Christmas Shopping: Who is buying and when?

Two years ago, we looked at Christmas purchasing habits and highlighted how Christmas shopping appears to start earlier and earlier prompted by retail events.

With less than two weeks until Christmas 2018, we look at whether Christmas purchasing habits are continuing to change based on social media conversations.

When we first looked at Christmas shopping habits two years ago, we had identified a marked change in when Christmas shopping was starting to be discussed on social media over time.

Christmas starts in July…

This trend appears to be continuing. Indeed, in 2018 over 39% of conversations about Christmas shopping on social media had taken place between July and September (out of conversations between July and November), compared to 32% in 2017 and 2016. Interestingly though, there was a proliferation of posts in 2018 promoting Christmas gift guides and ideas on social media, which clearly also serve as a prompt for consumers to start their shopping. This, coupled with increasing retailer promotions and sales events, would indicate an inclination to complete their Christmas shopping ever earlier.

Source: Kantar Media Social Media Insights, mentions of gift guides and ideas, 1 Jul to 30 Nov 2018

Is that really the case and what did we learn from looking at people’s gift buying journeys?

Looking at consumer conversations about Christmas shopping in the week between 24th and 30th November 2018, 17% declared having finished their Christmas shopping (a two-point increase on our 2016 study), with most of these users feeling smug, relieved or simply content that their shopping was completed. A small proportion even boasted having wrapped their presents.

The majority of consumers though (49%, a seven-point increase on our previous study) stated they were still in the process of buying, with a third of these social media users indicating that they had almost completed their purchases.

The remaining consumers were in the planning stages or had not started by 30th November.

It would therefore seem that purchase journeys also confirm that by the end of November a larger proportion of users have completed or are part way through their journey.

Who is buying for whom?

Source: Kantar Media Social Media Insights, consumer Christmas Shopping mentions, 17 -24 Nov 2018

While Children are a key focus of mentions, alongside family, a significant proportion of users talk about shopping for themselves as part of their gifting mission, often expressing guilt at having focused on themselves when they should have focused on completing more of their shopping for others.

Unsurprisingly, considering their prominence on social media, females drove most of the conversations about Christmas shopping on social media, accounting for 74% of conversations.

While the Christmas buying season seems to be stretching for an ever longer period, it is clear that social media is playing both a role in helping document consumer journeys but also influencing the pace of those journeys as brands and retailers leverage it as a communication channel.


Social media conversations include publicly available mentions on Twitter, Forums and Instagram.

Journey analysis based on the analysis of a random, robust sample of mentions.

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