A recent consumer survey from IBM Corp. shows that shoppers worldwide are trading reduced pandemic concerns for rising stress about economic conditions such as inflation, gas prices, and supply chain delays.
In response, consumers are making their holiday travel and shopping plans earlier than usual and are seeking out flexible return and rebate policies to keep their options open, the Armonk, New York-based computer giant said in its annual global holiday shopping and travel report from IBM's Institute for Business Value (IBV).
The study surveyed more than 12,000 adults during the month of August across nine countries; Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Although the factors acting on consumers are shifting, their overall impact continues a long-running trend as the traditional winter peak shopping season flattens into a broader curve across the calendar.
As opposed to launching a buying spree starting on Black Friday, 58% of consumers surveyed plan to start holiday shopping before November, compared to 44% last year. And almost two in three plan to pre-order this holiday season to get their products on-time with guaranteed prices, IBM found. And to find more forgiving purchasing terms, nearly seven in ten respondents surveyed said they will opt for brands or retailers that offer free cancellations, order changes, and returns.
Despite those shifts, spending is forecasted to rise. The IBM study found that 2022 shopping budgets are up 8% over 2021, and that post-pandemic holiday travel budgets are up by almost half.
"According to the survey results, in 2022, consumers are hoping to re-embrace holiday traditions they've had to alter for the past two years," Karl Haller, Partner at the Consumer Center of Competency Leader, IBM Consulting, said in a release. "They're starting their shopping and travel planning earlier but also want to hedge their bets with options like free returns or cancellations. To adapt to these changes in consumer behavior, retailers will need better visibility and traceability across product inventory, fulfillment, and returns.”