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Top Trends and Predictions for the 2023 Holiday Shopping Season

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It’s the most wonderful — and the most busy — time of the year. 

According to forecasts by eMarketer, overall retail spending will increase 4.5% to $1.3 trillion for the 2023 holiday season, with ecommerce accounting for almost 20% of sales and contributing 48.5% of incremental spending gains. 

So how can enterprise retailers stand out this holiday season?

BigCommerce is here to unwrap the latest predictions, strategies, and expert advice so that you can make the most of this holiday shopping season. Take a look at these early consumer shopping trends to prepare for what’s driving shoppers in 2023. 

Holiday shopping is beginning earlier than ever

Last year (2022) showed that holiday shopping is no longer just for November and December. Many major retailers rolled out Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions as early as October and offered holiday sales and promotions through the end of Q4.

In fact, a survey by Google revealed that, “as of mid-October, holiday shoppers globally had on average 21% of their holiday shopping complete.”

Not only do retailers and shoppers seem to be following the same pattern this year — but it seems that early holiday shopping is the norm moving forward. 

As a result of fall promotions like Amazon’s Prime Early Access Sale, October’s ecommerce growth rate surpassed those of November and December — jumping 9.8% in 2022. This, in combination with other events such as “Black Friday in July,” proves that consumers are pulling holiday spending forward and expect retailers to follow suit.

Retailers should be prepared to grab attention early and adopt an “always on” marketing approach.

“When I think about planning for the holiday season, it’s really about doing testing up to a year in advance,” said Rob Rosenthal, Chief Revenue Officer at Bloomreach. “Why wait until six months out? Go a year out to test it. There’s no reason not to be ready anymore.”

Shoppers are eager to get back in-person

After three years of shopping online in light of COVID-19, customers are ready to get back to shopping in-store.  

According to eMarketer, brick-and-mortar holiday spending reached $1 trillion for the first time in 2022 — a 3.9% gain from 2021. Thanksgiving weekend foot traffic rebounded from 2021, with a 17% increase YoY over the five-day period. Even more notably, Black Friday saw a double-digit increase in traffic to 72.9 million shoppers — proving that brick-and-mortar shopping is back in business.

So how can enterprise retailers respond to this industry shift? By embracing an omnichannel strategy — one that seamlessly bridges the gap between online and offline channels. 

Luckily, a number of services — such as Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS), Buy Online, Return in Store (BORIS), and Reserve Online, Pickup in Store (ROPIS) — are making it easier for retailers to blur the lines between digital and physical shopping.

“It’s not just a brick-and-mortar experience becoming more digital, but the digital experience is becoming more of a physical thing as well,” explained Chris Collier, Senior Software Engineer at Google.

Economic uncertainty means cautious spending

While it may be the season for buying, data shows that many shoppers may be tightening their holiday budgets.

Although inflation is down year-over-year, 71% of retailers in CNBC’s Supply Chain Survey expect consumers to cut back on spending in response to inflation, and, in response, 43% of retailers plan to order less inventory than last year. Not to mention Wall Street expects a recession to finally hit the U.S. in the next 12 months, as early as November — the official start of the holiday shopping season. 

What does that mean for retailers this holiday season? Discounts, discounts, discounts. 

Amid economic uncertainty, it’s clear that holiday shoppers are looking to save wherever they can. In fact, 67% of retailers expect consumers to look for discounts this holiday season. While it may mean sacrificing some margin and profitability, discounts are crucial to meeting customer needs this season. 

Provide hassle-free returns to build brand loyalty

The holidays are a prime opportunity for brands to reach new customers and build loyalty from existing ones. But the key to retaining these customers is by creating a memorable post-purchase experience. 

For many customers, this means offering a simple and easy returns experience. 

Unsurprisingly, more sales during the holiday season often means more returns. Last year, at least 10% — and even as high as 16% — of ecommerce orders in the U.S. were returned each week from November through mid-January. 

While a high number of returns may not sound ideal, this is a huge opportunity to prove to your customers that you care about them — not just their money. A study by FedEx even revealed that 98% of shoppers would be willing to order from a brand again if it offered fast and convenient returns, and 56% are willing to pay for hassle-free returns.

Rather than focusing all your energy on the purchase experience, make sure you’re offering a generous return window and an intuitive returns experience.

The final word

Time will tell how this holiday season unravels, but in the meantime, our best advice is to ensure your customer is front and center in your ecommerce strategy. From offering deals and discounts to enhancing the omnichannel experience, finding ways to put your customer first is key to standing out this holiday season.

Looking for more holiday insights? Check out our blog for more of the latest trends, predictions, and news on how enterprise merchants can sell more during the busiest shopping season.

Haylee Reed avatar

Haylee is a Content Marketing Writer at BigCommerce, where she partners with the SEO team to craft narratives and blog content. She earned a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Texas at Austin and afterward spent a year abroad to pursue a Master's in International Management from Trinity College Dublin. When she’s not writing, you can usually find Haylee with her nose in a book, enjoying live music or scoping out the best local coffee shops.