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2014 Holiday Survey: Goodbye to the Impulse Buy, Most Americans Will Research Gifts Before Purchasing This Year

Brand websites and social networks beat in-store for shopping consultation, while American gift-giving philosophies toggle between “naughty” and “nice”

Rivet Works, Inc., a technology company that inspires consumers with user-generated content solutions, today announced the results of its 2014 Holiday Shopping Behavior Study. The research examined the holiday shopping preferences and gift giving philosophies of consumers across the U.S. and discovered that most (81%) Americans will spend time researching gifts they’re planning to buy for friends and family for the holidays this year. 

The survey revealed that the most likely amount of time spent researching gifts per recipient is up to one month, according to nearly half (48%) of holiday shoppers. 1 in 10 (12%) will spend less than one day researching versus another 9% who will spend between one and six months researching. Only 1% of the nation admits they will spend more than six months researching holiday gifts they plan to buy this year.  

What Shoppers Want to See Before They Buy

When it comes to the things that shoppers would like to buy online this holiday season, 2 out of 3 (67%) Americans say they would like to see real pictures of items from other users before they make a purchase. There is a significant leap in demand for real pictures of items before purchase when it comes to most (80%) millennial generation online shoppers between ages 18-34 years old, as well as many (74%) parents in particular. 

Among top choices of what shoppers most want to see before they buy, are real pictures of hotel rooms and clothing, which tie for the #1 national ranking, according to nearly 4 in 10 (38%) Americans. Preferences of type of items differ noticeably by gender: 

Top Shopping Items by Men

Percent Who Said This 

Top Shopping Items by Women

 Percent Who Said This

1. Hotel rooms/vacation rental homes and technology (tied)


1. Clothing


2. Food/drink    36%


2. Hotel rooms/vacation rental homes


3. Clothing


3. Hair/makeup products


4. Home furnishings/décor


4. Home furnishings/décor


5. Car accessories


5. Food/drink


How Shoppers Feel About Giving Gifts

In regards to the personal philosophies associated with bestowing presents, American attitudes vary widely among both “naughty” and “nice” consumers. The most popular attitudes for gift-givers this year include half (52%) of shoppers declaring they put lots of thought into the gifts they give and roughly 4 in 10 (39%) saying they start early to get the best deals. A small but generous portion of Americans (8%) boast that they spare no expense when it comes to shopping for gifts, versus twice that amount (16%) who admit say they will only give gifts when absolutely necessary. 

Additional, less cheerful, holiday outlooks of Americans include plans to pull from a supply of back-up gifts (9%), waiting until the last minute to shop for gifts (4%), and only giving gifts to ensure one is received in return (4%). The research also found that gift-giving philosophies differ by gender, with American men more likely than women to: spare no expense on gift-giving, wait until the last minute to shop, and give gifts to ensure they get one in return. Conversely, women are more likely than men to: put lots of thought into the gifts, start early to get the best deals, and pull from a supply of back-up gifts.

Holiday Shopping Strategies Revealed 

The respondents surveyed also indicated that they consult the following resources for their holiday shopping: 

  • Searching online through a brand website for best deals and products – 41%
  • Ask friends and family for their opinion – 41%
  • Use money saving websites to get coupons/deals on gifts – 20%
  • Look at peer review websites to see what other consumers are saying – 14%

1 in 10 (12%) will use social media to see what’s hot and what’s not. Only 7% of the nation says they will ask associates in stores which items are most popular.

“Our research reveals that this holiday shopping season, consumers are relying heavily on the web and social networks to see other shoppers’ experiences with products before they buy them,” said Michael Svatek, CEO and Co-Founder of Rivet. “When you consider how much thought gift-givers are putting into their shopping effort, you can understand their need to get validation of a gift idea from other shoppers in the same situation—it’s natural to want the approval of one’s peers.”

Rivet’s cloud-based and mobile-first platform is used by global brands to drive content marketing. The technology captures images, video, text, customer preferences, and intent data to drive authentic brand experiences that connect, inspire, and engage consumers. Media is owned for use at any time, across any property, alleviating the rights-management issues all too common with customer-generated content efforts. 


This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Rivet from October 17-21, 2014 among 2,066 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Tom Carpenter at


Check out the infographic that Rivet created to illustrate the survey findings: Rivet’s 2014 Consumer Holiday Shopping Behavior Study.                                                               

About Rivet

Rivet is at the forefront of developing user-generated content solutions that have an immediate influence on brand and commerce metrics. Rivet's cloud-based platform drives inspiring and engaging experiences by capturing images, video, text, customer preferences, and intent data. Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Austin, Texas, Rivet has partnered with global companies such as JanSport, Viking Cruises, and to drive content strategy. For more information, visit our site [] or drop us a line [].

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