How Gen Z & Millennials Are Shopping This Holiday Season, In 4 Stats

Nov 02 2021

The holiday shopping season is already in full swinghere are four stats showing how young consumers plan to shop this year…

The pandemic caused an unprecedented 2020 holiday shopping season full of financial uncertainty, lack of comfort, and obstacles. But while a lot has changed in the last year, 2021 is bringing its own set of challenges.  As young consumers start to become more comfortable going back into the stores, reports of shipping delays related to COVID and the previous blockage of the Suez Canal are all over the news, as brands encourage families and young shoppers to do their shopping as early as they can, and launch their holiday shopping guides earlier than usual.

According to the Globe Trade Association, shopper spending from November to December is expected to experience 8.9% growth from last year’s spending, while retail could pull nearly $923 billion in sales, while YPulse’s recent holiday shopping plans behavioral report found that Gen Z and Millennials are planning to spend much more than last year. Our recent Holiday Plans Unwrapped webinar shared some of the biggest takeaways on young consumers’ shopping plans and budgets, but if you don’t have time to watch the replay, here are four stats to give you insight into how Gen Z and Millennials are planning to buy this season: 

Young consumers are most likely to do their holiday shopping equally online and in-store.

Of course, COVID completely changed the way Gen Z and Millennials shop, and  last year’s data showed that more than half of young shoppers weren’t comfortable holiday shopping in stores because of the virus. But with vaccinations rolled out and most lockdown restrictions lifted, in-store shopping is expected to make a return this year. YPulse’s data shows that more young people will be shopping in-store this year, but that hybrid shopping will really be ruling the season. Forty-four percent of 13-39-year-olds tell us they’ll do their shopping equally online and in-store,  and 38% say they’ll do most of their holiday shopping online. Of course, some are still cautious when it comes to the virus, with  37% saying they don’t feel comfortable holiday shopping in-stores because of the Coronavirus. Last year, we saw many brands launch features to make it easier for shoppers to make purchases online—and shoppers still want that flexibility and convenience. Discounts/bargains, “buy online, pick up in store” options, curbside pickup, and other convenience shopping options are poised to still be popular this holiday shopping season. But with online shopping comes concerns…


More than half of young consumers are concerned about COVID-related shipping delays.

Shipping delays have become this year’s biggest holiday shopping story. Headlines about supply chain shortages and potential empty shelves have been dominating the news, and retailers have been putting the pressure on to get holiday shopping done early. Well, young consumers have gotten the message:. Fifty-nine percent of 13-39-year-olds say they are worried COVID-19 related shipping will make it hard to shop for the presents they want to give. Retailers including IKEA, Walmart, Home Depot, andTarget have been taking the costly step of chartering their own container ships to sidestep the global shipping crisis.” Meanwhile, Target, Amazon, and Walmart are among the retailers that unveiled their Black Friday holiday gift guides and deals at the beginning of last month to help people plan and get ahead of the holiday shopping rush. Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma leaned into the early holiday marketing by giving shoppers a sneak peak at their holiday collections via email messaging. Klarna research found that 50% of shoppers are starting their holiday shopping early to ensure product availability, while 29% of 13-39-year-olds tell us they plan to shop earlier than last year—and some young shoppers seem to have been taking advantage of the early rollouts: 36% of 13-39-year-olds planned to start October, while 23% plan told us they planned to start shopping in early November.

The majority of young shoppers get their gift ideas for others online.
Gen Z and Millennials aren’t just planning to do much of their shopping online, it’s also where they are getting their gift ideas. Seventy-six percent of 13-39-year-olds tell us they get gift ideas for others online, and a report from Brightpearl.com found that 68% of Gen Z consumers planned to use social commerce tools to shop for holiday gifts—with Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and YouTube as the top five alternative places they plan to shop from. Our research also shows that 67% of 13-39-year-olds say they would like suggestions from brands on holiday gift ideas—and many online and social platforms have ramped up their options for young users to be able to actually shop by allowing users to shop directly from them. For example, as shoppable content becomes more popular with young consumers, YouTube is kicking off their week-long live shopping event, “YouTube Holiday Stream and Shop,” this month so viewers can shop new products, unlock limited-time offers, and engage with creators and participants through Q&As and polls, while Facebook and Instagram brought back their live shopping experience for the holidays with Benefit Cosmetics, Cocokind, Macy’s, Paintbox Nails, Tanya Taylor, Ulta Beauty, Vuori, and Walmart among the brands hosting live shopping events on the social networks to feature the latest gifts, exclusive deals, and tips hosted by brand experts, celebrities, and creators. 

More young consumers are using pay-in-installment services to shop for the holidays this year.
We’ve been tracking the rise of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services like Afterpay and Klarna, and how companies like PayPal have been launching their own services—and Kaledio Intelligence reported that the industry is expected to facilitate $680 billion worth of transactions worldwide by 2025. Our recent shopping and retail behavioral research found that 29% of 13-39-year-olds have used payment installment services, while 36% say they’re interested in using one. During the holidays last year, 34% of 13-39-year-olds said they would be using pay-in-installment services to shop for the holidays and buy what they need—and that number increased to 41% this year. Ahead of this year’s holiday shopping season, Target added BNPL options on their site in October with Affirm and Sezzle, while Amazon teamed up with Affirm to integrate their own BNPL option at the end of August. Even before this year’s holiday shopping season and the pandemic, brands and retailers were already making BNPL services more accessible to their customers especially as it was reported that it was helping young shoppers budget—and move away from credit cards.

YPulse Business users can access the full Holiday Shopping Plans behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Business account? Find out more here.

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