US online shopping closing the gap to in-store

Americans are increasingly turning to online shopping as a channel for their holiday season purchases.

According to global information company The NPD Group’s 2016 Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey, 71 per cent of consumers, and 79 per cent of millennials, plan to do some of their holiday shopping online this year.

In short, US online shopping is closing the gap on in-store shopping and the trend is unlikely to change.

“Online continues to change the game for retailers because it goes beyond convenience by bringing value and timing into the equation,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, with NPD NPD Group. “Brick-and-mortar retailers still have the benefit of drawing the majority of holiday shoppers with the in-store experience, but it is clear they are going to have to put their best foot forward in order to maintain a hold on Holiday 2016 and future seasons.”

Consumers aren’t just dipping their toes in eCommerce – they’re anticipating shopping more through online channels this year. Consumers anticipate doing an average of 38 per cent of their holiday shopping online in 2016.

The online channels’ market share will likely be strongest among millennials and Gen Xers, with each estimating they’ll do 42 per cent of their holiday shopping online.

Those clicking their way through their holiday shopping lists will also be spending more: online shoppers anticipate spending an average of $710 this holiday season, roughly 60 per cent more than the $440 those sticking with stores plan to spend.

Online shoppers will buy the same products as in-store shoppers (mostly), but with social input

clothing/accessories, entertainment and toys are the top-ranked categories both online and in-store. However, as might be expected, the tech/electronics category (ranked fourth among online shoppers) is a considerably lower priority among those avoiding eCommerce (ranked seventh).

Research before purchase

Consumers are also going online to learn about the products they’re on the hunt for. Among those who will research products this holiday season, over seven in 10 plan to do online research and nearly half expect they’ll look at consumer reviews. One in four anticipate using social media (higher among Gen Z: 43 per cent, and millennials: 38 per cent), while 14 per cent plan to use mobile apps.


Mobile apps won’t just be used for product research. More mobile phones will be coming out of consumers’ pockets to shop this holiday season: 14 per cent of US shoppers – including 29 per cent of millennials – say they’ll use their mobile phones to buy gifts this year. This may not be a staggering number on its own, but it’s up more than 130 per cent from last year.

“We are at a point where retail must embrace the online shopping culture, not just try to battle it, especially during the critical holiday shopping season,” added Cohen. “There are opportunities to be had in the relationship between brick and click – maximising the emotional component of shopping in-store, while using the convenience and flexibility of shopping online will create a complete shopping experience for the consumer and a happy year-end for retail.”

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