When it comes to retail purchase decisions in the 2014 holiday shopping season, loyalty has continued to play a critical role with 66% of consumers planning to shop at their favourite retailers, 44% giving gifts purchased from brands they are loyal to and - to help stretch their budgets even further - 42% planning to use loyalty points to help fund their holiday shopping. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

The study, which surveyed 1,000 American consumers, found holiday gift budgets are up over 2013 at US$770, with generosity being lowest for pets and bosses at US$10 each. With only 50% of consumers planning to stick to their budget, there's lots of opportunity for brands to influence customers and to increase share of wallet.

"Less than one-third of consumers think customer service is better during the holidays," said Rob Daniel, EVP for Bond Brand Loyalty. "This represents a great opportunity for brands to invest in unique differentiators such as VIP shopping events, gift wrapping, valet parking and loyalty member privileges."

Among the study's main findings:

  1. Brand loyalty plays an important role in shopping decisions:
    • 66% of consumers will shop at their favourite retailers;
    • 44% buy their favourite brands as gifts for others;
    • 42% use loyalty points to fund their shopping;
    • 41% choose retailers and brands where they can earn points.
  2. Holiday shopping is not necessarily a social event, as almost 60% of Americans do not view holiday shopping as a time to connect and bond with friends or family.
  3. How much are they spending and when?
    • 68% of consumers will shop on Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday, and will spend 45% of their holiday budget during these two days;
    • US$770 is the average gift budget, with men spending US$815 and women US$735; Men will spend US$78 on themselves and women US$50;
    • Pets and bosses are not the beneficiaries of holiday generosity - they are at the bottom of people's holiday budgets, at US$10 each;
    • 17% of consumers will re-gift this year, the highest being millennials at 27%;
    • Only 50% of Americans stick to their holiday budget;
    • 24% shop all year for gifts, 38% shop in the last month, and 7% in the last week.
  4. The impact of the online channel is significant:
    • 53% of holiday shopping is done in-store, 29% shop online (desktop/laptop), and 7% shop on mobile or tablet;
    • Research on purchases is being conducted almost equally in-store (57%) and online (54%);
    • Advice from friends and family ties with Google searches at 44%. Research using flyers is next at 27%, followed by television at 26%, social media at 25% and magazines at 18%.

"This study highlights the importance of building meaningful engagement and experiences with digitally empowered customers", concluded Bob Macdonald, president and CEO for Bond Brand Loyalty. "Brands that deliver a differentiated and consistent shopping experience across all channels will not only come out on top this season, they will build trust, advocacy and long-lasting brand loyalty for months and years to come."