Canadians going digital and shopping earlier for Christmas

The Christmas shopping dynamic is changing as Canadians continue to embrace online technology and media options to buy for the holidays throughout the entire year.

Gone are the days of writing letters to Santa, looking through catalogues and planning shopping around specific events like Black Friday and Boxing Day. Canadian consumers now are leveraging technology to produce a more convenient and pleasant holiday shopping experience year-round.

“This year Canadians are putting a high premium on convenience and digital when it comes to getting their holiday shopping done,” says Robin Sahota, managing director of retail practice in Canada with Accenture. “Canadians also are moving toward being ‘shopped and wrapped’ earlier than ever before, which means retailers must seize the opportunity to innovate and by offering a distinctive experience lay the foundation for more profitable, year-round relationships.”

An annual holiday shopping survey by Accenture has found that 66 per cent of Canadian shoppers say they are familiar with Google Home. Seventy five per cent are already/would definitely/are willing to use it and 61 per cent are using or are aware of, Amazon Alexa to buy gifts this season.

Sixty six per cent of respondents said they check Amazon first before looking to buy elsewhere. Just under half of Canadian shoppers said they will do the majority of their holiday shopping in-store and 40 per cent will shop mostly on-line.

According to the survey, the increase in constant discounts from deal websites and Amazon Prime Day are enticing consumers to purchase their holiday gifts throughout the year, including 65 per cent of older millennials aged 28 to 37 and 63 per cent of Gen Z consumers aged 18 to 20. As a result Canadians are less inclined to shop on Boxing Day and Black Friday.

Online, mobile and social media sites continue to be the most popular venues that consumers say they use to conduct their holiday shopping, with their use increasing by five per cent over the last year for online, 100 per cent mobile and 33 per cent for social media.

YouTube is the main social channel for consumers followed by Facebook. In-store shopping has decreased by 11 per cent.

The survey results seem to be consistent with recent information from the Canadian Radio -television and Telecommunications Commission which shows that Canadians are displaying a voracious hunger for the internet and data.

The number of wireless subscriptions is growing, mobile data usage is up and Canadians are shelling out more money for more data and faster speeds from their home internet.

With the convenience, speed and choice in shopping that technology provides, consumers still want to be rewarded and desire to have a positive experience.

Fifty-four per cent of respondents in the Accenture survey said they are more likely to do their holiday shopping with a retailer who can offer a personal shopping service.

Shoppers are especially keen on getting discounts, with more than half saying they will buy several items from individual stores and another 19 per cent saying they will buy at individual websites to get the lowest price or best discount.

Shoppers even are open to sharing personal information in exchange for personalized offers such as coupons and loyalty card points.

As the shopping landscape continues to change, retailers will be challenged to finds ways to engage consumers in more memorable ways.

“Winning over the Canadian consumer will require providing active, rather than passive shopping inspirations,” says Kelly Askew, managing director of Accenture’s retail strategy practice. “This might mean proactively offering gift recommendations for a certain person to help retailers influence a consumer’s purchase before they even think about searching for ideas.”

Talbot Boggs is a Toronto-based business communications professional who has worked with national news organizations, magazines and corporations in the finance, retail, manufacturing and other industrial sectors.

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