Have You Made Your List and Checked It Twice?

If you live anywhere on the grid, you definitely know that the holiday shopping season is in full swing and Black Friday has morphed into a week-long event. The airwaves are filled with deals, deals, and more deals on the products you want and maybe a few products you actually need. If you haven’t already, it is time to figure out who is getting what on your gift list. AYTM’s annual Holiday Shopping Trends survey is here to help with that task. We surveyed 1,000 US consumers who are celebrating the holidays this year and plan on shopping for gifts, decorations, cards, etc.

Our surveyed respondents will be celebrating the following holidays:

  • 97% – Christmas
  • 8% – Winter Solstice
  • 6% – Hanukkah
  • 4% – Kwanzaa
  • 3% – Yule
  • 3% – Festivus (the holiday for the rest of us, more info here)

Read on to find out where they get their gift ideas, who they are shopping for, where they plan to shop, and more.

Every Time a Bell Rings

Before we get to all the holiday shopping goodness this survey has to offer, let’s start off with holiday traditions that bring gifts other than those you get at the store. We asked consumers which fun holiday traditions they enjoy. Watching holiday movies topped the list, chosen by 77% of respondents. According to Rotten Tomatoes, here are the 50 Best Christmas Movies of All Time with It’s A Wonderful Life coming in at number one. For the true Christmas movie addicts, we present to you Lifetime’s 24/7 movie schedule. You’re welcome. Listening to holiday music was a close second, chosen by 72% of respondents. For the holiday music lovers, here is a list of 142 radio stations across the US that are now playing your songs all day and night. Other popular holiday traditions include: putting up lights (61%), baking cookies for Santa (36%), building a gingerbread house (23%), Elf on the Shelf or Mensch on a Bench (11%), and going caroling (7%).

Get Your Shop On

Now let’s get shopping and 48% of holiday shoppers have already started. 18% plan to start on Black Friday, 15% in early December, 8% on Cyber Monday, 7% on Thanksgiving, 3% will start after December 15th, and then we have the 2% who will start at the last possible minute. Black Friday is a great day to get deals but it is not the only “shopping holiday,” and our respondents plan to shop on these special days:

  • 62% – Cyber Monday
  • 53% – Black Friday
  • 29% – Small Business Saturday
  • 13% – Christmas Eve

81% of holiday shoppers said they plan ahead which gifts they are getting for the people on their list. The most popular sources of inspiration were: friends and family (64%), online retailer (43%), retail store (42%), search engine (42%), social media (29%), TV (28%), review or comparison shopping site (18%), magazines and newspapers (17%), radio (6%), and other (5%). Among the 29% getting inspiration from social media, the most trusted sources were family and friends and the least trusted were the news media and celebrities.

Bah Hum-Budget

How much do consumers plan to spend this year, you ask? We found there was quite a range, but a full 25% will be spending $500 or more and 18% will be spending less than $100.

Gifts make up the largest portion of the budget (44%) followed by food (16%), gift cards/gift certificates/cash (16%), entertainment (8%), decorations (7%), and holiday cards/postage (6%). 82% of holiday shoppers plan to mostly purchase gifts while 5% will mostly make gifts, and 13% plan to both purchase and DIY. 

While we are on the topic of budgets, here is a small plug for Giving Tuesday – the holiday for the global generosity movement that takes place the day after Cyber Monday. 49% of the holiday shoppers we surveyed plan to donate their time or money this holiday season and 11% of those will be participating in Giving Tuesday.

On the Nice List

It is a good thing those holiday budgets mentioned above are big because there are a lot of people to buy gifts for this year. Consumers will be shopping for:

  • 59% – their children
  • 57% – significant other
  • 56% – parents/grandparents
  • 43% – siblings
  • 41% – friends
  • 32% – aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins
  • 29% – children of friends and family
  • 29% – pets
  • 18% – grandchildren
  • 15% – co-workers
  • 10% – neighbors
  • 9% – postal carrier, garbage collector, hair stylist, etc.
  • 5% – strangers (e.g., answering letters to Santa)
  • 2% – other

There are also A LOT of choices of gifts to buy. And with all that variety causing analysis paralysis, it is not surprising that gift cards/gift certificates/cash are the most popular gifts to buy for people on their list. Among those giving gift cards, gift certificates, and/or cash gifts there is quite a variation in the amount they will be spending — from 7% spending $500+ to 51% spending under $100.

