The holiday shopping season is here, and retailers need to be ready for the changing consumer behavior and preferences that will shape this year’s sales. Here are some of the key trends and insights that retailers should know to make the most of the 2023 holiday season.

Consumers are shopping earlier and looking for value

The holiday shopping season is starting earlier than ever this year, as U.S. consumers are eager to secure their purchases amid rising prices and supply chain challenges. According to a survey by Adobe, 49% of U.S. consumers plan to start their holiday shopping as early as October, up from 44% last year. The main drivers of this trend are concerns about inflation, shipping delays, and product availability, which are expected to worsen as the season progresses.

Retailers should take advantage of this early demand by offering deals and discounts throughout the season, not just on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Adobe predicts that online sales will reach $207 billion in November and December, up 10% from last year, but down from the 32% growth seen in 2020. To capture this online spending, retailers should optimize their websites and mobile apps for speed, convenience, and security, as well as offer free or fast shipping options.

Consumers are also looking for value and savings, as inflation is affecting their budgets and purchasing power. A survey by RetailMeNot found that 44% of consumers are decreasing their holiday shopping budget this year due to inflation, and 62% are looking for less-expensive items. Retailers should highlight their value proposition and offer competitive pricing, coupons, cashback, and loyalty rewards to attract and retain customers.

The latest data from the Census Bureau shows that retail sales rose 0.7% in September, beating expectations and indicating strong consumer confidence. However, some categories saw declines, such as electronics and appliances (-3.6%), sporting goods (-2%), and department stores (-1%). These categories may face more challenges in October due to the ongoing semiconductor shortage and port congestion. Retailers should diversify their inventory sources and communicate clearly with customers about any potential delays or stockouts.

The holiday shopping season is shaping up to be a dynamic and unpredictable one, as consumers and retailers adapt to the changing economic and pandemic conditions. By starting early, offering value, and being flexible, retailers can maximize their sales opportunities and customer satisfaction.

2023 Holiday Shopping Trends: Early Start and Value Search

Online sales are on the rise and marketplaces are dominating

The pandemic has accelerated the shift to online shopping, and this trend is expected to continue this holiday season. According to eMarketer, online sales will grow by 13.9% in 2023, reaching $1.09 trillion, or 18.9% of total retail sales. Online sales will account for more than half of the total retail sales growth this year. Among the online channels, marketplaces are gaining popularity and market share, as they offer consumers more choices, convenience, and value. A global survey by Mirakl found that 89% of consumers worldwide actively seek better value, and marketplaces are their preferred avenue for finding it. Marketplaces also grew by 38% in 2022, six times more than overall e-commerce. Retailers should consider expanding their presence on marketplaces, such as Amazon, Walmart, eBay, and Etsy, to reach more customers and increase their sales.

Social commerce is rising and influencing purchase decisions

Social media platforms are becoming more than just a source of inspiration and information for consumers. They are also becoming a destination for shopping and transactions. According to eMarketer, social commerce sales will grow by 35.8% in 2023, reaching $36.62 billion, or 3.4% of total e-commerce sales. Social commerce is especially popular among younger consumers, who use platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Pinterest to discover new products, follow influencers, watch live streams, and shop directly from posts and stories. Retailers should leverage social commerce to showcase their products, engage with their audience, create viral content, and drive conversions.

To summarize, the 2023 holiday shopping season will be shaped by several factors that will influence how consumers shop and what they buy. Retailers need to be prepared for these changes and adapt their strategies accordingly. By offering early deals and discounts, expanding their online presence on marketplaces, and leveraging social commerce platforms, retailers can capture more opportunities and increase their sales this holiday season.