Holiday Shopping Trends in Europe 2020: What Consumers Say They’ll Do

Did you know the term “Black Friday” was once trademarked in Germany? Some businesses are still avoiding using the word even now—especially as the trademark revocation was appealed and is now part of an ongoing legal battle.

Or that there’s a movement in France dubbed “Green Friday,” which seeks to raise awareness about the environmental effects of mass consumerism during the holiday season and to promote more sustainable solutions.

In my journey to learn more about trends like these, I quickly fell deep into an online rabbit hole to find out more about Black Friday in Europe. Only the lure of a large cup of tea was enough to pull me away from my computer. But I digress.

I learned a lot about the history of Black Friday and I was determined to come up with some golden nuggets of wisdom that ecommerce marketers—like you—can learn from.

But while on that frantic Googling mission, I thought, “Wait, why aren’t we asking consumers what they think?”

After all, with a worldwide pandemic threatening peoples’ physical and mental wellbeing, their families, relationships, livelihoods, and more; could consumers’ opinions about Black Friday and Cyber Monday have changed drastically this year compared with years gone by?

My hypothesis was pretty simple: “Well yes, of course, they have!” But let’s let the data do the talking, shall we? 

With help from Klaviyo’s business intelligence team, we surveyed nearly 1,000 consumers across France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the UK about all things Black Friday, Cyber Monday, online shopping, and the impacts of the coronavirus on their holiday shopping plans.

Here’s what we found out.

Most popular holiday shopping days

Black Friday was a resounding winner across Europe with 31 percent of consumers saying this is when they’ll likely shop online this holiday season.

Interestingly, late October (13 percent), early November (19 percent), and mid-November (12 percent) weren’t too far behind Black Friday, either, suggesting consumers may choose to shop early in the holiday season this year. 

Could the threat of shipping delays and other pandemic-related issues be prompting this? Possibly. It may even have something to do with Amazon moving their Prime Day to mid-October, influencing an early launch of the holiday shopping season this year.

Thirteen percent of European consumers plan to shop online in December, and in a few cases, even as late as the week of Christmas itself. Perhaps you’ll still see the usual late-stragglers and last-minute shoppers that you probably notice every single year—even despite this year being much different from the last.

Another interesting insight to come out of this data is the quite noticeable lack of interest across Europe for Cyber Monday and the days in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Just six percent of consumers plan to shop online during these days, suggesting the majority of consumers’ attention would have waned by the time the Saturday morning after Black Friday comes around. 

In that case, you may want to promote your best offers on Black Friday and focus more of your attention on this first day than subsequent days across the Cyber Weekend if your customers mainly reside in Europe.

Now let’s dig into how these same results look when divided up across the six countries we surveyed as there are some surprising—and some perhaps not-so-surprising—differences.

France

Although five percent of consumers in France plan to shop online in early December, and another two percent during the week of Christmas, most French consumers (57 percent) say they’ll likely have finished their online shopping earlier than that.

Germany

Over 62 percent of consumers in Germany said they plan to do their shopping earlier in the holiday season, while there seems to be zero interest in online shopping the week before Christmas or during the week of Christmas.

Also, despite Black Friday having once been trademarked in Germany, this doesn’t appear to have impacted consumer appetite for the holiday this year—with 19 percent of consumers saying this is when they’ll shop online.

Italy

Similarly to Germany, Italian consumers told us they don’t plan on shopping online during the week of Christmas, while a whopping 31 percent plan to shop during the Black Friday sales. 

This is the highest level of interest in Black Friday across Europe, which supports the research I did before the survey that showed the interest for Black Friday sales in Italy has increased by over 3,000 percent during the past few years.

If you have a large Italian audience, you may want to push your Black Friday offers even more with them as they might be the most receptive to hearing about them.

Spain

In Spain, Black Friday (28 percent) and early November (17 percent) are the most popular holiday shopping days. But more consumers (seven percent) said they would shop online the week before Christmas than in any other country. 

If last-minute discounts or offers like free next day shipping make sense for your business, then your Spanish audience may appreciate those offers more this year than other customers.

