Twenty-eight percent of consumers are planning to spend less this holiday season and only 10 percent plan to spend more than previous years, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc. For consumers who anticipate spending more, the vast majority of consumers note that it is a result of brands raising prices due to inflation.

Gartner surveyed 306 consumers in July 2022 and found that nearly half (48 percent) of consumers will start to shop in October or November this holiday season, with 16 percent of consumers now shopping year-round for holiday gifts.

“While consumers have increased their discretionary spending in the past few years, inflationary pressure is impacting their spending plans for this holiday season,” said Kassi Socha, director analyst in the Gartner Marketing practice. “This hesitancy around budgets, coupled with new timing from consumers regarding their holiday shopping, will challenge marketers to have an always-on approach that will stress the need for omnichannel adoption.”

With inflation remaining top-of-mind for consumers, price (65 percent of respondents), value (53 percent) and free shipping (51 percent) were the top three identified factors amongst holiday shoppers for their gift decision making this season.

When it comes to what specifically consumers are shopping for, holiday shoppers identified gift cards as their top category for gifts, followed by apparel and accessories, toys and games and food and beverage. Over 75 percent of holiday shoppers expect to see fewer, or the same amount, of discounts as last year’s holiday season.

Survey respondents said that inspiration for purchasing gifts primarily begins with recipients providing a wish list or their past purchases to help point a potential gift giver in the right direction (see Figure 1). Shoppers also turn to search first over online reviews or brand communications.

In total, one or more social media channels are a source of inspiration for 18 percent of consumers, but the mix is split across platforms.

"The channels through which gift givers can seek inspiration are proliferating, but consumers still trust their friends, family and search to guide them,” said Socha.

Consumers will overwhelmingly shop online during the 2022 holiday season, with 21 percent planning to shop more online than in-store this year compared to 2021.

Thirty-eighty percent of holiday shoppers plan to utilize one or more hybrid shopping services such as curbside pickup or same-day delivery. For shoppers focused on online shopping, free shipping is also a top consideration, while 26 percent are willing to pay for shipping if it guarantees or expedites on-time delivery.

“Retail digital marketing leaders who made investments into omnichannel digital offerings during the height of the pandemic will continue to experience growth as consumer adoption of these offerings rises,” added Socha. “The online experience, whether driving to on-site check-out for delivery, or driving store traffic, is critical for holiday shopping success.”