Supply Chain Woes Grow as COVID-19 Concerns Wane

Holiday study from Oracle shows consumers on edge over high prices, out-of-stock products and delivery delays, turning some to gift cards and last-minute, on-demand gift delivery to avoid the hassle.
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A recent consumer study, conducted by independent research and creative consultancy Untold Insights on behalf of Oracle, revealed that many consumers are worried that the supply chain crisis and delivery delays will wreak havoc on their holiday gifting plans, pushing them to alter their buying habits this year.

The survey polled 5,728 global consumers across four regions (Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and North America), including 512 in the U.S., in September 2021 to explore attitudes and expectations about their shopping habits and plans for holiday shopping.

Of the survey respondents, 52% said they’ve already started holiday shopping or plan to shop earlier than usual this year because of the ongoing supply chain challenges. Twenty percent said they plan to order more gifts in case some shipments are delayed or canceled, with that number jumping to 44% for Millennials. Thirty-four percent of respondents (of which 58% were baby boomers) said they will take an easier approach this year by purchasing more gift cards.

Supply Chain Concerns
As far as supply chain concerns specifically, consumers planning to gift this year fear product availability and shipment timing. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they’re anxious that the products they want will be more expensive due to the scarcity, 27% are worried desired products won’t be available and 16% are concerned that favorite holiday treats, like pumpkin spice lattes, won’t be available.

“As we see in the news, the supply chain challenges are a global reality,” Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Retail, said in a recent media release. “Accountability will be the name of the game. Retailers must have clear visibility into their inventory, a realistic timeline for the fulfillment and a plan to communicate clearly throughout the order and delivery processes. Through transparency and execution, retailers can earn trust with their customers and build the potential for future loyalty.”

Seventy-two percent of respondents plan to have gifts delivered to their home (up from 64% in 2020), but 22% are still worried shipping times won’t meet their expectations or arrive at all. To ease their concerns, 65% of respondents said granular tracking of delivery status is very important.

Shopper Expectations and Plans
Thirty-six percent of respondents said fast delivery determines where they order from, while 9% expect same-day delivery, 28% one-two-day delivery, and 41% three-five-day delivery. Eighteen percent are willing to pay more to ensure faster or guaranteed delivery. And notably, 55% are planning to get creative, saying they are very likely or might use an on-demand service like DoorDash to order last-minute gifts. 

Additionally, not only are consumers fearful that a gift won’t be available, many respondents also indicated out-of-stocks push them away, with 40% agreeing that out-of-stock items constitute a lousy shopping experience and 22% won’t wait for a retailer to restock before they go somewhere else.

Another notable takeaway about how this year’s shoppers are doing things differently, is just 37% of shoppers said they would participate in Amazon’s Prime Day event or Black Friday sales. A smaller number (26%) said they would take part in Cyber Monday events.

Almost half of respondents, 67% of which are Millennials, said they plan to return gifts this year. Good news for retailers though, 76% said they are likely to buy other things when they come into a store to make a return. Sixty percent of Gen Z shoppers said they will return at least some gifts, while 90% of Baby Boomers have no plans to return their gifts. 

COVID-19 Not Detering Holiday Shopping
Unlike last holiday season, consumers seem less concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic, with more shoppers opting to buy in-store this year than in 2020, and 45% are planning both in-store shopping and online shopping, up from 35% last year. When asked what makes them feel most comfortable about going out to shop, 66% of respondents said mask mandates, 15% said vaccination proof for guests and 13% said social distancing.