holiday shopping

Instead of focusing on the biggest sale periods of the year, retailers should be launching their holiday strategy right now, according to experts from Affirm. A new consumer survey from the payments company shows that shoppers are not waiting for major sale days around Thanksgiving weekend or Christmas — 47 percent have already started buying gifts online.

The survey asked 2,000 U.S. consumers about their holiday shopping plans and found that sale discounts are no longer the determining factor in when shoppers will begin their purchasing. Instead, nearly 70 percent of consumers reported that they would be more likely to buy an item now than wait for a greater discount during Black Friday or Cyber Monday, which suggests that the 47 percent figure will increase soon.

Experts attribute this shift in part to the growing popularity of e-commerce year-round, with shoppers increasingly likely to take advantage of convenience over savings. Additional payment tools like “buy now, pay later” or “pay in installments” can make these purchases more appealing and affordable to consumers, even without the added discounts of major sale days.

This decreases their reliance on the major sale days and expands the holiday shopping period — which retailers can take advantage of, if they move quickly. If retailers don’t want to extend their sale period to capture these early shoppers, Affirm recommends utilizing a payment solution to help customers stretch their budget further; 38 percent said they would still purchase a non-sale item, if they could pay over time.

“As shoppers begin to purchase the things that they want, or need, to make their holiday special, we must arm them with payment solutions that enable them to spend and budget responsibly,” said Silvija Martincevic, chief commercial officer at Affirm. “It is our hope that by offering consumers a more transparent and flexible alternative to credit cards, and honoring our commitment to never charge late or hidden fees, more people will be able to buy gifts for their loved ones this holiday season.”

While consumers are likely to spend less on travel this year, with 41 percent reporting that they have canceled their holiday travel plans, the change in shopping habits bodes well for consumer goods — and apparel in particular. Of that 41 percent, three-quarters are planning to put that travel money toward gift purchases instead; 27 percent of all consumers plan to spend more on apparel and accessories this year, compared to last year.

Despite this optimism, retailers should be prepared for customers to be savvier about how they spend and therefore take action to preempt cart abandonment. Of those surveyed, 43 percent reported that hidden fees at checkout were the “biggest blow” to budgets. By being transparent about any additional fees, retailers can help shoppers avoid negative surprises at the point of purchase.

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