As Q4 looms, over half of global holiday shoppers (51%) are planning to shop local during the 2020 holiday period, according to new research from Rakuten Advertising.

The research, conducted among 8,673 adults across the globe, found that consumers have been to home-grown brands and close-by stores in recent months, with one in ten (11%) British consumers increasing their purchases from local businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The upcoming holiday season will be important for many retailers and businesses to drive online purchases as well as encouraging consumers back to the high street and shows the significance of investing in innovative online-to-offline (O2O) strategies to help improve footfall and sales.

Online vs offline – bridging the gap

In the run-up to Christmas this year, 43% of British consumers plan to predominately shop from domestic brands with 55% of UK households increasing spend with local businesses since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, with social distancing restrictions still in place, over half of UK consumers have indicated a desire to shop both online and in-store (51%) this holiday season, with a third (36%) likely to opt for click and collect options.

Just 21% of consumers feel it is unlikely they will venture onto the high street for gift shopping this year, and a third (32%) of Britons are willing to change when they shop in physical stores to ensure they stay safe and avoid large crowds.

As shoppers plan to return to the high street, innovative strategies, such as the O2O technology, will enable progressive retailers to bridge the gap between online and offline sales.

“Consumers have indicated a desire to combine visiting the high street with shopping online this year, meaning connecting the online and offline experience will be key for the success of retailers. Retailers should view online and in-store as one entity, and leverage data insights from one to fuel the other. They can also drive visits to the high street using online advertising. One way brands can do this is through the use of hyper-targeted display campaigns. These campaigns can be used to update consumers on local store information and emphasise how they are keeping people safe,” commented Anthony Capano, managing director, international, at Rakuten Advertising.

Consumers are also increasingly turning to marketplaces to search for gifts, with 48% of shoppers now using online marketplaces such as Amazon as the primary source of inspiration during peak shopping. Referrals from friends and family (46%) and Amazon reviews (28%) are also hugely influential throughout the journey to purchase.

“The success of marketplaces can be put down to accessibility, curation, community and efficiency. Consumers are using marketplaces as a way to search and locate what they need instantly and conveniently. For retailers to be successful they need to drive consumers to their own e-commerce environment, and retailers can leverage many of the marketplace aspects to do this via their publisher partners,” Capano continued.

“Publishers support the discovery phase in many ways, whether it be the curation of gift guides or reward and loyalty sites that enable consumers to search by product or category. For retailers, having their brand and products visible on publisher sites that allow consumers to easily find them will be key to driving discovery over the holidays. Publishers can work with local retailers to provide an opportunity to reach new markets beyond the high street store, as well as connect with customers online who are researching gifts before buying.”

Social game plan

Whilst the influence of recommendations across social media has taken a backseat to marketplaces for gift inspiration in the lead up to the 2020 holiday season, social media platforms are still important destinations for holiday shopping, with Facebook the most predominant (38%) followed by Whatsapp (35%) Instagram (31%) and YouTube (27%).

“We expect the majority of online purchases to take place on mobile this holiday season, and social media remains an important place for brands to reach consumers. Investing in low-risk upper funnel strategies, with platforms that align with their own brand values, is an effective way for brands to reach and engage consumers with relevant and timely ads,” Capano concluded.