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What will be the top US spending habits for the 2022 holiday season?

December 13, 2022

It’s no secret that the disruption of the past few years accelerated consumer adoption of e-commerce. What’s been less clear is which types of digital experiences consumers prefer and how retailers can best adapt their strategies and tactics to maintain a competitive advantage.

For insights, Sitecore recently surveyed more than 1,000 US consumers about their planned spending habits for the 2022 holiday season. Our findings underscore just how critical it has become for retailers to improve digital interactions, respond to customer preferences, and connect online and in-person experiences to create more unified shopping journeys. Here are the key results from our findings.

Most shoppers have maintained changes to spending habits

Again, it’s not news that consumer behavior changed, but it is noteworthy that nearly six in 10 US shoppers still say the pandemic changed the way they spend money. Among those who said their spending was impacted, nine in 10 agreed that they are now more cautious about the purchases they make, and many are stocking up on their favorite items.

Consumers overwhelmingly prefer to shop (and browse) online rather than in-person

Despite eased restrictions on in-person shopping, less than one-quarter (22%) of those polled said they plan to shop in-person in a store. What’s more, online browsing is now the most popular way to get holiday gift inspirations, and nearly one in five said they will spend more than four hours researching gifts online.

Online shoppers want a fast, easy experience

Survey respondents said they prefer to shop online because it’s quick and easy (61%) and more convenient (56%). They also use said online shopping helps them avoid crowds (60%), although this isn’t specifically due to Covid-19 or other illnesses.

Many shoppers are being more prudent

While half of the shoppers in our survey (53%) said they will spend the same amount this year as they did last year, nearly one in four (24%) said they will be buying fewer gifts. About the same (22%) plan to spend less on gifts. These, combined with other results, led us to conclude that there is a modest likelihood that 2022 will be the year of fewer, functional, and cheaper gifts. Luxury and experiential gifts seem less likely, with only four in 10 of those we polled reporting that they are likely to buy luxury gifts.

Findings like these certainly help build the business case for investment in digital interactions; however, it is critical to understand not only which digital strategies and tactics are most effective for your customers today, but also how you can remain nimble and shift your approach as technologies advance and consumer trends evolve.

Shoppers continue to value free shipping

In addition to the preference for online shopping, another consumer trend that appears to have staying power is free shipping. Indeed, for many shoppers, shipping costs continue to be one of the most influential factors in tipping the balance between online and in-person buying. When we asked survey respondents, “When it comes to purchasing items ‘on sale,’ what deal is most likely to prompt you to purchase an item?” the top responses were: free shipping (45%), at least 25% off or more (33%), and buy one, get one free (21%). This tells me that that in consumers' minds, free shipping is as powerful as a significant cash discount on sale items.

We also found that for most shoppers in our study, $9 represents a firm maximum shipping cost. The higher-income shoppers in our study were very likely to say that they will meet free-shipping minimums by adding to their cart or that they will pay extra to guarantee delivery—but that was not the case for the lower-income shoppers we polled.

Retailers need to deliver a seamless omni-channel experience

While the results of our survey indicate a strong preference for online holiday shopping, we also know that over the past few years, consumers have grown accustomed to switching between digital and physical experiences with brands. That means, ultimately, retailers need the capabilities to see customers from all angles and identify, activate, and optimize interactions across all channels. They need to be able to leverage customer data so that they can deliver relevant contextualized experiences to different users, even in real time.

Going forward, blending the digital with the physical to create frictionless, meaningful engagement will be the most effective approach—because it gives your customers the freedom to choose which type of experience is optimal for them. This type of holistic approach requires leveraging customer history, preferences, and real-time shopper intent.

Sitecore’s survey about the 2022 holiday season adds to a growing body of evidence pointing to sustained changes in consumer behavior and expectations. Retail leaders understand that the key to success in this new marketplace is to create a more unified strategy, one that connects all customer interactions to deliver the seamless and engaging experiences that drive revenue, while also building trust and creating the foundation of long lasting relationships.


customer experience
holiday shopping