Last year’s holiday season was something the likes of which none of us had ever seen.

COVID-19 impacted everything for people all over the world, not the least of which were spending habits and budgets. As such, many consumers began to change what they expected from the businesses they frequent and the purchases they make, particularly during the holidays.

Consumers also had to change their approach to shopping and their concerns regarding their purchases and spending. This change can make the approaching holiday season a nerve-racking time for anyone on the selling end of the marketing exchange.

So, what do marketers need to know about consumer expectations for the 2021 holiday season? We’ve divided the answer to that question into two parts: the ways in which expectations and concerns have changed for the upcoming holidays, and the crucial “411” for marketers to sufficiently adapt to these changes and have the most successful holiday season possible.

The Recent Expectations and Concerns of Consumers

When trying to predict what customers want from year to year, business owners must consider recent trends and economic factors. But the easiest way to learn what consumers want is, of course, to simply ask them!

With that in mind, we surveyed consumers to ask them about their fears and expectations, and we hope the data will be of some benefit to you this holiday season.

Consumers’ approach to Christmas shopping

It may come as a surprise that fewer consumers are going all out this holiday season than you might have thought. You may have heard many people saying they’re going to use this Christmas to make up for missing out on their normal holiday celebrations previously because of the pandemic, but it seems that may not necessarily be true.

Xmas Shopping

In fact, 75% of people questioned said they’ll be spending about as much money as they would have pre-pandemic. Interestingly, however, only 35% of people said they’d be putting in the same effort.

Something to consider is what turns people off from shopping during the holidays. Although many people enjoy it, still others don’t like it at all. However, roughly 70% of people do enjoy shopping for gifts, with the majority of those being women.

For those who do enjoy shopping, you must find out why they enjoy it and apply that knowledge to your business strategies.

What inspires consumers to shop?

For example, we learned that 70% total survey participants enjoy shopping. But that’s not all! We also determined that more than half of the Baby Boomer generation, around 56% of them, enjoy shopping. However, 76% of people in the age group of 25–34-years old enjoy it. What likely will not surprise you is that more women enjoy holiday shopping than men, at percentages of 73% and 58%, respectively.

For those who do not enjoy holiday shopping, the primary reasons for that have to do with inspiration, with 45% of the people in the survey saying they simply struggled to feel inspired when shopping.

Budgets also seem to be a recurring problem with consumers, a product of the pandemic economy. Almost 40% of people are concerned with budgets, with the younger people surveyed being more concerned than their older shopping peers.

How Brands Can Best Inspire Customer Gift Ideas

Xmas Gifts

As for inspiration, people are largely of a split mind about it. Almost exactly half split, in fact. Just over 40% of people feel that more time to think would help them feel better about buying the right gifts. However, almost 40% of people place their trust in retailers and brands to make the best selections.

Another hindrance to the enjoyment of gift shopping is time. It would seem that people would have more time to do holiday shopping this year, due to all the job changes brought about by the pandemic. However, about 19% of people say they just don’t have adequate time to shop for gifts. This time crunch might account for the continuing rise in online shopping, despite some of the world slowly returning to normal after the lockdowns and COVID restrictions.

Important Information for Marketers for the 2021 Holiday Season

One of the top concerns for this season is the expected shortage of supplies that consumers have been hearing about over the past few months. Many of us all around the world experienced similar supply chain shortages in food and other essential items when the pandemic first hit the world.

Now, the media is telling everyone to anticipate more shortages, which sets many consumers on edge. Almost 30% of people have concerns about supplies running low this season. Whether or not that will turn out to be a justified concern, we cannot yet know. But it is something for brands to consider when placing inventory orders.

Other concerns include delivery times and difficulties. These are concerns for just about any holiday season, which is why many people begin their shopping early in the year. However, 2021 brings with it the fear of drastic increases in fuel prices and a shortage of delivery drivers. Either of those things alone would be devastating, but both combined have the potential to create real chaos.

This one kind of leads into another consumer worry: spending too much money. Not only will shortages mean that prices of items go up, but many holiday shoppers know how easy it is to slip outside of their budget for holiday gifts, even in a good year. With all the layoffs and adjustments to and from remote working, incomes have taken drastic ups and downs over the past couple of years.

Budgets are more important this year than ever before, and we found that about 25% of women surveyed worry about overspending, whereas only about 15% of men shared that concern. Another way that one’s budget might be overstretched is by paying extra fees to ensure that, even with the driver and fuel issues, their items arrive on time (or as close to it as possible).

Little is more important than making your customers happy. After all, happy customers return, and they tell their friends and family about their positive experiences, all of which helps you establish your success as a business.

An Emarsys customer that has cracked the code in offering personalised services is Brauz.

“Brauz’s virtual shopping appointments create a personalised shopping experience by allowing customers to connect with stylists in-store to view items they’re interested in and receive personalised recommendations,” said Lee Hardham, Founder and CEO of Brauz.


“Virtual appointments are seeing an average order value up to five times higher than traditional online sales. Shopping habits are changing and we need to be able to meet customers where they want to shop. We are able to do this by creating a more personalised and convenient shopping experience that doesn’t compromise on service.”

But what is it that makes customers happy? What makes them unhappy? And what can you, as a marketer, do to ensure that there is more of the former, and far less of the latter?

What consumers really want this holiday season

One of the most important things to shoppers is their overall shopping experience. Customer service has always been important but perhaps never more than during the holiday season.

Many consumers have a single expectation of customer service during the holidays, and it can be summed up like this: frictionless perfection.

Achieving perfection in customer service can be quite a challenge, however. Some consumers have different ideas of what “perfect” customer service is than others. Perfection could be defined by age group, gender, and even method of shopping (online versus in store).

We learned that about 90% of people in a different survey say that good customer experiences are a big influence in their decision to take their business to one company or another. And more than half of people (58%) will change companies if their customer service experience is not up to their standards.

Empashy Cs 1

However, we also learned that younger people (from their early to mid-20s to their early 30s) tend to have more empathy when it comes to having their expectations met. That is likely because roughly one third of people over the age of 21 have experienced some form of mental disorder, and the people in this age group seem to sympathize with others whom they feel might also be struggling.

Final Thoughts

To sum it all up as neatly as possible, the consumer’s overall experience is incredibly important.

From customer service to faith in brands, consumers will remember their experience with every company they encounter. Make every minute count. Inspiration always helps, so make it your goal to make every product or service you offer as inspirational as possible.

Overall, people want smooth shopping journeys. To sum up:

  • Many shoppers feel as though they need more inspiration or time to choose. They hate stress shopping.
  • Build up a relationship with existing customers so that they continue shopping with you.
  • Encourage customers to really enjoy the Christmas shopping period with personalized campaigns and editorials.

To help the people who are concerned about shopping, or who do not really enjoy it because of the fear that they will buy the wrong thing, marketers can ensure that any return policies and processes are easy and painless. That ease of return could increase these shoppers’ confidence when shopping and help them enjoy it just a little bit more.

Having options to purchase gifts at discounted prices could alleviate stress from everyone, especially those who are worrying about money or fearful of wasting money on gifts that the recipients will not want.

Happy holidays!

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