Key holiday shopping insights and predictions for 2022

A woman uses a laptop at home to shop for the holidays.

Despite a global pandemic, rising labor costs, and supply chain issues, holiday spending didn’t go away last year. In fact, according to the Unboxing the 2021 Holiday Shopping Results report from Adobe, online spending increased by 8.6% in 2021 compared to the previous year. You can bet spending isn’t going away in 2022 either.

Online shopping and flexible pickup have made the buying process easier than ever, and consumers continue to prioritize ease and convenience, along with price, during the holiday season. In its annual forecast, Adobe predicted that total holiday season online spend in November and December would reach $209.7 billion in 2022.

Every year, new toys, clothing items, and other products become popular, consumer buying preferences shift, and businesses have to be ready for it all — from their ecommerce platform to their digital marketing, their inventory system to their fulfillment options. By studying past trends, while keeping a close eye on current shopping habits, you can better prepare your business to profit during the most wonderful time of the year.

In this article, you’ll discover key holiday shopping insights and predictions for 2022, such as:

Holiday shopping starts sooner

Every year the holiday season seems to start earlier. What used to start around Thanksgiving now has businesses releasing “Black Friday Deals” as early as mid-October. Customers are also starting earlier to try and find the best deals to get ahead of the December rush.

According to research from McKinsey & Company, early shopping has contributed to consumers’ top concern — lack of product availability. Issues related to the pandemic and supply chain over the past few years have only exacerbated this concern, as customers want to avoid crowded stores and shipping delays.

Customers want free shipping

Holiday shopping adds up, and when shopping for so many friends and family members across multiple stores and sites, spending $10 or more on shipping can be a lot.

One of the biggest differentiators for customers when choosing where to do their holiday shopping is price. Customers want the best deals to save as much money as possible. For many people, shipping is where they want — and, thanks to companies like Amazon, increasingly expect — to cut costs.

More customers than ever are getting their holiday shopping sent directly to their homes or to those of family and friends, and shipping costs can add up. The NPD Group found that in 2021 free shipping was “the top influencer of where consumers will shop” during the holiday season.

Mobile commerce continues to grow

We live in a digital age, and many people do their shopping online, especially when they want to avoid the peak crowds and congested parking lots of the holiday season.

People now take their phones with them everywhere, and purchases can be made in any location almost instantly. In 2021, mobile commerce retail sales topped $359 billion, according to Insider Intelligence. Total mobile commerce across industries increased by 15.2% last year, and it’s expected to double in the US between 2020 and 2025.

Customers want to be able to shop online whenever and wherever. As the mobile market continues to grow, so does its influence on the holiday season. If a business doesn’t have a mobile storefront, it’s missing out on significant revenue.

The holidays are the most hectic shopping time of the year, but that also means they’re incredibly important for all types of businesses. Knowing what you can expect before customers start shopping is a great way to get the most out of the holiday season.

Online shopping remains big

Online shopping saves customers time, money, and hassle. More people than ever are shopping online, and businesses need to ensure they have quality ecommerce platforms in place to support traffic. For consumers, being able to do all your holiday shopping from the comfort of your home and with the ease of your mobile device is incredibly appealing.

Some experts are forecasting online sales in the US of around $265 billion for November and December, with projections exceeding $1 trillion worldwide.

Last year, Adobe predicted a record $207 billion in US online sales from November 1 to December 1 in 2021. That was not far off from the actual figure of $204 billion spent digitally during the holiday season. Online shopping was not deterred by supply chain issues but rather resulted in a record-breaking year in dollars spent online.

$209.7 billion was the total holiday season online spend for November and December in 2022, according to Adobe.

Rising prices are going to affect volume

One of the main stories of 2022 has been rising inflation and its effect on product costs across all industries. This is expected to have a somewhat notable effect on holiday shopping as increased prices will likely impact the number of orders customers place.

