How Younger Consumers Will Shop This Holiday Season

By Beth Hurrle  | 

Like most things in the age of Covid, this year’s holiday shopping season may be defined in part by unpredictability. Current pandemic-related supply chain issues are causing delivery disruptions around the world, while parts of Europe are experiencing another spike in coronavirus cases. Such compounding factors are prompting retailers and consumers alike to rethink their purchasing strategies ahead of the holiday season. Still, young consumers are ready to shop. Globally, those between ages 18 to 35 are more likely to increase their budgets, compared to other demographics, per a survey from Outbrain, Consumer Insights for the 2021 Holiday Shopping Season. Following a year of frustrations and missed milestones, Gen Z’s pent-up demand and “treat yourself” mindset will help influence spending decisions. Here’s what marketers need to know.

Starting Early
A recent Roku survey reports that 86 percent of consumers will spend as much or more this holiday season, compared to last year. Additionally, this growth will be driven by millennials plus Gen Z members—and they’re starting early. Home Depot sold out of some Halloween decorations by August, which may foreshadow customers’ upcoming demand for Christmas décor. By the end of November, 83 percent of female students and 95 percent of male students have typically begun purchasing holiday items, according to Student Beans. That makes Black Friday especially important to young shoppers, many of whom are impulse buyers. Outbrain’s Consumer Insights found that 57 percent of global customers only start planning their Black Friday purchases a few days or up to two weeks ahead of the big day. Merchants must be ready with available inventory to meet consumers’ appetites. “New arrivals are hitting stores and digital commerce daily—part of that is the supply chain issues, but that will mean that customers will want to tune in and see what that newness is on a daily basis,” said Craig Brommers, chief marketing officer at clothing brand American Eagle Outfitters. And marketers are concepting clever ways to capitalize on the early commercial push, including introducing monikers like “Falliday” and “Giftober.”

Tapping into Streaming and Social Commerce
Cord-cutting currently feels like an unstoppable trend, as 86 percent of today’s consumers also stream their television content, according to Roku. “Streaming is mainstream,” said Dallas Lawrence, Roku head of communications. “It’s in every house, and part of the fabric of our lives.” This ubiquity directly translates to marketing strategies for many brands planning their holiday-related activations. Case in point, American Eagle Outfitters, the teen-friendly retailer that doesn’t advertise on traditional linear TV. “Gen Z doesn’t even know what linear television is,” said Brommers. “They are streaming, they are on these social networks all day long, so we’re going to follow them.” Along with recent Snapchat and TikTok partnerships, American Eagle’s holiday campaigns will feature nostalgia marketing meant to appeal to younger generations reminiscing fondly about pre-Covid days.

Research from software group Brightpearl.com also suggests that 68 percent of Gen Z shoppers will use newer channels to make their Black Friday and Christmas purchases, including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube and retailers’ mobile apps. “The ‘new normal’ for commerce this holiday season and beyond is now likely to be framed by many nontraditional ways of shopping, which provides a huge choice to consumers and retailers,” said Brightpearl spokesperson Nick Shaw. Many platforms now offer components like Instagram’s Shopping in Reels, which make it easy to pull the trigger on e-commerce purchases without leaving the app or site. New augmented reality (AR) tools similar to the kind debuted by Snapchat in May let customers “try on” products to further sweeten the virtual shopping experience. “It is inevitable that more and more shoppers will buy and spend online in a variety of ways— especially as we approach Christmas and Black Friday,” said Shaw.

Both video ads and swipeable ads continue to rank as important around the world, according to Outbrain’s report. Globally, 61 percent of consumers said that watching a video about a product influenced their purchase-making process. And 45 percent called swipeable ads the most engaging style of advertising with which to interact when browsing online.

Sustainability Still Wins
Student Beans reports that young post-pandemic consumers have grown even more eco-conscious. Concerned about the devastating effects of climate change and determined to make carbon-neutral choices, 55 percent of Gen Z members will be in the market for sustainable gifts this year, while 44 percent count sustainability as a top priority. This sentiment likewise resonates around the world. Outbrain’s report found that 47 percent of global customers ages 18 to 35 are driven by sustainability when making a purchasing decision, right behind brand accessibility and availability (54 percent). And that 43 percent of that demo support local businesses, which is a great way to help reduce carbon footprints.

Following a tough 18 months since the start of the global pandemic, young people around the world are ready to embrace the season’s festive spirit—and for many, that means shopping. Marketers and retailers have a unique opportunity to meet these consumers via tactics meant to engage their spending power. Here’s to happy, healthy holidays!

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