2019's Holiday Season Research

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2019's Holiday Season Research

The 2019 holiday season was reportedly the busiest in relation to holiday shopping in the US. There was a significant uptick in online shopping, an increase in SOBO (seizes opportunity, buys often) consumers, and BOPIS (buy-online-pick-up-in-store) programs were popular among US holiday shoppers.


Uptick in Online Shopping

  • Online shopping is becoming ingrained into the lifestyles of US consumers, particularly during the holiday season. These consumers seek comfort and convenience when shopping and online shopping offers this experience.
  • Gone are the days of waiting in long lines on Black Friday due to the deals offered. In 2019, deals and discounts were made available both in-store and online, as a result, there was less incentive for US consumers to purchase goods at physical stores during the peak weekend.
  • During the Black Friday weekend alone, 142.2 million people in the US shopped online, while 124 million consumers shopped in brick and mortar stores, and 75.7 million people shopped both online and in physical stores.
  • There were exactly 93.2 million online shoppers on Black Friday, compared to 83.3 million online shoppers on Cyber Monday, 58.2 million online shoppers on Small Business Saturday, 49.7 million on Thanksgiving Day, and 43.1 million the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day.
  • People in the US "spent $142.5 billion online during the 2019 holiday season (November through December), up 13.1% year-over-year."
  • About 21% of US holiday shoppers stated that an easy-to-use website or app was the main reason they finalized a purchase they were initially apprehensive about.

Holiday Shopping: Not Just for the Holiday Season

  • It used to be that Black Friday was a day of mass shopping where people in the US sought out severely marked down goods. Now, Black Friday has become an "extended metaphor for the second half of November as more and more consumers are getting their on-sale shopping done a bit early."
  • In 2018, Black Keys surveyed more than 11,000 American consumers. The study revealed that only 20% of these respondents did their shopping on Black Friday.
  • Holiday sales are not "solely regulated to the holiday season." In 2019, Amazon's Prime Day event led to more than 175 million items being sold, resulting in total sales of over $2 billion. This was more than what the company saw in sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
  • Some competitors are seeing the success of Amazon's Prime Day event and are launching sales, now dubbed "Black Friday in July." These competitors saw a 64% spike in sales on Black Friday in July 2019.
  • A study by Bazzar Voice showed that 18% of consumers began their shopping during Black Friday in July. Over 1 in 10% completed most of their shopping during this period. Marketers have given these consumers the moniker, "SOBO shoppers" which means "seizes opportunity, buys often." These consumers are more interested in getting deals for products they can buy as gifts than waiting for the holidays to come before gifting.
  • A different study by Open X revealed that 50% of US holiday shoppers begin their holiday shopping efforts in September or earlier, while 38% shop between October and Cyber Monday, and 13% start shopping after Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
  • US shoppers are now actively seeking a seamless and flexible shopping experience, this explains why some begin or finish their holiday shopping earlier.

Seamless Cross-Channel Shopping

  • Recently, there has been a shift to buy more when shoppers purchase products via both online and offline channels. This has been fueled by the improvements made in the retail shopping experience, such as being able to easily order online and pick up in-stores.
  • Prior to the 2019 holiday shopping season, up to 63% of US shoppers mentioned that they would leverage a buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS) program.
  • As a result, retailers began streamlining both their online and in-person shopping experience. They have been able to provide a seamless online and offline shopping experience.
  • In 2019, US consumers who shopped both on digital channels and physical stores spent an average of $366,79, about 25% more than those who shopped through only one of these channels.
  • Up to 20% of consumers surveyed in a study reported that in-store pick up was the most significant reason why they purchased a product they were initially on the fence about buying.
  • Another study revealed that 70% of US consumers are willing to try cross-channel shopping methods. Retailers are recognizing that commerce is fundamentally omnichannel and it is their job to "cater to different shopping methods to eliminate as much friction from the shopping journey as possible."
  • During the 2019 holiday shopping season, retailers in the US saw a 50% increase in the use of buy-online-pick-up-in-store programs.

Sustainability: Its Importance to Holiday Shoppers

  • Nowadays, conversations around climate change are penetrating the everyday culture in the US leading to an increase in the affinity for sustainability in retail among US consumers.
  • Before the 2019 holiday shopping season, more than half of US consumers surveyed stated that they were more likely to buy holiday gifts from retailers offering eco-friendly options.
  • Although US consumers appreciate the convenience of shopping online, more consumers now value brand purpose.
  • Another survey of 1,500 US consumers showed that exactly 50% of respondents are willing to try "greener delivery options [in the 2019] holiday season, such as a slower shipping option or in-store pickup."
  • Around 47% of consumers in this survey mentioned that they wanted to shop with retailers that are environmentally conscious.
  • This trend is particularly prominent among millennials and Gen Z's. Roughly 89% of internet users between ages 18 to 23 are convinced that brands should prioritize social purpose. Almost 60% of Gen Z internet users in the US and Canada actively seek environmentally sustainable products.


