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The stakes are high for the 2019 holiday shopping season.

By Layla Ilchi VIA WWD

The stakes are high for the 2019 holiday shopping season.

Notably, the holiday shopping period from Thanksgiving to Christmas is six days shorter than 2018, giving brands and retailers less time to cash in.

To counter the time crunch, retailers and brands have been offering promotions and sales earlier than ever to give shoppers ample time to stock up on their holiday gifts. Cult-favorite skin-care brand Deciem, for one, is offering promotions throughout November.

Read on for seven ways the 2019 holiday shopping season will be different from past years.

1. There’s a Shorter Holiday Shopping Season

Shoppers are seen outside MACY'S Herald Square as bargain hunters seek low price deals during 'Black Friday' holiday shopping in New York, New York, USA, 23 November 2018. Black Friday is the day after the USA Thanksgiving Day and is regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping season.Black Friday holiday shopping in New York, USA - 23 Nov 2018

Macy’s Herald Square flagship.  JASON SZENES/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

With Black Friday falling on Nov. 29, the 2019 holiday shopping season is six days shorter than last year’s, meaning brands and retailers have less time to grab shoppers during the traditional holiday shopping period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Some are countering this by extending the timeframe of the holiday shopping period to begin at the start of November with promotions and savings. RetailMeNot, a savings provider that connects consumer with retailers and brands, unofficially kicked off the holiday shopping season on Nov. 7 with its new shopping “holiday,” Cash Back Day.

2. Consumers Are Shopping Early

As brands and retailers have already begun their holiday sales and promotions, consumers in tow are beginning their holiday shopping. However, some forecasters are projecting that this early shopping will have a negative impact on Black Friday sales.

According to PwC’s holiday outlook report, 35 percent of shoppers plan to shop on Black Friday in comparison to the 38.9 percent of shoppers in 2015. The National Retail Federation had similar findings, stating in a report that 39 percent of consumer will begin their shopping before November, 43 percent are waiting until November and 18 percent are waiting until December.

A report from Bazaarvoice, however, shows that many consumers started their holiday shopping this summer. The report states that one in five consumers began their holiday shopping in July, due to promotions like Amazon Prime Day and other “Black Friday in July” deals.

3. Consumer Dissatisfaction Is at an All-time High

Shoppers carry their purchases as they walk though the steam coming from the underground along Fifth Avenue on Black Friday in New York, . Shoppers were on the hunt for deals and were at the stores for entertainment Friday as malls opened for what is still one of the busiest days of the year, even as the start of the holiday season edges ever earlierHoliday Shopping Black Friday, New York, USA - 25 Nov 2016

Shoppers on Fifth Avenue in New York City.  Andres Kudacki/AP/REX/Shutterstock

report from Pitney Bowes shows that consumer dissatisfaction with online shopping during the holiday season has reached an all-time high of 60 percent, doubling from 2015 and up 4 percent from last year.

The top three reasons for consumer dissatisfaction are delayed shipments, shipping costs and inaccurate tracking.

4. Returns Are Expected to Skyrocket

UPS has projected a record-breaking number of returns for the 2019 holiday shopping season, estimating it will peak on Jan. 2, 2020 with 1.9 million returns. This is a 26 percent increase from the 2018 holiday season.

The global carrier is also estimating that returns will reach 1.6 million per day in the week before Christmas caused by retailer promotions.

5. Shoppers Want Gift Cards

For the 13th year in a row, gift cards are the most popular item on shoppers’ wish lists, requested by 59 percent of surveyors by the National Retail Federation.

The second most popular holiday gift is clothing and accessories (52 percent); followed by entertainment options like movies, music, video games and books (35 percent); electronics (29 percent); home décor (24 percent); jewelry (23 percent), and beauty products (21 percent).

6. Online Shopping Is Preferred

Undoubtedly, online shopping is still the preferred medium for holiday shoppers, with the National Retail Federation finding that 56 percent of holiday shoppers will make their purchases online. Of those shoppers, 92 percent are using free shipping if available while 48 percent will buy online and use either pickup in store or ship-to-store services.

Sixteen percent of shoppers plan to use same-day delivery, doubling since 2015.

According to MiQ’s holiday report, 65 percent of shoppers will make online purchases on a mobile device and 49 percent on a desktop.

7. The In-store Shopping Experience Is Getting More Innovative

Although many shoppers prefer online, there’s still a substantial number of consumers that do their shopping in-store. According to a report by Rakuten Marketing, 61 percent of shoppers between the ages of 25 and 65 will do their holiday shopping in-store.

However, it’s recommended that retailers make the in-store experience different from what a consumer sees online. Rakuten Marketing managing director Julie Van Ullen states: “Brands, of course, must strike a balance between online and in-store experiences for the holiday season, but if they want to capitalize on the majority of consumers who have the most money to spend, they need to invest in innovative in-store experiences to attract and retain foot traffic.”

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