Oct 25, 2019
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Global consumers seek festive season gift ideas says McKinsey

Oct 25, 2019

As retailers continue to dive deep into the so-called golden quarter, their customers around the world are looking to them for inspiration with as many as 47% of shoppers globally needing some help deciding what to buy.

Consumers are still seeking gift-buying inspiration for Christmas

That’s according to new research from Periscope By McKinsey, which spoke to 2,500 consumers in the UK, Germay, Canada and the US who said they’re seeking inspiration.

It also found some good news for store-based retailers internationally with browsing in-store listed as the top research channel used by consumers in Canada (70%), the US (65%) and Germany (63%). That leaves using search engines or browsing retailer websites as the number two go-to research channel in these countries. 

However, there was bad news for UK physical stores as the top preference for British shoppers (74%) is browsing retailer websites, pushing browsing in-store into second place. That doesn’t bode well for the Christmas shopping season that comes at one of the most challenging times for the UK retail sector and especially for fashion stores.

Further signs of UK shoppers’ preference for digital can be seen from the fact that catalogues, flyers and newspaper ads retain a certain appeal for international consumers with 53% of Canadian shoppers depending on them for ideas, while 40% of US consumers and 38% of Germans agree. And the figure for Britons? Just 28%.

In general across the four countries, consumers are open to receiving marketing messages and communications from retailers that will help inform and guide their seasonal shopping efforts. 

Promotional emails are by far the most preferred choice for the majority of shoppers in all territories surveyed, while the survey showed coupons took second place for shoppers in Germany (36%), Canada (33%) and the UK (27%) – vying equally with TV and magazine channels for US shoppers at 38%.


Asked when they start thinking about shopping for the festive holidays, 52% of female shoppers in the UK and 50% in the US said that they get a jump-start on their holiday spend and are already gift-buying in October and November, followed closely by 46% of female consumers in Germany and Canada. 

Female shoppers are clearly the group to target with early marketing, while men are only starting to think about gift-buying in October and are still purchasing in November and into December (52% Germany, 50% Canada, 42% US, 39% UK). 

For women, the focus is on gift purchases for the household and children, while male consumers shop primarily for their partner/significant other (and for themselves).


When it comes to allocating budgets, spending will be highest in North America and lowest in Germany, but between 10% and 13% of all the shoppers haven’t allocated budget this year, saying that should they encounter the right gift idea, they may be prompted to shop, regardless of price.

The highest spend in the UK will be among the 30-39 age group, while in the US it’s those aged 40-49, in Germany those in their 50s and in Canada, consumers aged 60+.

And those consumers are likely to be researching via their smartphones, as “for today's connected consumers, the smartphone has become a vital shopping aid,” McKinsey said. It added that “far from diminishing the appeal of physical shopping, smartphones are being used for a variety of select purposes whenever shoppers visit bricks-and-mortar stores.”

The study findings show 51% of consumers use them to compare prices with competitors, 33% to search for in-store discounts or coupons, and 30% to look up further product information. And it's not only younger generations doing so as those over 50 and 60 “are also intrigued by” everything smartphones can offer.

That said, “taking advantage of a digitally enabled in-store shopping experience is particularly appealing to consumers aged 18-39.” For them, facilities such as mobile POS, digital product displays, self-checkout, and offers on their phones all add up to a more convenient and consistent experience.

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