4 ways shopping habits will be different this Christmas

28 September 2021, 09:43 AM
  • Prepare for a festive season sales boost by studying changing consumer behaviours
4 ways shopping habits will be different this Christmas

The fine food industry is hoping for a merrier Christmas in 2021 – and it’s clear consumers are too, with as many as 25% of UK shoppers having already starting thinking about and shopping for the big day before the end of August, according to research from eBay Ads UK.

This year, will holiday buying habits look any different? We take a closer look at four behaviours that retailers should be aware of.

1. Engage customers with an ‘experience’

Consumers will be looking to inject Christmas cheer into their shopping trips this year, meaning that bricks and mortar stores will be the perfect venues for engaging experiences – whether through Covid-safe tastings, interactive displays or other bespoke shopping experiences.

“For many, the fun of holiday shopping is found in those experiential moments and the allure of the ‘treasure hunt’ for the perfect gift,” said data analytics business NielsenIQ in a recent report. “When holiday shoppers are engaged, they are more likely to explore new information, consider new products, and complete purchases,” the group continued. “The past two years have shown that driving massive traffic doesn’t necessarily translate to higher conversion any longer. The relevance of standalone sales events is dwindling in favour of developing platforms and communities centred around exclusive shopping experiences, across both e-commerce and brick and mortar storefronts.”

2. In-store vs online

The multiples have lately shown mixed messages around their approach to e-commerce. For instance, while Morrisons prepares to axe home delivery services from 50 stores, Sainsbury’s has launched a same-day delivery option while expanding a partnership with delivery service Chop Chop for even quicker orders.

Although the latest data from Kantar revealed online grocery had reached its lowest market share since May 2020, Sainsbury’s director of e-commerce Nigel Blunt said customer demand for getting groceries quickly and conveniently online had “grown significantly”. For independents, e-commerce still appears to be offering opportunities, so investing in a strong digital offering while consumers are gearing up for Christmas is a strong way to maximise sales.

But online is not the be-all and end-all anymore, as post-lockdown consumers are growing more confident to browse shops. “Shoppers aren’t limiting their browsing time and brands should take full advantage of the opportunity to inspire new or added buying occasions to supplement holiday meals or celebrations,” NielsenIQ said. “Despite the considerable disruption to shopping norms, recent measures indicate that many shoppers’ attitudes toward in-store engagement and impulse buying haven’t changed. In fact, more than half of surveyed shoppers feel equally likely to take their time browsing the store and are just as likely to be swayed to buy more in-store, despite planning their purchases ahead of time.” This means indies can target upselling in their physical stores this holiday season, as well as supplementing sales with online ordering options.

3. Shoppers crave local, sustainable and healthy products

As well as the ordinary demands of tradition and indulgence, retailers must now contend with newfound desires for locally made, sustainable and healthy food and drink options. Luckily, as Edward Berry, consultant at The Flying Fork, told Speciality Food, these qualities “feed very well into our world” as fine food retailers, “because quality of product is one of the drivers”.

Edward added that promoting quality will be an important way to attract customers this Christmas and showcase the point of difference between independents and the multiples. “A discounted piece of beef that says it’s British is not the same as something which has been reared across the road and loved which costs more. So it’s very much about communicating quality,” he said. With a quarter of respondents to eBay’s survey saying Christmas will be more exciting this year, and three in five feeling more optimistic, upselling with quality products is a no brainer.

4. Shoppers are preparing to spend more

While retailers have likely been warned about consumers tightening their purse strings amid the Covid-19 fallout, a significant number of shoppers saved up money during the pandemic. And even for those who are feeling the pinch, NielsenIQ said the holiday shopping period will be the “exception to the rule of conservative spending”.

“Shoppers who have been more financially stringent are likely to crave and explore ways to splurge on a variety of holiday-inspired needs this year,” the group said. Meanwhile, eBay’s research also found that 30% of consumers plan to spend more this Christmas than they did in 2020, and only 15% said they will spend less, down from 31% last year.

Fine food retailers can offer those little luxuries that consumers crave during the festive period – from a fantastic bottle of wine served with a generous hunk of artisan cheese to a hamper filled with little sweet treats that are packed with provenance.

Learn more ways to cash in on Christmas 2021 here.