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Holiday Shopping Could Be More Social This Year

Millennials and Gen Z show an affinity for social commerce

Based on consumer surveys, the holiday season is shaping up to be more mobile-driven and social media-influenced than in years past. 

According to PwC, the 2018 holiday shopping period is on track to be one of the strongest since 2005. More than eight in 10 (84%) US consumers say they will spend the same or more as last year for an average of $1,250. Interestingly, average holiday spend doesn't vary radically between the 36% of consumers that characterize themselves as spenders ($1,255) vs. the 64% who say they are savers ($1,248). 

Multichannel consumers are thought to be more valuable than single-channel shoppers, and this was the case in the PwC study. Three-quarters of internet users plan to shop digitally and in store during the holidays with an average spend of $1,379. Online-only shoppers will spend less ($1,075) and those shopping in store exclusively will spend even less ($742).

Mobile will likely play a larger role this year, and more so with younger consumers. Nearly one-quarter (24%) said they would use mobile payment in-store, a 6% increase over 2017, and 16% plan to pay by a wearable device, up 16% year-over-year. Digitally, 39% said they would use "buy buttons" and 25% via shoppable photos to transact on smartphones.

Millennials (ages 23-36) and Gen Z  (ages 17-22) had an even higher likelihood of using so-called buy buttons (57% vs. 56%) and shoppable photos (42% vs. 34%) during the holidays. 

Social shopping behavior like buying through Instagram or Pinterest has yet to take hold in a major way, so these figures are slightly surprising. In a PayPal holiday survey conducted last year, 28% of US internet users ages 18 to 55 would consider purchasing through social media while holiday shopping, and 19% would consider it in the next five years. The majority (53%), however, weren't interested. 

However, in last year's holiday survey, PwC also found social platforms were highly influential with teens and Gen Z, so social commerce's success could hinge on hooking these younger internet users. 

Brands as well as social platforms themselves haven't given up on the idea. Both Snapchat and Instagram are trying to monetize Stories. Instagram is reportedly working on a standalone shopping app, and Snapchat launched a visual search feature in partnership with Amazon last week.