3 early holiday shopping trends for the 2022 festive season

People living in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) have already started their holiday shopping in full swing. According to new Google and Ipsos research, 21% of people in the EMEA region began their holiday shopping as early as June.

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Following the most successful holiday season in digital spending history in 2020, the retail landscape continues to shift. COVID-19 has created logistical challenges, resulting in delivery delays and product scarcity. But the potential release of pent-up demand, as well as people’s excitement about spending the holidays with friends and family this year, gives reason for optimism. Thinking of hiring an SEO consultant to help your business make the most out of it?

Here are the early retail trends and consumer behaviours you should be aware of to help your brand navigate the 2021 holiday shopping season:

There is a high level of demand, but people are feeling the pinch.

This year’s holiday shopping season has the potential to be very busy. Despite an increase in digital shopping in 2020, the festivities felt underwhelming, with many stores closed and people spending the holidays away from loved ones. However, the run-up to the 2021 holiday season paints a different picture.

According to Google mobility trends, footfall to brick-and-mortar retailers has recovered to pre-pandemic levels in many countries. And, with new Eurostat data indicating a significant increase in European household savings since last year’s holiday season, there is the possibility of pent-up demand waiting to be released.

Despite this increase in overall savings, some consumers still feel the pinch from the financial uncertainties and job losses of the previous 18 months. Combined with the pandemic’s effect on more cautious spending habits, it means that 46% of EMEA holiday shoppers plan to wait until gift items are on sale before purchasing them.

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“While consumer confidence is high ahead of the holiday season, people will be picky about where they spend their money, so retailers must continue to provide true value,” says Pablo Perez, Google’s retail specialist for EMEA. “This holiday season, retailers who want to release pent-up demand should meet their customers wherever they can. They can keep track of people’s needs by using Google Trends and the Insights page in their Google Ads account.” They can do this by utilising search engine optimisation services.

The holiday shopping season has begun much earlier.

While the start of the holiday shopping season has moved forward in recent years, the festive season was on people’s minds even earlier in 2021. In addition, 37% of holiday shoppers in EMEA say they will begin their shopping earlier this year than they did last year.

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“With holiday shopping starting earlier each year, retailers must begin their festive campaigns much earlier to capture demand from these shoppers — and ensure they stay front of mind,” says Ruth Ballett, retail lead for EMEA marketing at Google. “This entails adapting messaging to meet customer needs and rethinking the best marketing channels to reach potential customers at any stage of their holiday shopping journey.”

Due to the challenging traditional holiday shopping last year during the pandemic, it is reasonable that people are starting to plan for the holiday season early. This year, they’re looking forward to seeing their friends and family again, and they’d like to avoid any potential disruptions.

COVID-19’s impact: From stock shortages to local support

The pandemic continues to disrupt people’s lives and shopping habits, with 37% of EMEA consumers expecting COVID-19 to affect how they shop this holiday season. Some of these effects, such as wearing a mask and social distancing, are smaller and more common these days. Others necessitate more extensive commitments, such as people becoming more aware of who they buy from — and when.

Expected scarcity as a result of supply chain issues

Pandemic-related supply chain challenges cause delivery delays and stock shortages for the holiday season. Many EMEA holiday shoppers are concerned about this, with 49% saying they will check online to see if an item is in stock before purchasing it.

“People are aware of the pandemic’s supply chain challenges and are using Google Search to understand product availability,” says Debadeep Bandyopadhyay, a Google research analyst overseeing search trends in EMEA.

“It’s natural for people to go online to find out where they can buy a product, which stores have it in stock, and when a product is back in stock. Demand for the new PlayStation 5 demonstrated this at the end of last year. And, if the news of delivery delays for this holiday season holds true, we expect to see an increase in searches for availability of this year’s hot ticket items as well.”

More assistance for small businesses in the community

Another way the pandemic has altered consumer mindset and behaviour is it has made people more conscious of who they buy from. Smaller companies have had a surprisingly difficult time due to the pandemic, and campaigns such as “buy local, or bye local” have sprung up in response.

It is a topic that has been on people’s minds for the past 18 months, with 56 percent of EMEA holiday shoppers saying they will spend more money at local small businesses this holiday season.

What retailers can do to assist early holiday shoppers

There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming holiday shopping season, from potential delivery delays and stock shortages to concerns about new restrictions. As a result, it is more important than ever for retailers to provide a frictionless and consistent experience throughout the purchasing journey so that customers know what to expect.

Given that the holiday shopping season is already underway, retailers must provide this now by focusing on:

  • Helpfulness: Retailers should put themselves in the shoes of their customers. They should consider what uncertainties may lead to an abandoned purchase.
  • Transparency: Be open and honest about any looming product shortages or delivery delays. People can make more informed purchasing decisions when they know what to expect. However, if a product is delayed or out of stock after they’ve already purchased and paid for it, it creates friction and reduces customer satisfaction and long-term brand loyalty. That’s not on anyone’s holiday wish list.
  • Consistency: While more people are shopping online this holiday season, they are not the only ones. Physical stores remain valuable because they provide convenience, immediacy, in-person experiences, and product trials. In an article about holiday retail strategies, Michelle Scruggs, performance media lead at Google, explains, “Brick-and-mortar shopping isn’t dead. People increasingly want the option of buying online, in-store, or even in a hybrid fashion.” To create a seamless omnichannel experience, retailers must ensure brand and product consistency across their website, stores, and other channels.

After reading this article, are you more concerned about how the festive holiday shopping trends affect search keywords on Google? Are you curious about how to utilise these trends to your business’s advantage? Fret not! You can hire an SEO consultants, and soon, you can keep track of people’s needs by using Google Trends and the Insights page in their Google Ads account. Hire the right SEO company today for the future of your business.