapt and improve the digital experience to meet changing conditions and behavior."