The shift among boomers tracks across age groups, with fairly similar numbers of millennials and Generation Xers expecting to use e-commerce for most of their seasonal buying. Convenience was the top reason respondents gave for shopping online, but more than half said avoiding other people amid the coronavirus pandemic is also a factor.
Overall, 71 percent of the 2,555 U.S. adults polled in late August said they planned to shop for the holidays primarily online, compared with 51 percent who said they did so last year. The change among boomers, defined as those ages 56 to 74, was less pronounced but still considerable, with the e-commerce cohort rising from 54 percent to 70 percent.
The biggest increase was among millennials (ages 24 to 39), with 74 percent planning to mainly shop online this holiday season, up from 50 percent in 2019. The jump for Gen X (ages 40 to 55) was from 55 percent to 70 percent.
E-commerce as a share of total retail sales has been growing steadily and incrementally for years, but the survey numbers show how much COVID-19 is speeding up the trend, says Ted Rossman, an industry analyst at CreditCards.com.
“The analogy a lot of people use is that we've jumped ahead maybe five or more years in the span of five months,” he says. “I would have expected, in a more normal climate, maybe 3, 4, 5 percentage points, not the 20-point jump that we saw,” he adds.
Convenience is king, but COVID counts
The survey was conducted from Aug. 26 to Aug. 28 by the research firm YouGov on behalf of CreditCards.com, an online marketplace for card offers that also tracks industry news and trends. One survey question asked which of four factors influenced the decision to shop more online: convenience, avoiding human interaction, better prices and deals, and wider inventory and product selection.