Digital Path to Purchase Holiday Shopping Trends

Stephen DeAngelis

December 13, 2013

The folks at Hubspot put together an informative slideshare presentation for this holiday shopping season entitled “47 Stats for Remarkable Holiday Marketing in 2013.” As one of the opening slides declares, the presentation dives “into important stats from the past couple of seasons to help you take advantage of the top marketing trends that successful businesses are using.” By my count, the presentation actually provides more than 47 stats. I’ll highlight each of those statistics using parentheses (0). Most of the statistics provided in the presentation point to the fact that the digital path to purchase is becoming an increasingly important consumer journey. For example, the first statistic provided indicates that “the number of online shoppers is expected to grow from 167 million in 2012 to 192 million in 2016.” (1) They drew that insight from Forrester research and I’m guessing that it addresses only U.S. consumers.

Although there is an ongoing debate about whether shoppers prefer online or in-store shopping experiences, the presentation indicates that Deloitte research concluded that “47% of consumers say that the internet is their favorite shopping destination.” (2) Since words mean different things to different people, I’m curious as to whether respondents considered “shopping” and “buying” to mean the same thing. I know some fishermen make a distinction between “fishing” and “catching.” Research from Thomson Reuters research indicates that “34% of shoppers plan to shop online and in-store equally this holiday season.” (3) The next statistic provided in the presentation addresses something I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post (i.e., the holiday shopping season is starting a lot earlier than it used to). According to Steelhouse, “49% of marketers … created and launched a holiday campaign before Halloween this year.” (4) That means that the fact that there are fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year should have little impact.

The next stat, drawn from Experian research, indicated, “In 2012, 129 million consumers shopped online on Cyber Monday.” (5) This year, however, Cyber Monday shattered records as shoppers spent 18% more than last year. [“Cyber Monday 2013: Largest Online Spend in U.S. History,” by Jessica Lee, Search Engine Watch, 6 December 2013] One reason that online sales are increasing is that retailers are spending more of their marketing budgets for online holiday advertising. According to Shop.org, “3 in 5 retailers dedicated over 20% of their total 2012 online marketing budgets to holiday efforts.” (6) Joel Anderson, CEO of Walmart.com, told USA Today, “I think 2013 will be remembered as the year online went mobile.” [“Cyber Monday clicks in with record sales,” by Hadley Malcolm, and Bruce Horovitz, 2 December 2013]

The fact is that many consumers use a hybrid approach to shopping (that is, they mix and match online shopping and research with in-store experiences). According to IPSOS MEDIACT and Google research, “44% research online and buy products online” (7); “51% research online and visit the store to purchase” (8); and “32% research online, visit the store to view the product, and buy it online.” (9) Each of those journeys is part of the digital path to purchase experience. The next sections of the Hubspot presentation deal with the “channels and tools other marketers are using.” They begin with the Mobile & Search sector.

Mobile & Search

According to Shop.org, “This year, 66% of tablet owners will use their tablets to make holiday purchases.” (10) According to the National Google 2013 Holiday Shopping Intentions Study, “76% of smartphone owners will use their devices to research and make holiday purchases.” (11) IPSOS MEDIACT and Google research indicates that “4 in 5 shoppers will use devices simultaneously to help with holiday shopping.” (12) Online research is obviously one of the most important tools that consumers use in their shopping journey. According to Catalog Spree, “74% of shoppers search online to get ideas for their holiday wish lists.” (13) As a result, Internet Retailer reports, “82% of retailers are making investments in mobile technology this holiday season.” (14) and “77% of retailers are enhancing the search capabilities of their website this season.” (15) Experian adds, “84% of marketers use mobile-optimized websites.” Shop.org research concludes, “2 in 5 retailers are focusing heavily on mobile email optimization” (16); “over 25% of retailers will make significant use of smartphone & tablet paid search campaigns” (17); and “55% of retailers are using search marketing to persuade customers to snatch up in-store deals.” (18)

