Consumers increasingly value living in a socially responsible way, put greater value on experiences than goods, and use digital tools to enhance their lives. Here is the data to back up those assertions and tips for retailers on how they can boost sales this holiday season by addressing these shifts in shopper behavior.

Sandrine Thompson, Strategy & Insights director, CJ Affiliate

Sandrine Thompson, Strategy & Insights director, CJ Affiliate

This holiday season, retailers will face shoppers who seek brands and products that fit their personal ethos and who consider their purchases carefully. To respond to this reality and win shoppers during the most important two months of the year, retailers must embrace shopper behaviors driven by three consumer megatrends, first identified by Euromonitor: Virtuous Living, Experience More and Connected Shoppers.

These megatrends are primed to dramatically shape buying decisions and digital behaviors this holiday and beyond.

Marketing copy and imagery should strive to help shoppers understand how their gift and your product will create a positive or healthful experience for the recipient.

CJ Affiliate’s own analysis of holiday sales in its network of 3,000 retailers supports that 2018 sales shifted toward experiential purchases, socially conscious brands and shopping with money-saving tools and technology. Retailers must prepare to capitalize on these megatrends with careful consideration on product marketing and advertising.

Megatrend #1: Virtuous Living drives heightened awareness  

According to Euromonitor, 60% of Millennials and more than half of Gen X and Gen Z link their choices and actions back to making a difference in the world. What’s more, global consumers are saying they do not want to live in a throw-away culture and instead prefer to buy fewer, higher-quality goods.


Last holiday season, we saw this play out in a real way among Beauty, Footwear, and Apparel retailers in the CJ Affiliate network: Brands that actively promoted their sustainability and social programs in their affiliate promotions were extremely popular with shoppers, increasing sales 30% year over year and driving these brands to outperform their competitors.

What you can do:

In order to appeal to holiday shoppers looking to “take action” with their purchases, advertising must highlight a company’s sustainability programs and practices and give greater play to products with an eco-conscious angle including refurbished items. Consider: Etsy now promotes its carbon-offset shipping program at checkout and in every order confirmation. New ecommerce marketplace Verishop makes it easy to find cruelty-free items and fair-trade items on its site with filters for these product features.

Aligning branding and products with a social cause will pay off. More than half of respondents to an SAP holiday shopping study said they would spend more for a holiday purchase from a brand that strongly supports a cause or represents specific values. Publishers can harness this trend with gift guides highlighting eco-friendly products and brands with a mission and by creating newsletters focusing on unique gifts for shoppers who is looking to shop with purpose.

Megatrend #2: Living life to the fullest to Experience More

Shoppers prioritize experiences over buying “stuff.” They want healthy lifestyles and a work/life balance. Research from Deloitte shows that wanting more experiences is tied closely to income, as well as age. Spending on experiences such as travel, hospitality, and entertainment increased roughly equally across Millennials, GenX, and Baby Boomers in 2018, yet it’s the high earners across all generations that increased spending on experiences the most, up 33% YOY.


Across CJ Affiliate’s network, some of the most of popular items purchased last holiday season were sports apparel and footwear, fitness trackers, and vitamins.  Fresh home meal kits are also on the rise. According to our sales data, meal kit sales increased 105% YOY and outpacing the growth of other wellness products.

What you can do:

Marketing copy and imagery should strive to help shoppers understand how their gift and your product will create a positive or healthful experience for the recipient. Make it easy for shoppers, for whom every purchase is well-considered, to learn more about the materials and ingredients in your products by providing that information on product pages along with fair trade practices and materials sourcing pages on your site. For example, if a product contains post-consumer recycled content or is made from a sustainable material, be sure to call it out in the ad copy and imagery.

Publishers have an opportunity to capitalize on this trend as well by helping site visitors discover experiential brands and products by adding attribute-specific categories and filters (e.g. “fair trade” “experiences”).


Megatrend #3: Life hacking with shopping tools

Holiday shoppers in 2019 not only have an agenda, they’re also empowered. They have price comparison tools like Wikibuy by Capital One, Honey and Piggy. They solicit opinions before making a purchase, both from friends and sites like Buzzfeed and Wirecutter. According to BizRate Insights, 37% of young shoppers, age 18–29 always consult online reviews before buying.

Shopping apps have also stepped into to create a fun, social and rewarding shopping experience. For example, Drop offers an app-based loyalty shopping experience that rewards its six million members for shopping with points that can be applied to their everyday purchases at Starbucks, Uber, iTunes and more.

Last year, CJ Affiliate witnessed that shopping apps, browser tools, and content commerce publishers all increased their share of holiday orders they sent to retailers, at the expense of traditional coupon and loyalty sites. Mobile publishers saw the greatest gains, growing their share of all holiday season sales in the network by 75% YOY.

What you can do:

Brands must meet shoppers where they are—on their smartphones. CJ Affiliate’s Holiday Intelligence Report notes that 35% of Thanksgiving orders last year were completed on a smartphone, the largest smartphone shopping day of the season. Shoppers are researching every purchase on their phones and shopping through apps that create a fun, personalized shopping experience.


To capture these shoppers, retailers need to engage third-party media sites and influencers who can provide validation of your brand, product, or service this holiday season. Recruiting influencers, product review and content commerce publishers should be a key goal as well as integrating with technology products that make shopping both easier and fun.

To tap the Virtuous Living, Experience More and Connected Consumers trends, brands’ holiday marketing efforts need to appeal to shoppers who want to make an impact when they shop, are focused on experiences over consumption and are using technology for shopping more than ever before. The consumer is changing because the environment around them is changing—the smart marketer will evolve accordingly for a slam dunk this holiday season.

CJ Affiliate operates the affiliate marketing network formerly known as Commission JunctionThe company, which Publicis Groupe acquired in July 2019, is the affiliate network used by 179 of the Top 1000 online retailers in North America, according to