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Two weeks ago we reported 17 months of election coverage, political ads, and an unexpected presidential outcome shifted shopper attentions away from thoughts of holiday celebrations, sugarplums, and shopping lists. The result? Much like this year’s election. We reported more conservative holiday budgets and a delay in consumer decision-making regarding holiday shopping.

This year Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Sofa Sunday, Cyber Monday are all going to be really busy. This is Brand Keys’ 22nd annual national holiday shopping survey and, historically, this kind of shopper behavior hasn’t been typical of any Presidential election we’d ever seen or even recent-year shopping cycles.

Consumers indicated that they were planning to shop even later than previous years, pretty much starting with Black Friday. The 2016 election cycle resulted in consumers voting for only a 1.8% increase in holiday spend, or an average $900 total spend per household. According to 12,764 shoppers it’s more watch-and-wait this year than ever before.

Brand Keys utilizes a combination of traditional interviewing techniques and validated, psychological measures that correlate very highly with consumer behavior. That ensures the results are an accurate accounting of ”what people think (and what they’re gong to do), and not just what they say they think,” something the political pollsters and a lot of holiday shopping surveys missed this year.

Previously consumers had been holiday shopping earlier and earlier. Last year 84% of consumers reported shopping before Black Friday. This year only half that many consumers (41%) reported that they had shopped or intended to do so before Black Friday. That means 59% of shopping is going to start Black Friday, so retailers, start your engines, although a lot of that shopping is gong to be more online than brick-and mortar, which is exactly what happened.

Virtually all consumers interviewed (98%) indicted that they were buying online again this year – the default venue for browsing for gifts, promotions, price checking, and actual buying. While consumers indicated that they intended to spend only a little more than last year, they are seeking comfort, balance, and gratification in a stress-free period of time. So spend about the same and take your own time to find the perfect gifts, which is what they’re doing. And, as it turns out that’s a lot easier online. Just saying.

True, there were more shoppers shopping this past Black Friday and Small Business Saturday and Sofa Sunday, but the majority was shopping for bargains. NBC reported that a “staggering” number shopped online. And here’s a tip for next year: the biggest Black Friday deals were actually picked up online on Sofa Sunday. Here’s what consumers are buying:

Gift Cards                                         97%

Clothing and Accessories              80%

Electronics/Phones/Computer    50%

Personal Care Products/Spa         45%

Kitchen/Cookware                          42%

Toys                                                   20%

Jewelry                                              20%

Food and Wine                                20%

Sporting Goods                                12%

Books                                                 10%

Home Décor                                       2%

Just as in holiday seasons past, value is paramount. Consumer expectations regarding outreach and convenience, particularly for mobile, are up again. Again, why there’s more shopping online. Just wait till Cyber Monday is over for those numbers!

Someone once said, “Here’s wishing your Black Friday injuries aren’t so severe that you can’t click a mouse on Cyber Monday.” According to our research, that doesn’t seem to have been a problem.

And this year in particular, it’s probably worth remembering that there’s always one shopping day left till tomorrow!


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

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