Long before the decorations are hung or the ovens are preheated, shoppers are courted. While the holiday season evokes thoughts of good food and good company, it also entails an extra helping of shopping. As people prepare to partake in merriment, they also do a substantial amount of shopping for gifts, which poses a significant opportunity for brands to attract new customers, re-engage past shoppers, and otherwise bolster their end-of-year numbers.

How early do consumers start their holiday shopping and how do they prefer to shop? To what extent do people consider Black Friday sales? In our latest study, we tapped into the opinions of the DISQO Audience and uncovered the answers to these questions.

At the time of the survey in late September, about 74.9% of people had not yet started their holiday shopping for the year. Nevertheless, it is notable that 25.1% of people had already begun to shop, particularly for marketers deciding on the flighting for their seasonal promotions.

This is well aligned with respondents’ reported usual behaviors, wherein 22% report that they typically begin their holiday shopping at least 3 months in advance. More commonly, people tend to shop 1 to 2 months before the holidays (45%), which is well aligned with typical October and November marketing pushes.

Still, a third (33%) of shoppers tend to wait until the final few weeks to begin their shopping, which could be attributed to a myriad of factors, from Black Friday sales or budgeting concerns to an aversion to planning or a proclivity for procrastination.

With a large majority leaving their holiday shopping to the last minute, brands can utilize this time frame and offer added incentives to draw customers to their stores.

This leads us to our next question: do consumers prefer to shop in-store or online during this time of year? When looking strictly at online versus in-store shopping, just over half (56%) of people prefer to shop online and 44% prefer to go in-store.

Although a majority (56%) point to online means as their preferred method of holiday shopping, a large portion (44%) still enjoys going to a physical store to pick up the items they need. Tapping into both forms of shopping as a brand can help leverage multiple types of customers.

Gauging the level of consumer consideration for Black Friday, about 68% said they shop during Black Friday sales. Another 8% claimed they have not shopped during the sale before but would consider doing so this year and 24% were firm on not shopping during the seasonal sale.

With so much on the line in Q4 for retailers, paying attention to when people begin their holiday purchase consideration process is of paramount importance, particularly when budgeting significant media buys. That said, while this study affirms that the holidays — and preparations for them — begin earlier than ever, it’s up to brands and marketers to tune into the early indicators of shopper intention for their particular product and audience.

About the Study

The Early Holiday Shopping Survey was conducted in September 2019 and reached 19,433 members of the DISQO Audience. Participants were asked a series of questions regarding holiday shopping, including how early they begin making purchases, where they prefer to shop, and whether they consider Black Friday sales.

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How early do you start your holiday shopping? Do you prefer to shop online or in-store during this time of year? Join the conversation on LinkedIn or Facebook.