By Beth Klongpayabal

Last Updated: November 21, 2022

A summer filled with news about baby formula shortages and months-long waits for car repair parts has taken its toll, as our holiday shopping forecast indicates that shoppers are on edge about ongoing supply chain problems and shipping delays.

With economic anxiety high, this season’s appeal may be less about products and more about how they are offered. Sellers that can decode shoppers’ fears and desires will position themselves ahead of the pack.

What can marketers and retail executives do to ease concerns and entice their customers during the biggest shopping season of the year?

We started researching holiday retail trends back in 2020. This year, to further build on our proprietary data, we asked more than 1,200 Americans about holiday shopping attitudes and habits. In assessing their collective hopes, concerns, preferences, and plans, we've compiled a roadmap for marketing success based on retail trends and consumer considerations.

Key Findings:

  • Consumers need assurance that products are in stock and will arrive on time. Brands should be clear about product availability and shipping timelines.
    • Seven in ten holiday shoppers are concerned that desired items will be sold-out or on backorder this season.
  • While shipping timelines are important, consumers are far more concerned with saving money. Marketers should offer free shipping to remain competitive.
    • Forced to choose between free shipping or quick delivery, 88 percent of holiday shoppers would save money over time.
  • People are willing to purchase additional products in order to get free shipping; however, if they don’t meet the minimum, many will abandon their carts for another brand.
    • Half of online holiday shoppers will buy additional items to meet free shipping requirements. One-third will try alternate retailers if carts don’t qualify for free delivery.
  • Getting a deal is more important to shoppers than anything else. Send offers via email and don’t neglect third-party coupon websites.
    • Nearly half of holiday shoppers will search third-party coupon websites and apps for deals before completing their purchases, and they prefer to be notified about deals via email.

How to Reach Holiday Shoppers

The holidays bring joy and good tidings, but for shoppers they often mean dread. This appears especially true this year, as our study of American consumers uncovered heightened apprehension about gift prices, supplies, and timing in Q4 2022.

Economist predictions differ considerably for the 2022 holiday retail season. Some expect high prices to limit consumer spending, others foresee deals and pent-up demand driving robust shopping despite inflation.

Based on our findings, retailers should focus on inventories, electronic communication, deals, and coupons...while especially prioritizing shipping.

Such indecision among holiday shoppers means much of this year’s spending remains in play. Retailers should prepare big Q4 marketing pushes, as most respondents said their favorite way to find gift ideas was via brand communication.

What’s your favorite way to discover holiday gift ideas?
Word of mouth from friends/family 29%
Brand advertisements 26%
Brand emails 23%
Brand social media accounts 14%
Brand texts 3%
Consumer group messaging 3%
Other 7%

Empty Stockings: Shoppers Are Concerned About Gift Availability

Two years of disrupted distribution logistics have made supply chain issues part of everyday life and product delays a pressing concern. Consumers who’ve endured shortages of everything from toilet paper to microchips fear a repeat of 2021’s empty holiday shelves.

We discovered that 71 percent of shoppers are concerned that their desired items will be back-ordered or sold out this holiday season. Nearly a third are "moderately" or "very" concerned.

How concerned are you that desired holiday items will be sold-out or backordered? circle graph

Home for the Holidays: Shoppers Are Concerned About On-Time Delivery

Despite a presidential declaration that the pandemic is over, consumer habits haven’t reverted to pre-COVID norms.

More than twice as many Americans will shop in person this holiday season as in 2021 (65 percent v. 26 percent), but 78 percent will still do all or most of their shopping online. Greater than 90 percent will have purchases delivered.

That shipping load will strain distribution channels and cause consumers to sweat holiday deadlines. Nearly three-quarters of those shopping online are already concerned about timely delivery.

How concerned are you about having online orders arrive in a timely matter? circle graph

Shipping Scrooges: Shoppers Strongly Prefer Free Delivery

Punctual delivery is important to shoppers but not nearly as attractive as free shipping. Given a choice between one or the other, free delivery is preferred by a margin of 7 to 1.

If you could only pick one when shopping online, which would you prefer? bar graph

Consumers are so focused on scoring free shipping that three-quarters will alter their purchase to avoid delivery costs. Nearly half opt to buy additional products merely to meet free shipping  minimums. Alternately, shoppers are more likely to try a different retailer rather than paying a delivery cost.

What do you do when an online basket doesn’t reach a free shipping minimum requirement?
Add more items to qualify for free shipping 49%
Shop somewhere else for the same item(s) 29%
Pay for shipping 18%
It depends 4%

Retailers offering free return shipping further erode barriers that keep customers from shopping online. Consumers' least favorite thing about online buying and favorite part of brick-and-mortar shopping stress the ability to see/feel products, an objection eliminated by easy returns/replacement.

Gobbling Up Bargains: Shoppers Love Black Friday Deals

Some advocates recommend an earlier jump on this year’s holiday shopping to ease supply strains and stay ahead of inflation, yet most Americans will stick to the traditional sale season.

Though 84 percent complete their shopping lists by the end of November, more than half wait until Black Friday/Cyber Monday to start their holiday shopping. The reasoning is nearly unanimous – nine out of ten are looking for the best deals.

Why are you waiting until Black Friday/Cyber Monday to start holiday shopping?
Best prices and deals 90%
Need more time to save or plan 3%
Enjoy the experience and social aspects 1%
Better available selection 1%
Other 5%

Inbox Excitement: Shoppers Prefer Email Notification of Deals

Now that entertainment is streaming, local newspapers are dead, and privacy concerns/ad blockers have limited the efficacy of online promotion, the best way to advertise holiday deals may be directly emailing a customer base. It’s also the method most preferred by consumers.

Among those wishing to learn of retailers’ coupons and deals, nearly two-thirds would choose to receive emails.

How do you prefer learning about coupons/discounts from a specific store? bar graph

Though most shoppers prefer receiving deals in their email, messages should be sent judiciously. Bombarding inboxes generates resentment and may turn quality offers into discarded spam. Even email reminders of abandoned online carts are rarely appreciated unless accompanied by a sweetening offer.

How do you feel about notifications of an uncompleted online purchase?
Unwelcome without additional incentive 35%
Neutral 33%
They’re annoying 19%
They’re helpful 13%

Digital Clipping: Shoppers are Checking Coupon Sites for Deals

Inflated prices are driving consumers to find savings any way possible. In addition to seeking free shipping and seasonal deals, many turn to third-party websites and apps. Forty percent of holiday shoppers discover deals, coupons, and codes via these external sources.

Do you search coupon sites or apps to find additional savings? graph

Brands hoping to connect with shrewd holiday shoppers should consider posting additional coupons and codes.


Pandemic restrictions and a global recession dampened spirits over the last two holiday seasons. Shoppers and sellers are ready for a rebound but face inflation and supply chain complications.

>> Related: Inflation Calculator

Reaching out to consumers with inventory assurances and Black Friday bargains backed by timely free shipping will be key to assuaging fears and unlocking holiday sales. With many Americans still deciding on gifts, now is the time for retailers to reach unfinished wish lists via advertising, email deals, social media, and coupon sites.

This unusual holiday season is rife with both peril and potential, with unresolved wish lists and worried consumers waiting for wise marketers to make the right moves.


We conducted an online survey of 1,245 Americans aged 18+ regarding their holiday budgets and seasonal shopping habits/plans/concerns. The pool of respondents was demographically representative and balanced across categories of age, gender, and income.

Data Appendix

Below are the full data findings from our Q4 holiday shopping survey:
Q4 shopping appendix