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Online Trends

Published December 7th 2022

The Biggest Consumer Shopping Trends for Christmas 2022

Are consumers cutting back on buying Christmas gifts this year? And of the gifts we do buy, which are the most popular? We have the data.

Christmas is spending time with loved ones in a place where everything smells like cinnamon. A fire crackling in the background (in a fireplace or on TV – yes, it's a thing). Snow outside. Baking cookies. Cheesy Christmas movies. And let's not forget about the presents. 

Whether you’re a strategist and have done all of your gift shopping already or you’re more of a December-22nd-is-still-plenty-of-time-to-shop kind of person, Christmas shopping is usually a big part of the Christmas experience.

How are people planning to spend their money on presents this year? And how has their shopping behavior changed compared to last year?

Let’s have a look at what online consumer conversations can tell us.

Are people looking forward to Christmas? 

In a recent Brandwatch Bulletin, we looked into whether people care about Christmas this year. We compared the online conversations with the conversations from the past few years.

While we were off to a slow start in the beginning of November, it seems interest in Christmas is picking up. Although we aren’t anywhere near the 2020 levels, it seems people do still talk about Christmas. But how do they feel about it?

With Consumer Research, we analyzed the expressed emotions in online consumer conversations around Christmas shopping from June 1 to November 20, 2022. As much as 44% of emotion-categorized mentions are joyful.

So, still the season to be jolly. 

People in these conversations either express their love of the Christmas season in general or they’re happy they’ve found the perfect gift for their loved ones.

But things are still less jolly than last year. Joyful conversations decreased by two percentage points compared to 2021. This year, people express a little more sadness and even disgust. This is mainly due to inflation. People are stressed about money and some worry about not being able to buy their kids a Christmas gift. 

How is this affecting their shopping behavior? 

Inflation has got people deal-hunting

Consumers seem to have become more price-sensitive and are looking for attractive deals to save money. Deals are big this holiday shopping season. Companies offer discounts to attract more price-sensitive customers and empty out their full inventories. Just because Black Friday and Cyper Monday are over doesn’t mean there won’t be even bigger discounts coming closer to the holidays.

With Brandwatch Consumer Research, we trawled through 40k mentions around Christmas shoppings and deals between June 1 – November 20, 2022. That’s a 9% uptick in mentions compared to last year (June 1 – November 20, 2021).

As holidays are coming nearer, the conversations are picking up, and in October 2022, there were 20% more discussions around deals and discounts than in October 2021. Black Friday is the main topic in those conversations. People seem to be paying closer attention to what brands are putting on sale this year. Amazon reacted to the demand early and held its Amazon Prime Day on October 11, 2022, which led to a high peak in online conversations in October, as shown in the graph above.

Support for local stores and small businesses 

The pandemic and lockdowns gave online shopping a considerable boost while small businesses and brick-and-mortar stores faced enormous challenges. In those times, people were raising awareness of small and local brands. Is buying locally and at small stores still relevant for this year's Christmas shopping season? 

A look at the online conversations shows that shopping locally and supporting small businesses is even more relevant this year than in 2021. Online discussions are over 20% higher in 2022 (June 1 - November 20, 2022) compared to last year (June 1 - November 20, 2021). Handmade and decor are the two most mentioned product categories in those conversations. It seems consumers turn to smaller brands for those unique presents. The most mentioned online marketplace is Etsy.

Less jewelry and toys, more experiences

What will lie under the Christmas trees this year? There are the classics in terms of what goes on the shopping list. Things like clothes, books, and consumer tech are the things most people mention in Christmas presents conversations. They also dominate the top three positions in the Christmas shopping discussions from 2021, 2020, and 2019. You still can’t go wrong with a pair of cozy socks, an entertaining book, or the newest, shiny gadget, it seems. 

Compared to last season, what are some of the differences in online consumer conversations?

A lot of countries have lifted their COVID restrictions in 2022: people are back at the office and going to concerts and other events with large crowds. But the aftermath of all that time spent at home can still be seen in 2022. While during lockdown we bought ourselves nice things to make our homes cozier, 2022 has a different focus: we’re socializing again and experiencing the world. 

This hunger for experiences and activities outside our four walls can also be seen in the online conversations around Christmas shopping. Talk about giving an experience has increased by 11% compared to 2021. Other popular gift ideas are trips, music events, and spa and wellness experiences. 

The presents people don’t talk about so much this year are jewelry and toys. Online conversations around jewelry and Christmas shopping have decreased by 30% and mentions around toys are 17% lower than last year. This could imply that consumers are less likely to buy those items. According to NPD, toy sales in the UK in the first nine months of 2022 were down by 5% and this drop might continue over the holidays.

Conversations around consumer tech and gaming products have the highest percentage of negative mentions at 51% and 50% respectively. Of those negative mentions, the emotion we see the most is anger. Money and high prices are dominant topics in those angry consumer tech conversations. As for the angry gaming conversations, they are mostly about next-gen video game consoles and how frustrating it is that they are sold out everywhere.

Happy Christmas to my dog

During the pandemic, a lot of people got themselves a pet. In the US alone, 9 million dogs were acquired by households in 2020 and 2021. And these pets are getting spoiled this Christmas. 39% respondents in a survey from OnePoll say they always buy Christmas presents for their pets, planning to spend an average of 50 dollars this year.

The social data shows us who people mention they are shopping presents for.. Children make up the biggest chunk of the mentions, followed by people’s parents, and then their friends. But 8% talk about buying Christmas presents for their pets. 

In fact, mentions of buying Christmas presents for our fluffy friends have increased by 70% compared to before the pandemic, from just under 13k mentions in 2019 to 22k mentions in 2022. Here comes Santa Paws.

Buying Christmas gifts for pets, it seems, gives people more of a warm, fuzzy feeling compared to when they shop for their other loved ones: 48% of sentiment-categorized mentions are positive. Only conversations around shopping gifts for friends have a higher percentage of positive mentions (54%). The most popular gifts for pets are toys, clothes, and treats.

Summary

Let’s sum up the key findings, shall we? 

While off to a sluggish start, conversations about Christmas are picking up. But it’s less joyful than in 2021. Rising prices and inflation takes its toll on consumers. Deals play a much bigger role this season and we’ll likely see more sales, even at peak holiday shopping season. Clothes, books, and consumer tech products are the most popular gifts. Jewelry and toys, however, are less talked about. Giving experiences like spa days or concert tickets is more popular this year. And finally, conversations about buying presents for pets have increased by 70% since before the pandemic. 

Read more about consumer trends

Want to read more about the latest consumer trends? We partnered up with HubSpot and looked at what consumers expect from brands. In the State of U.S. Consumer Trends Report, we cover:

  • How purchasing habits have changed
  • Which brand activities influence buying decisions  
  • The relevance of communities for brand loyalty
  • Why consumers are buying NFTs
  • And much more

You can read the consumer trends report here for free.

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