The Shape of Shopping in 2016: Holiday Shopping Trends Inform the Coming Year

We’ve made it through that time of year again, when consumers struggle to manage busy schedules, tightening budgets and the pressure to bolster holiday memories with the perfect gift. For the trend watchers among us, the holiday season also turns out to be the most wonderful time of year to gain some insight into current shopping behaviors. How were shoppers shopping this season, and what can that tell us about the year ahead?
A rise in online (and mobile) shopping
It’s not surprising that e-commerce is continuing to grow its share of the shopping experience, with mobile’s role increasing. According to the IBM US Retail Black Friday report, more traffic was generated from mobile devices than desktop on Black Friday, driving a 30% increase in sales via mobile devices compared to the previous year. Cyber Monday told a similar story; Adobe data showed that 49% of shopping visits could be attributed to mobile devices. This is both an opportunity and challenge for retailers; they’ll need to ensure their properties are optimized to engage and convert mobile users while also exploring new incentives to drive traffic to brick and mortar locations.
Shopping starts earlier; fragments
And while Black Friday and Cyber Monday have long served as the groundhog-like indicator for holiday sales, there are signs of a shift. A Google/Ipsos Media CT study indicated that shoppers are starting earlier; in 2014, 61% began gift research before Halloween and 48% completed shopping by Cyber Monday. This may be a reflection of increasingly fragmented shopping driven by m-commerce; the same study showed that marathon shopping excursions are giving way to spare time shopping on mobile devices. In 2016, retailers will need to employ year-round top-of-mind strategies in order to capture more of those shopping moments.
What we’re buying
There was no shortage of buzzworthy gadgets in 2015, but did that buzz translate to sales? While there are some discrepancies in the estimates around Apple Watch’s overall sales, recent data from Best Buy stated that customers purchased twice as many wearables this year compared to the 2014 holiday season. That 100% increase is notable, but also suggests that the true Wearable Revolution has been postponed until at least 2016.

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Meanwhile, other gadgets experienced a few bumps in the sleigh ride leading into the holiday season. Citing safety concerns, the Federal Aviation Association established a registration policy for drone owners, for which non-compliance could result in a fine. Hoverboards (more accurately known as “self-balancing scooters”) aimed for explosive holiday growth, but some were removed from shelves as it became evident that the self-balancing scooters were at risk of, yes, exploding. While both still made a strong presence under the tree, both Adobe and IBM’s data showed that Samsung TVs ranked as the most popular purchase on Black Friday 2015.
The wallet goes mobile, sort of
Consumers had multiple point of sale payment options to choose from this holiday season as the mobile wallet wars heated up. Despite the intensity of the battlefield, however, a study from InfoScout showed single-digit activity in this area. Credit cards, in comparison, accounted for 79% of in-store payments, making mobile payments another entry into the “maybe next year” category. Noting that younger generations will drive growth in this area, eMarketer projects a 210% increase in mobile payments in 2016.
Social commerce debuts
The pressure to monetize social media is on for both brands and platforms, and so 2015 saw a push for social commerce. Designed to usher social networkers down the path to purchase, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest promoted their respective “buy buttons” in 2015. Still, while some brands and users experimented with the option, there was not yet a groundswell of activity in social commerce. Like mobile payments, the buy button needs a little more time to heat up.
This holiday season showed us that consumers are developing a mobile shopping habit, one that may have a measurable impact on brick and mortar traffic and sales in 2016, but other trends will take a little more time to hit the mainstream. For social commerce, it remains to be seen how easily users in a social mindset can be converted to buyers, but brands (and the platforms that support them) are motivated to monetize the critical channel. Mobile payments have the opportunity to gain a lot of ground in 2016, as long as providers continue to educate shoppers and assuage obstacles like security concerns. While change won’t happen overnight, it’s very likely that by this time next year we’ll see a notable increase in items (perhaps wearables and safer hoverboards) purchased in non-traditional ways.

The 2014 Gigaom holiday gift guide

Now that (for better or worse) technology is a central part of everyone’s life, as opposed to something other early adopters geek out over when new products are released in advance of the holiday shopping season, it felt like it was time for our annual holiday gift guide to evolve.

It’s going to be a very mobile Christmas for Braintree

Payments processor Braintree is seeing a huge year-over-year jump in mobile payments this holiday season. According to CEO Bill Ready we’re witnessing the pent-up demand from consumers to use their phones as shopping tools.

Intel to open brick-and-mortar pop-up stores this month

Perhaps in an effort to gain a little more buzz (and holiday sales), Laptop Magazine reports that Intel will be opening a series of pop-up stores this month, starting in New York City’s Nolita neighborhood on November 23. Intel has yet to disclose exactly what will be shown off in the stores, but the company has already stressed that the locations will be temporary — they are all set to shut down on January 14 of next year. It may be just a publicity stunt, but it’ll be interesting to see how another computer company does retail.

U.S. iPhone app downloads fall after big holiday season

It looks like the brand-new shininess of millions of new iPhones has lost a little luster since the holidays. After a big holiday and iPhone 4S bump, the number of daily app downloads in the U.S. took a big nosedive in March, according to Fiksu.

Today in Connected Consumer

This page will be on hiatus next week, so today’s collection of links will be the last for this year. I hope everyone has had a grand holiday season thus far and we here at the Connected Consumer desk wish everyone a happy, prosperous and connected New Year.

Apple’s Santa Siri ad: The most effective ad of the holiday season

Apple’s Siri ad featuring the jolly old elf was 2011’s most effective holiday advertisement according to viewer reaction as measured by Ace Metrix, a TV ad analysis firm. The Apple spot featuring Santa Claus using Siri also exemplified a trend this year: specifically, “Santa sells.”

Festive at a distance: How to combine remote work and holiday cheer

It’s the holiday season but the impulse to celebrate gets a bit more complicated if you have colleagues spread from New Delhi, India to New Haven, Conn. How can you hope to bring everyone together to celebrate the season and build a bit of camaraderie?

A very virtual Thanksgiving: Allrecipes has biggest traffic day ever

Lots of people logged on to the web to find holiday recipes for the United States holiday of Thanksgiving: Allrecipes.com said it had its biggest traffic day ever on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, with more than 6.8 million visits in that day alone.