The 2016 Holiday Gift Giving Quandary: So Many Choices, So Little Time

By: Hal Lawton, Senior Vice President, eBay North America

This stretched holiday season, time-crunched shoppers face more complex decisions than ever.

Hoverboards were all the rage last year. Star Wars’ BB-8 flew off the virtual shelves. Frozen commanded everyone’s attention before that. Tablets, smartphones and fitness trackers have headlined recent holidays, all no-brainer gift ideas that removed the decision-making burden for last minute shoppers.

With the holidays upon us, retailers have been stocking their shelves – both virtual and real – with everything from toys to clothes to smartphones to smart fitness trackers.

However, today’s reality is that people have more choice and more ways to shop than ever before, but far less time. It has become harder than ever for them to find the perfect gifts that fit their budgets.  

Last year, about two-thirds of Americans gave up on finding the perfect gift for someone due to lack of time or inspiration, according to eBay’s 2016 Holiday Survey of U.S. consumers. Also, 81 percent of those surveyed agree that finding the perfect gift becomes more difficult every year. Of this group, parents (90 percent) and millennials (91 percent), in particular, said they were unable to find the right gift.

This year we may see the smart shopper splitting from the crowd and choosing personalized items based on the gift-receiver’s tastes.  

A Stretched Holiday Season With An Election Thrown In

The online shopping scene is continuing to grow and evolve. This year, more than half of the U.S population is expected to shop online, according to Forrester Research. This is not a surprise.

I saw notable buying trends last year as eBay fulfilled 265 million transactions across 190 markets on great deals and gifts over the holidays. About half of the transactions came from mobile devices. For the big four shopping days beginning on Thanksgiving through Sunday, Nov. 29, our mobile Gross Merchandise Bought share increased, on average, 12 percent year-over-year.

We expect many of these trends to continue this season. Likely more people will be shopping on mobile, and most will still look for bigger and better deals. We know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are again going to be huge shopping days, and the debate over which one is bigger will continue.

The biggest difference this year is that the holiday season is longer. Historically, retailers have kicked off the season the day after Halloween. But consumers are more distracted now because of the U.S. Presidential election.

Most retailers are expected to launch their holiday plans following the election. Meanwhile, we have Thanksgiving falling earlier in November than last year. All in all as compared to last year, we have a compressed pre-holiday shopping season between election and Thanksgiving, but a longer period of shopping time from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

All in all as compared to last year, we have a compressed pre-holiday shopping season between election and Thanksgiving, but a longer period of shopping time from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Many forecasters expect that if the election goes as predicted, we will see a two to three  percent lift in holiday sales overall, compared to last year.  

Hatchimals? Looking Beyond Hot Trends

This holiday season, no standout gift has emerged, which represents a significant departure from past seasons. Since shoppers aren’t clamoring for a must-have item there’s actually more pressure to find perfect gifts. 

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There are – and will always be  -- some, trending hot items. For instance, there are toy maker Mattel’s Barbie doll houses with bluetooth remotes for lights and music; Hatchimals from Spin Master; gaming consoles; virtual reality devices; drones and seasonal clothing are already on their way to the top of the charts. Mattel’s Barbie doll houses with bluetooth remotes for lights and music; Hatchimals from Spin Master; gaming consoles; virtual reality devices; drones and seasonal clothing are on their way to the top of the charts. Then there is the upcoming release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which could spark merchandising trends. Nevertheless, I believe personal tastes and preferences will rise to the top of shoppers’ agendas. 

This is the theme of our new holiday campaign  “The Gift They’re Waiting For Is Waiting on eBay,” with national TV ads debuting this week. The ad marks our brand’s first first holiday national television ad in nearly two years. and expresses our mission to help shoppers find the perfect gift at the right price.

Finding Your Perfect, No Matter What It Is

We have been working for the past year on combining the power of our selection with technology and new experiences on eBay. We know our unique inventory is an advantage. That’s because our listed items come from our diverse community of sellers. Many are small businesses. And as we all know: small businesses are a great source for personalized gifts.  

Through investments we’ve made on our eBay platform technology in new browsing, navigation and discovery experiences, we want to empower and inspire shoppers. Powerful tools like price trending and product reviews make shopping on eBay easier.  In addition our eBay ShopBot personal shopping assistant - powered by artificial intelligence - recently launched on Facebook Messenger. It provides a conversational, friendly and personalized way to search for gifts.

The holiday season is also the giving season. More than 160 million of our active buyers can donate to the causes that matter most to them through our eBay for Charity program every time they buy or sell.

For gift givers and receivers alike, making a truly personal connection is everything. Remember that the most enduring kinds of connections you can make are personal ones.

This holiday season, gift thoughtfully, and give personally.