Although online shopping is on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic, two-thirds (68 per cent) of Canadians still plan to visit stores during the holiday shopping season, according to the 2020 Holiday Shopping Report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
Of those shopping in stores, 71 per cent said stores offering safety products like hand sanitizer and masks for public use is a key factor for their comfort. Enabling social distancing by limiting the number of people allowed inside a store at one time is also important for 67 per cent of consumers.
Many Canadians plan to shop in stores and online. Indeed, 71 per cent of respondents to the ninth annual online survey of 1,500 Canadian consumers said they plan to shop online.
“In an extraordinary year that has affected businesses across the country, the good news is that Canadians are still looking to celebrate and plan to buy gifts and retailers can still expect both in-store and online traffic,” said Robin Sahota, a managing director at Accenture who leads its Retail industry in Canada. “With consumers paying close attention to health and safety precautions in stores, it will be important for adaptive retailers to be diligent in their efforts to help shoppers feel safe amidst the hustle and bustle of the season.”
Despite Canadians heading to stores to prepare for the holidays, more than half (58 per cent) of those surveyed said they would be less inclined to venture out on Boxing Day because they feel unsafe in large crowds. In addition, one in four (25 per cent) Canadians said Boxing Day is no longer one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
This year, Canadians expect to spend just $516 versus $721 last year, as their budgets have reduced by about 30 per cent. The good news for retailers, however, is that couples with kids expect to spend $701, on average.
Loyalty at stake as retailers look to meet holiday shopping preferences
The e-commerce experience also matters to consumers. Top frustrations include high shipping costs (62 per cent) and delivery delays (52 per cent). Two in five (40 per cent) shoppers expect fast and free shipping, and nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) said an unsatisfactory delivery experience would discourage them from shopping with a retailer again.
“Many retailers rushed to set up new or better e-commerce platforms in March at the start of the pandemic, and they’ve had time to iron out kinks,” Sahota said. “The holidays will be a true test of their ability to provide a secure and seamless shopping experience that is memorable for the right reasons. Retailers who intend to lead now and in the future should scale e-commerce to cater to consumers’ digital experiences and must be prepared to communicate transparently about the state of inventory while addressing rising delivery costs to avoid negative experiences that could hurt long-term loyalty.”
Buying local and ethical shopping still on-trend
The survey also found that Canadians support local and ethical shopping. For instance, 57 per cent are looking to buy more locally sourced products; 54 per cent said they would be inspired to shop with a retailer who responded well to and supported their staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Half (51 per cent) of Canadians surveyed also plan to make eco-friendly or ethical purchases. In addition, 71 per cent said they would welcome a donation to a charity on their behalf.
“There has never been a more important time for retailers to demonstrate their commitment to their people, their customers and the wider community,” said Grace Ayoub, a managing director for Accenture’s Consumer Goods and Retail industry, based in Montreal. “Our report this year confirms Canadians prefer retailers that are truly focused on social responsibility. With the rise of the conscious consumer, retailers need to build sustainability into the core of their businesses and look for new ways to grow.”
Less holiday travel means more time for self-care
Regardless of the types of gifts Canadians will give this year, celebrations will look different with 56 per cent planning to connect with family and friends over video chat instead of in person. Less travel means more time at home with more than half (57 per cent) planning to focus on self-care and mental wellbeing, trying new recipes (52 per cent) and enjoying hobbies (48 per cent).
Some other key findings from the survey include:
- Opting out of wrapping: Nearly half (45 per cent) of Canadians plan to forego gift wrapping this year to avoid wasting paper.
- Physical gifts inch ahead: Just over half (54 per cent) of Canadians plan to give physical gifts instead of experience gifts this year.
- Subscriptions rising in popularity: More than one-third (37 per cent) of Canadian shoppers with a preference for experiential gifts will give entertainment subscriptions that can be enjoyed over time, such as video streaming services.
About the Survey
The Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey offers insights into consumer buying patterns during the holiday time period, providing an indication of retail performance expectations both in-store and online at a key time for the sector. For this year’s study, Accenture surveyed 1,537 Canadian consumers online, each of whom had purchased an item for personal use either online or in a store within the previous six months. Respondents represented a variety of age groups, with 10 per cent Gen Zers (aged 18-24), 13 per cent younger millennials (25-31), 16 per cent older millennials (32-39), 25 per cent Gen Xers (40-55), 21 per cent baby boomers (56-69) and 15 per cent aged 70+. The survey was conducted in October 2020.