Covid-19 has caused Christmas to begin earlier than usual in the UK, with over a quarter (27%) of consumers planning to start Christmas shopping and preparations earlier than they did last year. That’s according to new research published today by eBay Advertising, which reveals the expected impact of the pandemic on this year’s festivities and highlights how new interests adopted during the lockdown could influence shopping lists.
According to a survey of 2,064 UK consumers who celebrate Christmas, over a third (34%) have already bought some Christmas-related items this year, including Christmas cards (17%), wrapping paper (16%) Christmas presents (13%) and Christmas decorations (8%). One in every twenty-five (4%) respondents even admitted to having already forked out on festive clothes and accessories – suggesting that, for some, Christmas spirit is well underway.
This behaviour has been confirmed by eBay insights into the shopping behaviour of the 32m monthly users on ebay.co.uk, with 44% more searches for ‘Christmas’ or ‘xmas’ made on the site from April to May this year compared to the same period in 2019.
Meanwhile, purchases are predicted to be more passion-driven, with the research revealing that over half (56%) of consumers surveyed have taken up a new hobby or interest during the lockdown, and 31% observed a family member doing the same. Of those who have taken up a new hobby or interest, three quarters (75%) intend to continue with it for at least the rest of the year – meaning these interests are likely to wield influence over Christmas wish lists.
The two most popular new hobbies taken up during the lockdown were gardening and baking – a fifth (20%) of those surveyed said that they’d got into gardening, and the same number said they’d developed an interest in baking. On ebay.co.uk, searches for ‘gardening’ peaked during week five of the lockdown, up 137% from the week before lockdown began, while searches for ‘baking’ peaked during week six, up 149% compared to the same reference point.
Harmony Murphy, head of advertising UK at eBay, comments: “In a year steeped with uncertainty, the only thing we know for sure is that this year’s Christmas will be an incredibly important retail milestone. And, with so many events, occasions and gatherings cancelled this year, it’s easy to understand why Brits are already excited and planning ahead for a more thoughtful and meaningful celebration.
“However, with so much having changed this year – from plans and priorities to interests and incomes – brands now face a huge challenge as they look to make their Christmas campaigns relevant to a transformed consumer. If they haven’t already, marketers must start planning and putting Christmas strategies into action – and use the freshest insights and smartest technology to reach the right people with the most meaningful messages. Precise, real-time targeting tools, such as the new eBay Advanced Audience Technology (eAAT), have huge potential to help brands to expertly target in-market shoppers this Christmas based on proven passions and interests.”
Unsurprisingly the research also indicated that financial insecurity could lead to shoppers making more thoughtful purchases this Christmas. 37% of respondents said that income or financial security was a top factor that will influence what they decide to buy or how they spend on gifts and celebrations in the run up to Christmas. And, while last year UK consumers spent an average of £551 on Christmas shopping and celebrations, this year almost half (44%) of consumers are planning to spend the same this year, a third (31%) plan to spend less.
As consumers look ahead to Christmas, 57% of respondents said that one of their top priorities is to spend time with loved ones. Meanwhile, 37% intend on putting more thought into the presents they give this year, compared to previous years.
Pauline Robson, managing partner at MediaCom, commented: “Whilst the buzzword as we went into lockdown was ‘unprecedented’, the word as we emerge is ‘flexibility’. The approach to Christmas this year is definitely one of caution, flexibility and adaptability. People’s habits and behaviours have changed and are adapting as restrictions ease and the trajectory of the virus over the coming months is uncertain. Scenario planning is key to ensure that we can adapt to any changes that may happen.
“From an audience perspective it really can’t be one size fits all – there have been many different lived experiences of lockdown and there are many different approaches to coming out of it. These will, to a large extent, shape the kind of Christmas that people will have. Up to date audience data and insight are crucial to ensure that Christmas campaigns can flex to changing consumer needs and will resonate with audiences.”
In a bid to support brands during this time of uncertainty, eBay has launched a new report – Christmas spend trends: the path to profit during a pandemic – outlining insights into consumers’ evolving attitudes and priorities and offering actionable advice to help advertisers ensure this Christmas is a commercial success.