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Online Shoppers Undeterred by COVID as Holiday Shopping Season Shifts Earlier

Akamai-Commissioned Survey Hints at Significant Business Consequences If Online Retail Experiences Do Not Meet Consumer Expectations

Holiday shoppers are overcoming worries and restrictions and easily adapting to new shopping norms as the COVID-19 pandemic has invaded our lives and made us overwhelmingly dependent on online and mobile activity. According to an Akamai-commissioned survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted between October 31 and November 2, 2020, 73% of shoppers who have started gift hunting have done half to all their shopping online to date. And if they are not finished, 85% of consumers plan to do at least half of the remainder of their holiday shopping online.

Most notably, shoppers are planning to start their holiday shopping early this year. Roughly 66% of shoppers have or will start on or before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two days traditionally associated with kicking off the holiday shopping season. Additionally, more than half (56%) of consumers took part in Amazon Prime Day on October 13-14.

The immediacy and convenience of the internet impacts consumer patience and expectations. Shoppers' online dependence means retailers must vigilantly manage and tune their websites to ensure an exceptional and secure web experience; the survey data hints at revenue-impacting consequences otherwise. 

Of those who have begun their holiday shopping this year, nearly one in five (19%) said they had abandoned a purchase because a website page was broken or loading too slowly. Additionally, 18% reported searching for a new brand or website to make a purchase because of poor website performance. Twenty-nine percent said they had abandoned or avoided a purchase altogether because of data privacy concerns or known or perceived website security issues. Moreover, about one-quarter (24%) shared that they have already been targeted with holiday-themed email scams or phony promotions.

The insights from Akamai's survey could be critical for retailers this season, as many experts predict that online retail will be crucial during what is potentially a larger "make-or-break" sales period than ever. One in five small- and medium-sized retailers claim their future is dependent on this year's holiday results, according to a September PayPal study.

OnlineShoppingBlog_11.17.jpgConvenience Matters and Price Factors Into Brand Loyalty

New delivery options are proving popular among consumers. Roughly one-quarter (23%) of shoppers choose to pick up their online orders curbside or through a contactless method, an option that wasn't available or even considered at the beginning of the year. Home delivery is the most popular choice (64%), followed by in-store pickup (26%). 

A staggering 78% of respondents shared they still do most of their online shopping from the same brands and websites they purchased from prior to the pandemic. That being said, many shoppers are still willing to shop around if it means finding the best deals. When asked about holiday shopping to date, one-third (33%) of shoppers reported they found an item they liked on one brand's website, but ultimately purchased it on another site for a lower price. Additionally, more than 1 in 10 (12%) consumers said they are less loyal to their favorite brands and look for the best deals because of COVID-19.

Consumers Are Still Shopping and Retailers Need to Pay Attention

The good news is despite all the uncertainty in the world, shoppers are still shopping. A September Deloitte report forecasts 2020 holiday shopping sales between $1.147 trillion and $1.152 trillion, an increase of 1% to 1.5% compared with 2019. According to the Akamai survey, 71% of respondents plan to spend the same or more this year on holiday shopping. The data shows that consumers are already shopping in heavy volumes from their phones and computers and plan to continue doing so in the coming weeks. 

Maintaining loyal customers and driving sales this holiday season is both more challenging and more important than ever. Retailers must provide shoppers with fast, reliable, and secure digital channels in order to win the hearts (and wallets) of consumers during this critical sales period. 

The findings from this survey also verified much of what we and our retail customers have collectively been anticipating for the 2020 shopping season: Mobile shopping is inevitably increasing, consumers will abandon sites with poor performance and/or security concerns, and loyalty matters when it comes to the bottom line.

With appropriate attention to their online and mobile experiences, retailers can breathe easy. One aspect of human nature is evident and, although not researched by Akamai's survey, provides optimism: Gift-giving makes us feel good. 'Tis the season.

 

For more information about Akamai's web performance and security solutions for retailers, visit here.