If you haven't already, it's officially time to kick your holiday planning into high gear now. More consumers are expected to start shopping earlier in the season than in years' past. 

By the end of September, half of holidays shoppers likely already have planned out their shopping lists, according to the 2019 Consumer Holiday Shopping Report out Monday from the Pasadena, California-based programmatic ad-tech company OpenX and polling firm Harris Insights & Analytics. That's up from just over 30 percent of shoppers in 2018.

What's more, consumers are forecast to spend around 5 percent more this year, with each buyer on track to shell out an average of $862, up from an average of $819 in 2018. OpenX's report is based off of a survey conducted in August among 2,000 American adults, who plan to shop during this year's holiday season.

At marketing conference Advertising Week New York, on Monday, Dallas Lawrence, OpenX's chief communications and brand officer, offered some guidance on how to position your business for success throughout the holiday season.

1. Your online store better look as sharp as your offline store.

The shift to e-commerce has been happening for years and finally, according to the report, online purchases are expected to outpace offline buys. Consumers say they plan to spend 52 percent of their budget online, as opposed to shopping in physical retail stores. That's up from 49 percent in last year's report.

"Everyone shops online. Millennials, even the Baby Boomers now are spending the majority of their dollars online, mobile being the accelerant," Lawrence said on stage. He pointed to the increased importance of having mobile-friendly product pages and mobile friendly digital ads. "Consumers overwhelmingly want personalized, yet privacy compliant advertising," he said of mobile ads.

2. Free shipping is here to stay.

Lawrence also noted that waiving (or dramatically reducing) shipping fees can significantly boost sales this year. More than 60 percent of survey respondents said shipping costs influence whether they'll complete a purchase online.

3. The smart money for retailers' marketing efforts is on streaming. 

Most ad dollars are still spent on traditional channels--network TV being one of them--even though 42 percent of holiday shoppers say they've cut the cord or plan to this year. Last year's report showed that just 37 percent of shoppers had parted ways with cable or were planning to.

"Let that sink in for a second," Lawrence said. "Ninety-five percent of all TV dollars go to linear cable TV today, and 5 percent goes to [internet-accessible content] and streaming. Thirty percent of your target audience is watching zero of that." 

Lawrence said the smarter bet is on advertising on streaming services--like Hulu or Roku--and sponsoring podcasts instead of traditional TV. "Shoppers listen to an awful lot of audio and more than half listen to podcasts every single week," he said. 

Published on: Sep 25, 2019