US Retail Radar: Social Media is the holiday shopping destination

December 17, 2019
3 min read

The holiday season is in full swing as consumers rush to finish their shopping and retailers do their best to win consumer attention and dollars. More brands and retailers are turning to social media to showcase their go-to gifts and can’t-miss deals, making social media this year’s holiday shopping destination.

According to Mintel data on holiday shopping, online already plays a major role in holiday shopping fulfillment with more than seven in 10 holiday shoppers planning to shop online for the 2019 season and more than half plan to shop online and in-store. While social media is presumably a small part of the online piece, three in five shoppers have or would use social media for gift inspiration, signaling its growing importance. For many shoppers, social media is a starting place to browse for ideas. For others, it’s the final destination where the transaction occurs. At a time when consumers are bombarded with ideas and ads from countless brands and retailers, social media channels are hoping to become a helpful tool that consumers turn to for their shopping needs. Regardless of what role it plays for consumers, one thing is certain: social media is evolving to become an integral part of the purchase journey.

Here’s a look at what’s happening on social platforms this holiday season:


The visual search-based platform is striving to make the quest for finding the best gifts easier this year. Pinterest rounded up the top trending gifts based on searches, saves and purchases, as well as curated gift lists for everyone on consumers’ shopping lists. Pinterest’s holiday gift guide includes gifts for cooks, eco-conscious consumers, travel lovers, wellness aficionados, beauty buffs and more. The gift guide also features 100 gift ideas all under $100, with some additional splurge suggestions. All the gift ideas are shoppable Product Pins; a current price tag and a link to directly checkout on the retailer’s website. Essentially, the gift list is a curated guide of what consumers want.
Regardless of what role it plays for consumers, one thing is certain: social media is evolving to become an integral part of the purchase journey.


Similarly, Instagram announced its curated collection of gift ideas inspired by the top trends on the platform in 2019. The site showcased its gift ideas through various collections including ideas for new parents, those looking for party looks and makeup enthusiasts. Instagram’s features make it easy for browsers to keep track of ideas for themselves or for others by saving items to a collection or wish list. As opposed to Pinterest, every product included on Instagram’s collections are shoppable and can be purchased using Instagram’s checkout feature without ever leaving the app, making it easier to check items off the list.

What we think

Product images and videos are increasingly sought by consumers who browse and buy seamlessly, especially during the chaotic rush of the holidays. Shopping options enabled through social media are helpful for converting browsers, especially those looking for convenience. Consumers who have positive experiences shopping through social sites this holiday will presumably evolve to conduct more social shopping in the future, indicating a need for a strong brand/retailer presence on social media.

Who gets the credit for a positive experience – the brand or the platform? Who gets the blame or helps consumers address issues with a negative one? This holiday season will be a testing ground for how retailers gauge consumer response to social shopping as well as informing their future approach to embracing social media as a sales channel.

Alexis DeSalva Kahler
Alexis DeSalva Kahler

Alexis is a Senior Research Analyst at Mintel. Alexis focuses on US Retail and eCommerce reports.

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