Sweden

The results from Sweden suggest there could be a bit more of a balance in sales within this country across the full holiday shopping period. Could Sweden’s “no-lockdown” strategy and unrestricted stores be the reason for this? More on this later.

That said, Black Friday (28 percent) and early December (13 percent) seem like they’ll be the most popular days for Swedish consumers to shop online this year. 

UK

The majority of consumers from the UK (79 percent) said they’ll be shopping early in the holiday season, yet early December (ten percent) also seems like it’ll be a popular time to shop online in the UK.

Similarly to Germany and Italy, there’s a noticeable lack of interest in shopping online during the week of Christmas this year. Time will tell what effect this could have on Boxing Day sales this year in the UK. 

The five percent of British consumers who answered “Other” may have also had post-Christmas sales or New Year sales in their minds at the time. There’s more on this later.

Most popular shopping channels

When asked where consumers plan on doing the bulk of their holiday shopping this year—perhaps unsurprisingly—a whopping 78 percent plan to shop online, compared with the 68 percent who said they shopped online last year.

This means in-store purchases may be down by as much as 13 percent across Europe—with Spain (nine percent fewer in-store purchases) and the UK (16 percent fewer in-store purchases) potentially seeing the largest drops for in-store sales this year.

If you collect email addresses in-store, could you encourage customers to shop online with you by showcasing your shipping information and returns policies via email? Also, is now the right time to promote your online offers more than usual across social media and paid ads to try to capture additional interest online?

Our survey also suggests there could be a five percent increase in the amount of European consumers shopping online with major retailers this year compared with 2019.

Could this be because consumers have more trust in major retailers delivering their orders on time? Or is it because these retailers are more likely to offer free shipping and better returns policies than other websites? If you’re not already, would it make sense for you to offer these things this year? 

You could offer free shipping for larger orders, such as free shipping on all orders over €50/$50/£50, alongside a longer return period—perhaps until the end of January 2021. The latter may also help to spread out the number of returns in the new year so they’re more manageable.

Online third-party marketplaces may also see a small increase (three percent) in sales compared with last year. Is this because consumers can use websites like this to compare prices or grab free shipping? 

If your customers are likely to compare prices, can you offer the best price available online so they shop with you instead of third-party marketplaces? Would offering a small discount in exchange for their email address help you to win the sale?

It also looks like brands with their own websites could see an increase in sales this year—with two percent more consumers shopping online via these websites compared to 2019. This is great news if you’ve already been focusing on your owned marketing channels—like website, mobile, and email—and a direct-to-consumer (DTC) business model.

Shopping direct with online brands seems to be particularly popular with German consumers this year. Twenty percent of consumers in Germany have said this is how they plan to make the majority of their purchases this year, which is up by five percent from last year—and appears to now be the most popular way to shop online in Germany.

Germany also had some of the lowest interest for in-store shopping this year (just 13 percent) compared with other European countries. This might help to explain their desire to shop earlier in the holiday season—are they trying to increase their chances of receiving gifts and other important holiday purchases on time?

Another interesting data point from the survey is the severe lack of interest with Swedish consumers for third-party marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, which isn’t just reserved for this year, either.

Just eight percent told us they did the majority of their holiday shopping via these kinds of websites last year, and although that increases to 11 percent for this year, those figures are still well below the average.

Sweden also had the highest amount of interest in shopping in-store this year (25 percent) across each of the countries we surveyed, which might also explain why there could be more of a balance in sales for Swedish businesses across the holiday shopping period.

But after a rise in coronavirus cases, Sweden might soon be shifting away from its “no-lockdown” strategy, which could affect Swedish consumers’ plans for their holiday shopping.

Holiday consumer spending

Another hypothesis I was initially working from was that the coronavirus pandemic could impact how much consumers plan to spend this year—whether online or offline. 

I’m pleased to see I appear to have been wrong for the most part as the majority of consumers across Europe (47 percent) said they plan to spend about the same as last year.

