2020 Holiday Season: Navigating shopper behaviors in the pandemic

| Report

To say that this holiday shopping season will be a time of profound change would be an understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic is upending the retail industry to an extent that would have been unimaginable one year ago.

To help understand what all this means for retailers, we surveyed over 3,500 holiday shoppers in the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Germany, and France.

The new consumer

More than 60 percent of global consumers have changed their shopping habits, and they intend to stick with them.

E-commerce continues to boom with 37 percent of consumers planning to shop more online this year. However, omnichannel remains the spice for this holiday season as consumers look to multiple channels for gift inspiration.

Consumers around the world exhibit a spectrum of purchasing loyalty.
Holiday shopping in 2020

For more insights into the 2020 holiday shopping season, listen to the latest McKinsey on Consumer and Retail podcast here.

The big loyalty challenge

According to Periscope’s Retail reimagined report,1 40 percent of consumers have tried new brands during the pandemic, and that behavior will continue over the holiday shopping period. Only 12 percent of the consumers indicated that they will shop from the same retailers and brands as they did last year.

Personalization and social media engagement may hold the key for retailers looking to win with new and existing customers. While 31 percent of consumers say social media could trigger a gift purchase, 25 percent say personalized campaigns could initiate a purchase.

Holiday shopping continues to face a loyalty challenge.

Reduced holiday spending overall, but more on blockbuster days

While consumers plan to spend less overall during the holidays, they plan to spend more on blockbuster shopping days. They are price sensitive and expect value and better shipping costs, but also want convenience and availability.

While consumers plan to spend less overall during the holidays, they plan to spend more on the blockbuster shopping days.

Top shopping days

Black Friday dominates as the day that shoppers plan to spend, while the recent Amazon Prime Day came in a close second. In the United Kingdom, Black Friday overtakes Boxing Day as the most popular shopping day, while in China, Single’s Day takes the spotlight.

Bar graph representation shows Black Friday is the top day when surveyed respondents plan to shop, followed by Amazon Prime Day, then Cyber Monday and Pre-Christmas sales out of nine designated shopping days/weeks in 2020.

Early-bird special

With the demand variable, consumers are getting a jump-start on this holiday season. Nearly a third of shoppers say that they will start earlier this year when compared to last year. While there is a general mix of both excitement and anxiety about shopping during a pandemic, three in four Chinese shoppers will enter the holiday season with enthusiasm.

Shoppers are planning to turn out earlier this year.

Dive deeper

This new report compiled by Periscope by McKinsey showcases the key trends that will impact the 2020 holiday shopping season. The survey asked over 3500 holiday shoppers in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and China to provide insights into which big moments will really matter. This analysis highlights the six key trends that are shaping this year’s holiday season.

Explore a career with us