Online discovery and sales are playing a bigger role in holiday shopping

A report from Google also finds concerns about sustainability and equity are influencing decisions about gift purchases.

Two-thirds of Canadian holiday shoppers will browse for gift ideas online, rather than in-store, with digital-focused tactics and price plays having more of an impact on the overall shopping journey.

That’s according to Google Canada’s latest Holiday Insights, which also reveal that 58% of Canadian holiday shoppers will shop more online for the holidays this year and 63% will confirm an item is in stock online before going to buy it.

“This new consumer behaviour where we’re increasingly dependent on discovering things online to either buy online or buy instore, that behaviour has stuck,” says Eric Morris, managing director for retail at Google Canada. “As a result, we will continue to see ecommerce and more broadly digitally-influenced sales play a bigger part of the shopping journey and retailers’ success this holiday season.”

The search engine giant is also identifying an emergent type of values-conscious consumers: 34% of Canadian holiday shoppers said they will shop businesses that share their values this holiday season, while 22% of Canadian holiday shoppers report they will choose what they buy or who they buy from based on whether it’s environmentally sustainable. Morris also reports seeing a dramatic search increase for second hand stores and second hand clothing.

Morris tells strategy that since the beginning of the pandemic, and now as we emerge from it, issues of racial justice, as well as supporting local, have never been more important. “We’ve still seen an exponential rise in search globally at Google, for people looking for businesses that are owned by underrepresented groups, whether it’s Indigenous in Canada or Black-owned businesses in the U.S.,” Morris says. And searches for local businesses doubled over the year, with 38% of Canadians reporting they will shop small businesses this holiday season.

Searching for items for the home, Morris reports, is at historically high levels and he cites furniture as a category that we are particularly keen on, as we’ve dealt with lockdowns.

With more retailers turning to ecommerce this year, consumers have more choice than ever before when buying online, and 45% of holiday shoppers are open to shopping new stores and brands this holiday season.

Not only are Canadians shoppers more open, they’re more open to spending earlier: 32% of those surveyed are early birds and have already begun their holiday shopping, with 44% reporting they plan to start earlier than they did in 2020, due in large part to concerns over the stability of the supply chain.

Retailers, Morris says, are being overt when it comes communicating messages about product availability and encouraging early buys.