Consumers' Christmas shopping habits

With only a couple of weeks of Christmas shopping time left, Gaelle Bertrand, Head of Brand Insight, Kantar Media, looks at UK consumers’ Christmas purchasing habits based on social media conversations...

While social media is an invaluable source of consumer insights, overall buzz often hides useful insights around consumer behaviour. When looking at Christmas shopping, this was no different. While key words and phrases evoking Christmas shopping yielded a huge volume of mentions, only 1 in ten mentions was by a consumer talking about their shopping experiences or journeys. These consumer conversations revealed an interesting pattern in shopping habits.

When does Christmas shopping start?

While consumer conversations around Christmas shopping are present throughout the year on social media, there is evidence that planning really starts in mid-to-late August when volumes start increasing steadily. There is a clear indication that the adoption of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday tradition brought over from the USA over the past 10 years has had a significant impact on shoppers’ Christmas purchasing habits. Indeed, over two thirds of consumer conversations around Christmas shopping actually took place during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period this year, as we also observed for 2015. We can therefore speculate that some consumers wait for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals to commit to purchasing their Christmas presents.

However, volumes do not show the full picture and hide a broader spectrum of habits which we identified through a more in-depth analysis of the content of conversations.

Late or not?

Our TGI survey data indicates that by September/October almost half of UK shoppers have already planned their Christmas purchases. Looking at consumer behaviours based on social media conversations, we identified further nuances in the stages of Christmas purchasing journeys.

Indeed, our study revealed that by the end of November just over 15% of consumers had finished their Christmas purchases. These consumers expressed pride but also relief that they had completed their purchases early.

The majority of consumers (41%) stated they were in the process of buying, either piecemeal or talking about having completed a major part of their planned purchases.

Another quarter of consumers were still in the planning stages, mentioning dates of when they were expecting to start their purchases.

The remaining 14% of consumers stated that they had yet to start their Christmas shopping, often expressing their anxiety at being behind everybody else, or feeling disorganised.

What this showed above all is that for a majority of consumers, Christmas shopping is not just about ‘the buying’ but also ‘the planning’, and social media plays a role in documenting this planning process.

Who is buying for whom?

Buying for family, friends and partners was still the main purpose of consumers Christmas shopping efforts, with family (including users’ own children) mentioned in 42% of conversations, while friends and partners featured in 7% and 4% of conversations respectively.

Interestingly though, users were more vocal about buying Christmas presents for themselves, with those conversations accounting for 47%. This included consumers who had added a treat for themselves in their shopping baskets while shopping for others.

Unsurprisingly, females drove the majority of these conversations accounting for 83%, when the balance of genders present on social media channels is usually more equal (49% males vs. 51% females among UK users based on Kantar TNS Connected Life study 2016 ).

Among males talking on social media about their journeys, fewer had finished their Christmas shopping outright but it did not mean that they were lagging far behind with around the same proportion as females being in the process of completing their shopping.

Online vs. offline

While consumers used social media to talk about Christmas shopping, both offline and online missions were discussed. In fact almost 60% of conversations were about in-store shopping missions against 40% about purchasing online.

What this study shows is that social media can provide invaluable colour and context around consumer attitudes, needs and behaviours both online and offline, and help provide further granularity around what drives these behaviours.

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