The Most Wonderful Time of the Year—For Shopping!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year—For Shopping!

Winter is here, and for many Americans, that means the holiday hunt for gifts (and deals) has officially begun. Holiday shopping begins earlier and earlier each passing year. In 2015, half of Americans had started their holiday shopping by Nov. 2.This year, consumers have maintained pace, where 51% had started their holiday shopping by Oct. 28, and 55% had started by Nov. 11. Thirty-nine percent of consumers planned to shop for the holidays on Thanksgiving evening, up from 34% in 2015.

With the holidays (and in-laws) officially here, it can be a stressful time of year—both for consumers and retailers alike. The pressure that retailers face to drive demand and revenue can be staggering. With consumer electronics topping the list of desired gifts, carriers and hardware manufacturers are compelled to devise deals, promotions and distribution strategies to address growing holiday demand for devices. The top items consumers are planning to purchase this holiday season are apparel (61%), consumer electronics (56%), and video games (46%). With that in mind, Nielsen studied consumer purchase intent for smartphones, tablets and smartwatches during the fall and winter holiday shopping season.

According to Nielsen’s fourth-quarter 2016 Mobile Insights Holiday Shopping Report, 14% of U.S. mobile subscribers are planning to purchase a phone or tablet this holiday season, with 10% planning to purchase a smartwatch. Those looking to purchase a mobile phone likely started their holiday shopping early. A quarter of holiday device shoppers conveyed a desire to purchase their device before Thanksgiving, while 29% intended to purchase during the Thanksgiving weekend sales. Only 20% plan to purchase in December. On the other hand, holiday shoppers looking for tablets or smartwatches, expressed a much stronger inclination to purchase from Thanksgiving throughout December.

Even though the holidays are a time for giving to others, many take the opportunity to buy for themselves as well. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of consumers who intend to purchase a mobile phone are buying them for themselves.

Sixty-three percent of people are planning to purchase a smart watch for themselves, while one-third of consumers purchasing a tablet are buying as a gift for their children. Wireless headphones are another coveted gift this year, with 13% of consumers intending to purchase a pair.

Americans looking to purchase a phone, tablet or smartwatch during the holidays are opting to research from the comfort of their couch. Retail websites are the most popular source for research. Fifty-four percent of consumers look to these sites for information on holiday device deals. What sort of deals do consumers look for? Regardless of the device, buy-one-get-one free and instant rebate offers are the top motivators of holiday purchases.

Yet, when ready to make the actual purchase, many holiday shoppers are inclined to buy in store. When deciding on a mobile phone, 57% of consumers purchase in store, perhaps demoing the phone first. Demoing seems less crucial when purchasing a tablet or smartwatch, where the majority still purchase the device over the internet.

With Christmas almost here, the shopping frenzy is at a fever pitch. With Nielsen’s findings, carriers and device manufacturers can anticipate consumers’ purchase intent, preferences and appetite for devices this holiday season. Key insights around device-focused holiday shopping behaviors ensure both carriers and device manufacturers can more effectively time and place advertisements and deals, as well as market the right products to the right buyer.


Nielsen’s Mobile Insights is a monthly survey of 30,000+ mobile subscribers aged 13+ in the U.S. Data is collected primarily online, via in-app mobile and a supplemental Spanish language landline phone survey fielded among Hispanics aged 18+. All data is weighted to be nationally representative of the US wireless subscriber population. Questions for the Mobile Insights 2016 Holiday Shopping Report were fielded as part of the broader online Mobile Insights survey in October 2016; respondents opted in to these questions.