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One in four shoppers would trust robots to buy their gifts given a choice

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of British shoppers have no plans to change their Christmas shopping habits this year to ‘buy British’, despite the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.  One in four (23 per cent), however, said they are now more likely to buy UK merchandise over gifts sold by non UK companies, given the choice. The consumer survey commissioned by SAS also found that the 18- to 29-year-old age group is the most patriotic, with one-third more likely to buy UK merchandise than any other age groups.

Retailers can be assured that consumer spending should be in line with last year this Christmas, regardless of uncertainty over the value of the pound in recent months.  Seven in 10 plan to spend around the same as last year, with 14 per cent looking to spend more and 16 per cent less. The biggest spenders are the 18- to 29-year-olds, with a quarter planning to spend more than £500 on gifts, compared to the majority of the population (61 per cent) that plan to spend somewhere between £100 and £500.

In line with last year, as many as one in five British consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, making it more popular than the week before Christmas (17 per cent) and Cyber Monday (11 per cent). Shopping on Christmas Eve (5 per cent) and Boxing Day (3 per cent) have fallen completely out of favour with British consumers.

Black Friday shopping is most popular with the young: 42 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds will be parting with their cash that day, with the percentage falling steadily among older age groups to just 12 per cent for those aged 60-69 and four per cent for the over 70s. 

One in four would let robots buy their gifts 

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic assistance continue to transform the ecommerce market. One in four (23 per cent) shoppers would happily let robots choose, purchase and deliver Christmas gifts to their friends and family, given the choice. This figure rises to 51 per cent for 18- to 29-year-olds, declining steadily to just 12 per cent for over 70s.

“This is an exciting time for retailers as we see for the first time a real transformation driven by AI and robotics,” said Andrew Fowkes, Head of Retail Centre of Excellence, SAS UK & Ireland. “Data analytics holds the key for retailers to gain competitive advantage. It provides accurate insights for store owners to make smarter decisions, whether it’s product recommendations or forecasting their stock inventory. Shoppers will also value the convenience and time saving benefits, improving brand loyalty beyond the holiday season.”

With robots set to play a part in the future of consumer buying patterns, 17 per cent of shoppers are already using mobile payment systems, such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Wallet, to buy gifts. 

The power of suggestion – retailers need to get personal

Smart retailers are already taking advantage of the consumer data they currently hold to make faster, more informed recommendations to shoppers. Four in 10 (37 per cent) of consumers get gift ideas from retailers’ suggestions, and nearly half (49 per cent) regularly or sometimes make a purchase following a retailer’s suggestion.

However, the vast majority (86 per cent) of shoppers say these suggestions are still only moderately or not at all accurate to their current lifestyle or shopping preference.

“Product recommendations are essential for retailers and can significantly improve conversion in today’s competitive market, both online and in-store. Yet time and time again, many fail to make use of the data available to them to make informed choices,” Fowkes added. “What this demonstrates is the importance of personalisation: well targeted offers are vital if retailers are to get their share of the Christmas wallet.”

Don’t run out of stock – or customers will switch 

With the economy the biggest influencer on the Christmas wallet, getting a bargain is ranked as the most important factor, followed by brand loyalty and the returns policy. However, retailers should be wary of fickle shoppers. When a desired item is out of stock online, as many as two-thirds of consumers (67 per cent) will go to a different website to find the gift they want.

“Stock availability and returns policy are crucial for retailers in the Christmas shopping season,” said Fowkes. “Most retailers have started preparing for this critical trading quarter as far as a year in advance, but even the best laid plans often go awry. Knowing what consumers want to buy and being able to offer the right product at a fair price will set a retailer apart from its competitors. This is even more important on a single trading day, such as Black Friday, when consumers rush to ecommerce stores for the best bargains.”

The majority of people (65 per cent) would shop online via PC, primarily to avoid long queues and busy traffic on the high street. In comparison, 59 per cent of consumers prefer to buy in-store, while 17 per cent choose to shop online via tablet and 16 per cent opt for online shopping via the mobile. Retailers should also prepare for a spike in web and mobile traffic on busy days like Black Friday and take steps to prevent their websites or mobile apps crashing due to high demand.

Books, music and cosmetics are top stocking fillers this year

Books, music and movies, along with cosmetics and fragrances, are what most shoppers (50 per cent) plan to give this year. This is followed by toys and games (47 per cent) and money (45 per cent). Other popular present ideas include gift cards (43 per cent), apparel and accessories (41 per cent), food and beverage (39 per cent), household goods (22 per cent), consumer electronics (17 per cent), homemade gifts and baked goods (17 per cent) and sporting goods (13 per cent).

For more details on consumer attitudes and shopping behaviour at Christmas, download the SAS holiday shopper survey.