Deloitte Says More Holiday Shopping Will Be Online Than In-Store in 2017

November 9, 2017

This blog post is part of our 2017 Holiday Planning series. Be sure to check back often or, better yet, subscribe to the blog to stay updated with this year’s latest holiday trends, tips, best practices, reports and more!

‘Tis the season! For twinkling lights, mistletoe and, apparently, lots and lots of “buy now” buttons.

If you aren’t already getting into the holiday selling spirit, now’s the time. For the first time ever, new industry research indicates that 2017 could be the year e-commerce purchases outpace in-store spending.

Deloitte’s annual holiday shopping survey of more than 5,000 consumers found that shoppers plan to do more than half of their holiday spending online — and they’re gearing up for those purchases right now.

Respondents said they’ll spend 51% of their budget online this year, compared with 42% in-store. That’s a notable jump from last season, when consumers were still scouring the internet largely to seek out deals, compare prices and get recommendations. In 2016, holiday shoppers were still spending equal amounts digitally and in-person: 47% in store, 47% online.

Now, 50% of consumers say they prefer online shopping. And this inclination increases along with household income: Those earning $100,000 or more expect to make 57% of their holiday purchases online and just 39% in-store.

They appear to have bigger budgets this year, too. The average consumer is expected to spend an average of $1,226 during the 2017 holiday shopping season. That’s a 23% increase from this time last year, when shoppers were setting aside an average of $998 for holiday-related purchases. Among households in the $100,000+ income range, anticipated spending averages $2,226.

Perhaps most importantly, Deloitte’s research indicates that the e-commerce holiday buying journey is already well underway. Although 80% of people will start seriously shopping in late November, “decisions about where they’ll shop and what they’ll buy will be largely predetermined by digital interactions that are occurring now.”

Here are several key findings that will be especially important for online retailers fine-tuning their e-commerce holiday selling strategies:

  1. Holiday e-commerce is not just for gifts. Only one-third of holiday budgets will be spent on traditional gifts this season. Other spending will go toward experiences, self-gifting and holiday hosting.
  2. Purchases are most likely to take place on PCs. The vast majority (83%) of consumers plan to use a desktop or laptop PC during their holiday shopping journeys. The likelihood of making a purchase from one of these devices is high — 75%.
  3. Smartphone apps increase the chances browsing will lead to buying. While smartphones are still used more for checking prices, tracking orders and getting store locations, the role these devices play in the holiday buying journey has become notably more prominent. The number of consumers willing to make holiday purchases on smartphones jumped from 43% to 59% this year, and 40% of people plan to use retailer apps to make payments.
  4. Fulfillment will dictate which sellers win seasonal sales. The demand for optimized e-commerce fulfillment is as high as ever, with most shoppers looking for flexible return policies and three-quarters planning to take advantage of free shipping. While 90% consider free more important than fast, they still have high expectations for shipping speeds and are largely unwilling to pay for expedited terms.

The biggest takeaway from Deloitte’s holiday retail survey? 2017 is shaping up to be a strong year for e-commerce sellers. From webstores and marketplaces to Google Shopping and social media advertising, it appears that digital interactions will play a bigger role than ever in seasonal spending.

Looking for ways to plan and prepare? We have plenty! Here are a few recent ChannelAdvisor resources to start with:

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