New consumer research highlights the increasing importance of digital and how the holiday shopping season will evolve

New consumer research highlights the increasing importance of digital and how the holiday shopping season will evolve

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Service Management Group (SMG), a global customer, patient and employee experience management partner to more than 500 brands, has published new research that underlines how the pandemic is impacting consumer confidence, holiday shopping trends and the continued growth of digital sales.

Using BrandGeek®—SMG’s market intelligence tool and the fastest, most accurate source of behavioral data linked to consumer feedback in real time—SMG collected feedback from nearly 10,000 respondents to help retail brands understand consumer expectations and prepare for the upcoming holiday shopping season. Here are three key themes from the research:

  1. Financial concerns are looming – Although 58 percent of respondents are concerned about their financial situation due to the pandemic, 59 percent of respondents indicated they plan to spend about the same on holiday gift shopping as they did last year, and 20 percent indicated they plan to spend more. To quantify holiday spending, respondents were asked how much they plan to spend: 47 percent of respondents plan to spend $499 or less on holiday gifts whereas 24 percent plan to spend more than $1,000.
  2. Value will be key this shopping season – Despite the ongoing financial concerns created by the pandemic, 91 percent of respondents plan to shop for others this holiday season, with 31 percent of respondents shopping for 10 or more people. When asked about the most important factor when deciding where to shop for holiday gifts, nearly one third of respondents chose value for the money (32 percent), followed by selection of merchandise (14 percent) and convenience (12 percent). The four most popular types of gifts selected were clothes (63 percent), gift cards (56 percent), electronics (51 percent) and toys (49 percent). The least popular gifts were experiences (16 percent), fitness (12 percent) and automotive (8 percent).
  3. Holiday shopping will start early and be dominated by digital – When you consider the double-digit growth of digital holiday sales in 2019 and how the pandemic is impacting the in-store experience, it’s not surprising that 3 in 4 respondents plan to do most of their holiday shopping online this year. When asked to compare the timing of their holiday shopping to last year, 42 percent of respondents said they’ll start shopping earlier. With 61 percent of respondents planning to do most of their shopping before Thanksgiving, we found just 15 percent of respondents plan to stock up on Black Friday and only seven percent plan to take advantage of Cyber Monday. When we compare the timing of the two groups of shoppers, 62 percent of online shoppers plan to start shopping earlier whereas 44 percent of in-store shoppers indicate they’ll take advantage of Black Friday sales or do most of their shopping in December.

“While the pandemic will certainly impact retail’s most important quarter, it’s reassuring to see the vast majority of consumers still plan to shop this holiday season,” said SMG Senior Vice President of Research Paul Tiedt. “Brands that take the time to understand evolving consumer preferences, online shopping behavior and trip motivators will be well-positioned this holiday season.”

About Service Management Group

SMG inspires experiences that improve people’s lives. We are a catalyst for change, providing actionable customer, patient, and employee insights that boost loyalty and drive business outcomes. Our unique model puts a dual focus on platform technology and professional services—making it easier to collect, analyze, and share feedback and behavioral data across the enterprise. To learn more about our customer experience management, employee experience, and brand research solutions, visit