Need gift inspiration? Here is what our respondents are buying for others vs. what they are buying for themselves. Yes, we all deserve a few gifts for ourselves, though a large percentage of consumers did say they won’t be including themselves on their shopping list. 

Top Gifts to Buy for OthersTop Gifts to Buy for Yourself
62% – gift cards/cash
61% – clothing4
8% – games/toys/dolls
42% – food candy beverages
36% – books/DVDs/video games
34% – health and beauty items
28% – consumer electronics
26% – jewelry
20% – pet-related products
18% – crafts/hand-crafted items
18% – experiences
14% – sporting goods
13% – hardware/tools
9% – charitable donations
5% – other
43% – do not plan to buy gifts for myself
33% – clothing
19% – food candy beverages
18% – health and beauty items
15% – consumer electronics
14% – books/DVDs/video games
13% – jewelry
8% – gift cards/cash
7% – games/toys/dolls
7% – experiences
5% – sporting goods
5% – crafts/hand-crafted items
5% – hardware/tools
5% – pet-related products
2% – other

Parked at Your Computer Instead of the Mall

And finally we come to the survey results about where all of this holiday shopping is going to take place. You might have already guessed that the internet is the overwhelming location where gifts will be bought — 74% of holiday shoppers we surveyed will be shopping online. The next most popular shopping location was big box stores chosen by 57%. Rounding out the top five were department stores (39%), specialty retailers (31%), and locally owned businesses (24%).

As far as why holiday shoppers like to go online vs. shop at a store:

48% prefer to shop online and here are the top five reasons why:

  1. Convenience
  2. Avoid crowds
  3. Free shipping
  4. Time saving
  5. Home delivery

21% prefer to shop in store and here are the top five reasons why:

  1. Can interact with the product
  2. Avoid shipping costs
  3. Special discounts available in-store
  4. Get inspiration
  5. It is festive and puts me in the holiday spirit

30% of our respondents had no preference when it came to shopping online vs. in-store. Most holiday shoppers will do a combination of shopping methods, including:

  • 54% – research online, buy in store
  • 41% – buy online, pick up in store
  • 35% – research in store, buy online
  • 29% – none of the above

The results in this section are quite similar to those from our previous surveys and it seems shoppers are set in their ways. We were curious what would make consumers try a store (online or physical) that they had not shopped at in the past. The most enticing reason was better prices chosen by a whopping 76% of respondents. Other reasons to try something new were: positive reviews (47%), one-of-a-kind products (44%), larger selection (44%), friend/family recommendation (43%), better shipping options (31%), military/first responder discount (6%), other (1%), and none of the above (5%)

The Takeaways (Our Gifts to You)

Convenience is king and Donner, Blitzen, and the majority of holiday shoppers will be shopping online this year. There are a few people who still enjoy leaving their homes and they will be heading to the stores to get their share of festive feelings and get their hands directly on the products. Children top the list of people to buy gifts for and a large percent of holiday shoppers won’t be buying gifts for themselves this year. The number one gift to buy for others is gift cards/gift certificates/cash — might as well let the recipient choose what they really want. And finally, people LOVE Christmas movies. We here at AYTM wish you safe travels if you are heading out to the mall and speedy connections for those looking to score online deals.

For the curious, here are the AYTM surveys from holidays past:

2018: Ho Ho Holiday Shopping Trends

2017: ‘Tis the Season to Shop: Holiday Buying Trends

Allie Smith is the former Director of Charts for eMarketer with over 15 years of experience in the world of market research. Her love for charts and graphs is only outweighed by her love for her whippets. She spends her free time watching Law & Order reruns while knitting cute hats for dogs.