The holiday shopping season is upon us. While the early birds have already finished their shopping, more than 90% of consumers will buy their gifts in these last two months of the year. And most of those shoppers are planning to spend just as much if not more than last year. 

So what shopping trends can retailers expect to see this season? To find out, we took a look at some predictions from the experts. 

Starting early and spending more

Consumers are trying to beat the rush by checking off their gift lists a bit earlier this year. A third of them would like to start shopping before Thanksgiving, and only 17% are planning to start during Thanksgiving weekend. 

The average household plans to spend just shy of $1,500 this year, and 78% of shoppers intend to spend the same amount or more. Spending will likely be highest among Gen X buyers and households making over $100,000. And overall holiday sales are expected to increase by 4.5% to 5%. 

Choosing between online and offline shopping

This looks like the year that online holiday purchases will surpass in-store ones — 54% of consumers plan to shop online, while only 46% will shop in-store. And e-commerce may see a 14% to 18% boost in sales, compared to 11% last year. 

Mobile shopping is growing, too. One prediction estimates that smartphone spending will increase from 30 to 47 cents per minute. Buying from mobile devices will be particularly popular among younger shoppers (age 17-37). This age group is also more likely to use newer shopping services and technologies for their gift purchases, such as shoppable media, in-store smart pay, voice assistants, personal shoppers, and curbside pickup.

Though the ease of online Cyber Monday shopping has turned many consumers away from the chaos of in-store Black Friday sales, there are still plenty of reasons to stop by the store. Some will start their shopping with research on sites like Amazon or Google, but they won’t complete their purchases until they go to the store and see the items in-person. Roughly two-thirds of shoppers plan to buy gifts this way.  

Many consumers who choose in-store holiday shopping will do so for the experience — a day out going store-to-store with friends or family, viewing decorations, and perhaps dining out or catching a movie along the way. (We also have a few ideas for encouraging customers to visit the store this holiday.)

Engaging in mindful shopping and shipping

Thrift stores won’t be left out in the cold this holiday — 75% of consumers plan to shop with sustainability in mind, and that includes buying vintage and gently-used gifts for their loved ones.

If they’re not going to the store, fast, free shipping is still what the majority of shoppers want, especially during the holidays. But free has become more important than fast, and 80% of consumers who prefer free delivery are willing to wait a few more days to unlock that option. 

That’s a choice that also counteracts the negative environmental impact of the one-day shipping craze. No-rush shipping and order grouping reduces the amount of packaging material and fuel required. So, at least for early gift-givers, expect about half of online shoppers to select slower shipping speeds this year. 

Balancing with BOPIS

There is a way customers can have all the benefits of online shopping this season. For fast, free, and environmentally-friendly delivery and protection from package theft and loss, we’re likely to see a spike in the use of buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) services. 

Almost 25% of holiday shoppers plan to take advantage of BOPIS this year, a percentage that’s highest among Gen Z consumers. Retailers may see nearly 40% more BOPIS orders this year than in 2018.

BOPIS will be of special importance to last-minute shoppers as we approach the end of the season. The BOPIS share of a retailer’s revenue could increase anywhere from 28% to 50% during the week before Christmas.

Since retail employees are especially busy during the holidays and may not be readily available to help with order pickups, BOPIS will be most successful when used with an automated locker system. Smart lockers help retailers streamline order fulfillment and provide a means for customers to pick up orders when it’s most convenient for them. If installed outside the store, shoppers can even access their orders while the store is closed. 

Lockers are not only ideal for pickups, but they give customers an easy way to return gifts that aren’t quite what they expected. This eliminates the shipping costs normally associated with online order returns.

To learn more about this BOPIS-benefitting solution, check out Smiota’s smart package lockers