- Almost half (42%) of U.S. consumers plan to use a smartphone or tablet for holiday shopping this year, according to a survey by Citi Retail Services. About three-fourths (73%) report planning to shop in a brick-and-mortar store, while 57% said they'll use a computer and 13% will seek help from a virtual assistant, such as Alexa or Siri.
- Millennials and Generation X are expected to shop online at similar rates this holiday season. More than half (55%) of millennials plan to use a mobile device, compared to 48% of Gen X. The older generation is more likely to use voice assistants for shopping (22%), compared to 17% of millennials. Sixty percent of millennials and 53% of Gen Xers plan to use a laptop or computer for their holiday gift-buying.
- Citi's study found that loyalty programs will be an important way to connect with shoppers, with 83% of people enrolled in at least one rewards program and 26% belonging to five or more. About nine out of 10 of all consumers — and 95% of millennials — said they're more loyal to stores where they are a rewards member, and more than half (60%) of rewards members have avoided their perks on purchases throughout the year so they can redeem them for a holiday gift, the survey found.
Citi's survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers highlights the growing importance of digital platforms for shoppers and of multichannel marketing for retailers. However, the enduring popularity of traditional stores during the holidays suggests that marketers and brands need to connect with customers on a variety of channels to make the most impact and meet them on their preferred medium.
Loyalty programs that include a mobile app to help members track their rewards points and see special offers are almost essential to maintaining strong relationships with customers, as retailers continue to see steady enrollment in rewards programs. Mobile optimization is key to engaging customers with a loyalty program, according to researcher Gartner L2. Integrating these loyalty programs into branded apps also opens the possibility of linking rewards to convenient mobile wallets for shoppers to use in stores.
The study comes ahead of what's expected to be a strong holiday season for the retail industry, underpinned by economic growth, low unemployment, rising wages and high consumer confidence. Among the people who plan to buy gifts this holiday season, more than a third (37%) expect to boost their spending this year from 2017.
Nearly 70% of people plan to start their holiday shopping on or before Black Friday, meaning they'll be hungry for deals both before they hit the stores and while there. This points to the importance of apps, location-based notifications and other mobile features that can keep shoppers updated on deals and potentially drive foot traffic and sales during the critical shopping season.