Email

The next area explored by the Hubspot presentation was email. According to Yesmail Interactive, “49% of all emails are opened and read on a mobile device (19) yet … 1/3 of top ecommerce brand emails linked to a non-mobile optimized landing page.” (20) The research also concluded, “80% of online shoppers (21) and 71% of in-store shoppers say email offers influence them to buy.” (22) Accenture adds, “55% of brands use email as their #1 holiday marketing channel.” (23) If you think you have been bombarded by emails leading up to Cyber Monday, you were probably correct. According to Bizrate Insights, “44% of shoppers learned about the best Cyber Monday deals through retailers’ emails in 2012.” (24) Shop.org adds, “74% of holiday retailers are using email to get customers to cash in on deals.” (25) According to Search Engine People, “56% of businesses plan to increase their investment in email marketing this year.” Experian adds, “93% of those marketers plan to increase or maintain the same level of email investment.” (26)

Social Media

The Hubspot presentation next turns to the social media sector. CMO.com asserts, “64% of shoppers have bought a product because of something they’ve seen on Twitter” (27); and “30% of Twitter users tweet about holiday shopping before October” (28). Any wonder that retailers are starting their campaigns earlier each year? The organization also notes, “On Pinterest, revenue per visit is up by 150%” (29) and “96% of Millennials will be engaged on at least one social network this season.” (30) CROWDTAP claims that “64.8% of consumers will turn to social media sites to find the perfect gift,” (31) and “24.8% of consumers trust peer recommendations on Facebook and Twitter when deciding to purchase a holiday gift.” (32) They go on to assert, “That’s more than banner ads, magazine ads, [and] TV commercials combined.” (33) They add, “67% of consumers would be likely to share a digital coupon on Facebook during the holidays” (34) and “63.4% would be likely to share a link to a holiday contest” (35); “53.9% of shoppers will use social media while shopping in-store” (36); and “38.4% will tweet about promotional offers, deals, and finds.” (37) Experian research concluded, “49% of marketers plan to include social sharing tools & buttons from their website (up from 36% in 2012).” (38) The National Google 2013 Holiday Shopping Intentions Study concludes that “88% of [Millennials planned] to shop during Thanksgiving weekend.” (39)

Websites & Blogs

The final area addressed in the Hubspot presentation is websites and blogs. Monetate asserts, “39% of shoppers hear about the best holiday deals by visiting a company’s website directly.” (40) Bizrate Insights adds, “41% of consumers visited a retailer’s site directly to learn more about Cyber Monday deals in 2012.” (41) CMO.com reports, “92% of holiday shoppers will go online to research and/or purchase gifts this season.” (42) Experian adds, “39% of marketers plan to incorporate ratings & reviews into their customers’ holiday shopping experience.” (43) Lest you think that webpages are losing their luster, Internet Retailer reports, “Compared to 2012, consumers are viewing an average of 35% more pages on retail websites” (44) and “95% of marketers will invest in a mobile-optimized website this holiday season.” (45) Experian reported that’s up from the “84% [that used mobile-optimized websites] in 2012.” (46) Concerning the use of blogs, Shop.org reports, “Nearly 25% of retailers will use blogs when looking to promote in-store offers” (47) but “less than 1/2 of retailers will use homepage messaging to get the word out about in-store offers.” (48) They note that “for the 2012 season, marketers used fewer site-wide promotions in favor of personalized discounts.” (49)

To encourage consumers to take the step from shopper to buyer, Steelhouse reports that “nearly 40% of retailers will use free shipping offers on their website to entice customers to shop online this season.” (50) With all of this attention being given to online activity, the National Retail Foundation predicts, “Online holiday sales will reach $83 billion in 2013, up 15% over 2012.” (51) Overall, I think the Hubspot presentation provides an excellent overview of the trends that will affect this holiday shopping season. It also included some great images. Check it out — and happy shopping!