While total income is not projected to take a dive, orders could be reduced with prices creeping up. Online orders are projected to decline by around 6% in November and December 2022, compared to the same time last year.

With inflation costs affecting customers’ wallets this year, it’s important to be aware of the potential impact — especially as it pertains to inventory — and make the shopping, ordering, delivery, and return processes as simple as possible.

Returns need to be more flexible

A critical part of the customer experience in today’s retail climate is convenience and ease. Returns are a breeze with some companies, but for others, the process is slow and painful, causing customers to get frustrated and look elsewhere to meet their needs.

One part of the holiday shopping season that many don’t consider is the surge of product returns that occur after gifts have been given. Customers inevitably return products that they don’t want. This happens in large volume, and businesses have to be prepared to process and deal with this influx or risk angering customers.

Automation may be the best way for customer service to handle the increase in tickets. Using chatbots, as well as other artificial intelligence and machine learning features provided by advanced ecommerce platforms, can take some pressure off your staff this holiday season. Offering seamless, quick returns will help keep customers happy.

BOPIS options are growing

There are few things customers love more than convenience when shopping online. Starting in 2020, when people wanted to avoid public spaces and crowds, buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) options exploded — and they are still prevalent in 2022.

In a 2020 survey, the NRF found that 70% of people agreed BOPIS improved their customer experience. Now that customers have discovered the ease of BOPIS, they aren’t going to go back to normal in-store shopping as often.

BOPIS has become increasingly popular in the last few years, and it will likely continue to be a favorable option for consumers. Statista predicts the trend will grow at an annual rate of 15% until 2024.

70% of people agreed that BOPIS improved their customer experience. The predicted annual growth rate of BOPIS until 2024 is 15%.

Profit margins are shrinking

Inflation is causing many consumers to cut back on spending. Along with increases in labor, transportation, and supplier costs, this will begin to hurt business profits.

Product prices can only rise so high before customers stop buying. Combined with the projected decline in order volume, higher product prices can’t cover all the losses.

These effects will result in much slimmer profit margins than usual for some retail businesses, and they may require cost-cutting in certain areas.

Shoppers want sustainable options

Consumers want to do their holiday shopping quickly and affordably, but more and more of them also care about environmental impact. In turn, brands are increasingly using sustainability initiatives to draw in customers.

Making clothing from recycled materials, using less plastic and packaging on products to reduce waste, and other green practices entice customers to choose one company over another. Providing sustainable options for shipping can also entice customers to purchase from your business instead of a competitor.

Some experts say that while 60% of people are looking for sustainable products and shipping options, less than one-quarter of retailers are meeting those needs. Brands need to keep up with consumer demand for eco-friendly shopping this holiday season.

Non-gift options are on the rise

Not all holiday shopping is done for others. Plenty of consumers are buying products for themselves, especially as travel has been down in recent years.

The most common personal purchases for individuals around the holidays are food and beverage. Shoppers are still buying products for their family and friends, but there has been an increase in grocery purchases.

Besides food and beverage, other non-gift purchases such as experiences are on the rise. According to the 2022 Deloitte Holiday Retail Survey, spending on experiences is expected to increase by 7%.

Get ready for the holiday season 2022

The holidays are the most hectic shopping time of the year, but that also means they’re incredibly important for all types of businesses. Knowing what you can expect before customers start shopping is a great way to get the most out of the holiday season.

By keeping up with customer buying trends both past and present, you can better prepare your business to plan for a profitable future. Give customers an incentive to choose your business with mobile shopping, easy returns, sustainable options, and more. Particularly this time of year, make sure you at least offer free shipping.

Adobe Commerce is here to help — during the holidays and beyond. Commerce is the world’s leading digital commerce solution for merchants and brands, providing a flexible and scalable platform for your business that allows you to build engaging shopping experiences for every type of customer. With Commerce, you can create personalized content and easily reach customers — whenever and wherever they are, across multiple devices and marketplaces.

Watch the overview video or take a product tour to learn more about Adobe Commerce.