  • The 2019 holiday season was the busiest the US has ever seen vis-à-vis shopping. Although Black Friday foot traffic dropped by 6.2%, it still topped Cyber Monday as the busiest in terms of online shopping.
  • In 2019, shopping via mobile phone was responsible for almost 67% of retail websites' traffic and over 50% of sales over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday holidays. Furthermore, "mobile phone conversion rates increased by 53% since the 2018 holiday season."
  • In a survey cited by Morning Consult, 34% of US consumers stated that they are more likely to shop online during the holidays, with 31% being more likely to shop in physical stores, and 30% shopping both online and in-store.
  • Online channels accounted for 59% of the total spend during the 2019 holiday season, with in-store making up 36%. On average, US holiday shoppers spend $879 while shopping online and $541 while shopping in physical stores.
  • Based on a survey by Deloitte, In 2019, 75% of holiday shoppers in the US used their desktop or laptop for holiday shopping. The top uses of this device include browsing for gifts or products online (81%), making a purchase (79%), checking or comparing prices (72%), reading product reviews (68%), and get product information such as pricing and specifications (65%).
  • About 52% of holiday shoppers used their smartphones for holiday shopping in 2019. The main uses of this device in relation to shopping include tracking order status (72%), browsing for products online (72%), making a purchase (70%), checking or comparing prices (67%), and getting store locations (64%).
  • Only 22% of US holiday shoppers used their tablet for holiday shopping. These shoppers used their tablets for browsing for products online (75%), making a purchase (67%), reading product reviews (64%), checking or comparing prices (64%), and get product information such as pricing (61%).
  • Purchases made via desktops accounted for $48.4 billion of online sales in the US over the holiday season, with smartphones being responsible for $39 billion of online sales, and tablets making up $4.1 billion of online sales.

Amount Spend on Gifts, Type & Recipients of the Gifts

  • US consumers planned to spend $1,048 on gifts and relevant items during the 2019 holiday season, broken down as "$659 on gifts for family and friends, $227 for non-gift holiday purchase, and $162 on purchases for themselves."
  • A different study showed that US holiday shoppers were expected to spend $511 on an average of 14.9 gifts during the 2019 holiday season. Of this figure, $129 was the expected average spend on gift cards, with $382 being the average spend on other types of gifts.
  • The people that these holiday shoppers buy gifts for include their spouse or partner (60%), children (59%), extended family (52%), parents (51%), and friends (44%).
  • The most common gifts that Americans say they purchase during the holidays are clothing (73%), gift cards (69%), food (60%), and books (48%).
  • The top destinations these individuals purchase these gifts from during the holiday season are Walmart (77%), Amazon (74%), Target (58%), and Dollar Tree (50%). Among high-income earners in the US, these destinations are slightly different. Their preferred places to do holiday shopping include Amazon (88%), Target (67%), Walmart (67%), and Kohl's (54%).
  • When doing holiday shopping, the factors that matter most to US consumers include lowest prices, free shipping, sales & discounts, fast delivery, product availability, customer reviews, estimated delivery date, and cross-store price comparisons, respectively.
  • The least important factors to these consumers are popularity on social media, the ability to share product pages, the ability to chat with the merchant, non-credit card payments, reviews from family and friends, and whether or not the brand is based in the US.


For this research, we leveraged studies by trusted consulting firms like Deloitte, articles by credible publications like Tech Crunch, and data intelligence platforms like Statista. Still, we were unable to find any information on the specific gifts that people in the US purchased during the 2019 holiday season, let alone the brands they get them from. We were only able to gather the main gift categories that are popular among these shoppers. We believe this report by eMarketer titled "Holiday Shopping 2019" most likely has this information but it costs $995 to purchase or a subscription.

In addition, please note that some of the data we have provided are estimates, as opposed to exact figures from the 2019 holiday season. This is because most relevant research on holiday shopping in 2019 - such as the exact amount holiday shoppers spent on gifts - have not been published yet. We found that research related to gifts in the 2018 holiday shopping season was mainly published in mid-2019. Thus, we expect the same to be done for 2019. We reckon that the reason data related to gifts in the holiday season is published late is because some of the gift buying occurs in December, during Christmas. Other important holidays like Black Friday involve buying products for personal use.