But there could still be significant pockets of consumers in the UK (26 percent) and Spain (27 percent) who plan on spending less than last year.

While some consumers told us this was because they couldn’t go in-store due to stay-at-home orders, or they have less disposable income this year than last year, a running theme also appears to be around a lack of trust for how good deals actually are during the holiday season.

Comments from consumers like “sometimes stores raise prices and then lower them,” “prices aren’t a genuine reduction,” and “misleading advertising,” suggest consumers want to see more honesty, authenticity, and transparency from the brands they choose to shop with this year.

Val Geisler of Fix My Churn summed this up nicely in her video for Klaviyo’s Cyber Weekend Prep Rally when she talked about how brands should avoid describing something as a “last-chance offer” or “final-day sale,” when in reality, they’re planning to extend it at a later date. This can demolish consumer trust, and in the worst case, may even prompt customers to break-up with your brand.

Other consumers in the UK and Spain also had thoughts like “there should be much better deals than last year” and “deals aren’t as surprising as before,” perhaps also suggesting consumers want to see more enticing deals this year to lure them back in and not just the same offers repeated year after year.

And then there’s Germany where a larger percentage of consumers (19 percent) said they’ll spend more this year than those who plan to spend less. 

Reasons such as “products are getting cheaper,” “more products are being discounted,” and “better deals are available” were given. These also fell alongside hugely positive comments about Black Friday, such as “it’s an important day,” “the day is special,” “Black Friday is a blessing,” and “it’s a great sale before Christmas,” suggesting German consumers have been waiting with especially increased anticipation for Black Friday this year.

If you have a large audience in Germany, you may want to segment your list by subscriber location and send additional holiday sales emails to your subscribers in Germany as they could become some of your most profitable customers this year.

Top motivations to shop online

A quick look at the top motivations to shop online this holiday season shows that a larger percentage of consumers (25 percent) believe online shopping is cheaper than in-store shopping, while 20 percent cite ease and convenience as their main motivation to shop online this year.

Read on for how these results can be broken down. I’ve also included a few quick tips along the way, which aren’t too late to implement!

France and Germany

I’ve grouped France and Germany together as they gave a lot of similar responses where price and saving money seem to be the biggest motivations for shopping online this year. 

You might want to use this info to adapt your discounting strategies if you have large audiences in these regions, or you could even highlight free shipping offers and different payment options such as “Buy Now, Pay Later.”

Italy and the UK

The UK and Italy also had similar responses—almost across the board—where ease and convenience seem to be most consumers’ top motivators to shop online this holiday season. 

If you offer things like Buy Online Pickup In-Store (BOPIS), Click & Collect, or curbside pickup, then you might want to highlight these in your copy to show your customers just how easy and convenient it is to buy from you.

Also, if there’s anything you can do now to improve your customers’ overall shopping experiences, such as improved website navigation, more detailed product descriptions, offering personalized product recommendations, and including other useful information like size guides or customer reviews, then it seems British and Italian consumers, in particular, will appreciate these improvements the most. Of course, these things will also benefit your entire audience.

I’d also like to point out that the UK had a large percentage of consumers (23 percent) who said they’d prefer to stay home due to Covid-19 concerns. 

You may want to make a dedicated push to communicate with empathy to reflect that sentiment, and perhaps even highlight what your business is doing to keep your employees (and customers) safe to help negate some of these concerns.

Spain and Sweden

Concerns about the coronavirus crisis also appeared in Spain’s (16 percent) and Sweden’s (15 percent) responses, so those audiences may also warrant extra empathy or care around this topic. 

This is in huge contrast with consumer responses from Italy and France, which showed fewer answers in this category—five percent and seven percent respectively.

One thoughtful idea might be to provide flexible shipping options and extend your returns policy for those shoppers who want to stay at home this year. Don’t forget to include all of this information clearly in your emails and other marketing communications.

Black Friday sales and the coronavirus crisis

As many countries across Europe are sadly experiencing second waves of the coronavirus, we wanted to find out more about how this might impact holiday shopping this year.

