2016 Holiday Shopping Habits

October 17, 2016
By Marketing

Summer is not officially over, but millions of shoppers have already turned their attention to the holidays, and they plan to spend even more this year than last with projections showing a double digit increase across the board. According to new data from Rubicon Project’s (NYSE: RUBI) second annual Holiday Consumer Pulse Poll, nearly one third of consumers and nearly half of parents began holiday shopping before Labor Day.

Americans plan to spend on average $1,175 this holiday season, showcasing a 12 percent jump over last year. Technology ($378) continues to be one of the largest spend areas and the biggest purchase category (36 percent) for those buying a big-ticket item. But, while overall spend and spend per child ($495) has gone up, consumers are slightly more likely to say they prefer buying lots of smaller items rather than one big-ticket item. Experiences, such as travel, sports events and shows, are the top intended spend areas with survey respondents indicating they will spend $440 on experiential gifts this season.

When it comes to where and when they’ll spend, the survey found that 73 percent of respondents plan to shop online this holiday season, and more than 1 in 3 plan to shop on mobile. A surprising 22 percent of shoppers (and 28% of millennials) do not plan to shop in-store at all this year. These online and mobile-only shoppers tend to be millennial males, and are most likely to be shopping for gift cards (64 percent), apparel/accessories (57 percent), toys (46 percent) and tech (37 percent).

As shoppers continue to do more of their shopping online, Cyber Monday appears to be on track to outpace Black Friday in popularity among consumers. Forty-seven percent of survey respondents say they plan to shop on Cyber Monday, compared to just 42 percent for Black Friday. Cyber Monday is especially popular among millennials and parents with 74 percent of both groups saying they love the annual online shopping event. Additionally, twenty-two percent of Americans have already started researching Cyber Monday deals as of August, up 10 percentage points from this time last year.

Millennials Are Entering Consumer Maturity

As millennials begin entering financial independence, their spending habits are also maturing. Millennial holiday shoppers plan to spend an average of $1,427 this year, up 33 percent from $1,072 in 2015, making them a driving force for the overall year-over-year increase in spending. Over half of millennials (54 percent) plan to spend more this year than last year, focusing their spending on apparel/accessories (74 percent), video games (66 percent) and gift cards (65 percent).

US millennials are already ahead of the curve when it comes to holiday shopping as 39 percent have already started making purchases. Millennials also increasingly prefer Amazon (67 percent) to Walmart (60 percent) for holiday shopping needs, with 76 percent saying they will shop online and 58 percent saying they will conduct holiday shopping on their mobile device. Twenty-one percent of millennials will make at least half of their holiday purchases on a mobile device.consumerpulse2016_holidayspend_infographics_v4-8

Parents Embrace Mobile Merriment During the Holiday Season

Parents once again topped planned spending on this year’s survey, reporting they expect to spend an average of $1,711 this year (vs. $1,383 in 2015) and are also more likely to make purchasing decisions online (76 percent) and on their mobile devices (56 percent) than general consumers. US parents plan to spend $495 per child this holiday season, up 25 percent from $397 in 2015.

Nearly half of parents (47 percent) have already begun their holiday shopping, as Amazon and Walmart (66 percent) tied for the top holiday shopping location. 17 percent of parents said they will make at least half of their holiday purchases on a mobile device.

Treat Yourself This Holiday Season

While many see this time of year as an opportunity to give gifts to their loved ones, 43 percent of the survey respondents admitted they’ll be treating themselves to $322 worth of gifts this holiday season. Sixty-four percent of millennials said they plan to buy a gift for themselves, as did 55 percent of parents. Additionally, parents ($431) are outspending non-parents ($238) on personal gifts, while men ($407) plan to nearly double the spending of their female counterparts ($242) on personal gifts.

Additional Findings Include:

  • Men plan to spend $1,360 on average, compared to $1,028 for women.
  • Male parents plan to spend more per child ($568 vs. $429).
  • Sixty-six percent of parents say they plan on buying a big ticket item this year, as do 68 percent of Millennials.
  • Women are more likely to look for deals (73 percent) or compare prices (84%) than consumers in general
  • Men (48 percent) and parents (51 percent) are more likely to make a purchase in store using their phone.

Survey Methodology

Rubicon Project engaged global polling firm Penn Schoen Berland to conduct 1,003 interviews among holiday shoppers in the US. The survey has a margin of error of 3.09%. The interviews were conducted from August 23rd to August 25th, 2016.

Download infographics highlighting the purchasing intent and holiday shopping habits of millennials and parents this holiday season: Millennials infographic | Parents infographic.

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