We asked whether Covid-19 restrictions and the impact they’ve had on stores would mean consumers would be more likely to engage in Black Friday sales this year or not. A resounding 82 percent said “Yes.”

This suggests Black Friday’s popularity is likely to be more monumental this year than ever—as predicted.

That said, the 17 percent of respondents who said they wouldn’t take part in Black Friday sales this year shouldn’t be ignored, either. Interestingly, though, their comments went beyond lockdown restrictions and concerns about money.

Some consumers—particularly within the UK and Sweden—mentioned issues related to overconsumption, suggesting brands may need to approach Black Friday sales in these regions from a more ethical point of view. 

While other consumers across Europe told us that Black Friday doesn’t make sense due to fewer people celebrating Thanksgiving within this region. Perhaps this calls for a more unique spin on Black Friday?

Take PURELEI, the Hawaiian-inspired jewelry brand based in Germany, for example. Last year, they promoted something they called “Golden Friday.” 

PURELEI's Golden Friday Sneakpeek Email

It’s technically a Black Friday sale, but this fresh concept helps them stand out in a sea of Black Friday emails and social media ads while promoting a sale that makes a lot of sense for their brand. Fresh, exciting, and encourages brand awareness? Now that’s a winning trio!

Beyond Black Friday: other popular shopping days

In Europe, shopping for the best deals also goes way beyond the lure of Black Friday discounts and holiday gift-giving.

To help you with your 2021 planning, we also asked these same European consumers to tell us what they think are the biggest shopping days throughout the year within each of their respective countries. 

Depending on what makes sense for your business, you may want to jump on some of these if you haven’t already.

While global sales days such as Black Friday and Amazon’s Prime Day certainly made an appearance, there were plenty more that came to the fore. (Sorry, I’m apparently also a poet!)

In France, “Les soldes d’hiver et d’été” (winter and summer sales) were mentioned, as were something lovingly dubbed “French Days,” which usually see large discounts on electronics, high-tech products, and household appliances twice a year.

German consumers touted “Sommerschlussverkauf” (summer sales) as some of their biggest shopping days. While “Black Friday” was a clear winner within both Spanish and Italian consumer responses.

Most Swedish consumers said they look forward to “Skyltsöndag” or “Julskyltning,” which has been a Swedish tradition since the mid-late 19th century where shops make special preparations ahead of Christmas by decorating their shop windows. 

This event is usually towards the end of November, so conveniently also occurs at a similar time to Black Friday—which in pre-Covid times—would have likely had Swedish customers flocking to the shops en masse. 

Perhaps there’s a unique way to celebrate this tradition online this year, such as redecorating your website’s “shop front” with different imagery or colors, or sending special “Skyltsöndag” offers or emails to your Swedish customers?

Responses from Sweden also mentioned the country’s summer sales from mid-June, and “mellandagsrea,” which usually starts on December 27th.

And finally, British consumers were a bit of a wildcard. While the majority of responses from other countries were about Black Friday—Boxing Day Sales—which traditionally start on December 26th (or sometimes even several days before) outnumbered all other shopping days mentioned by consumers from the UK.

January or New Year Sales also made a strong appearance, as well as “Super Saturday,” aka the last Saturday before Christmas.

Final thoughts

There’s a lot that can be learned from these responses and I’m certain I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface myself.

Although there were some similarities between consumers across Europe, there were plenty of distinct differences, too. This suggests consumers across Europe are just as diverse as you might think—and even more so when it comes to their online shopping habits and behaviors.

This holiday season will be at its most competitive, yet some consumers want to see something new and exciting this year.

Now’s the time to start thinking about how you can stand out among the sea of Black Friday emails incoming next month. How might you put a fresh spin on your marketing copy and offers this year?

And it doesn’t stop there. 

With many more shopping days beyond Black Friday to capture consumers’ attention across Europe, think about how you can include some of that excitement in your marketing. 

After all, if those days are etched in consumers’ brains, perhaps they should be in yours, too.

For even more insights and advice for the upcoming holiday season, check out the Ecommerce Holiday Marketing Guide.

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