‘Tis the Season…for Last Minute Shopping: Instacart Reveals What Customers are Buying When Lists are Long and Time is Short
While the holiday season can be one of the most joyous times of the year, it can also be one of the most stressful and chaotic times – especially if you’re a parent. According to a new Instacart survey of over 2,000 U.S. adults conducted online by The Harris Poll:
“The pressure to make the holidays special” and “the endless to-do list” top the list of things Americans say are among their least favorite parts about prepping for the holidays (30% for each).
This festive season, Instacart is here to ease the holiday mental load and make families’ lives easier. Whether you need a last minute ingredient for a Thanksgiving side dish or you’ve forgotten to get a gift for your second cousin twice removed, Instacart can swoop in to help take one more thing off your plate.
According to Instacart purchase data from 2022, the day before Thanksgiving had the highest number of orders out of the entire year. On this day, items like whipped cream, pumpkin pie, and elbow pasta were all in a higher share of carts than they were at any other point in the year. Similarly, December 23, 2022 was a peak day for orders that month as customers stocked up on last minute holiday items – from festive desserts and gifts to more practical items like AA batteries, tape, and gift bags.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the data to uncover how customers are using Instacart during Thanksgiving and Christmas and discover what exactly they’re buying when they need a last minute rescue…
According to our survey…
- 85% of Americans are planning to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.
- Of those who plan to celebrate Thanksgiving, 38% say it’s likely they will wait until the last minute to complete their shopping for the holiday.
- One in four of those who are likely to wait until the last minute to complete their shopping for Thanksgiving (25%) say it’s because they’re really busy and don’t have the opportunity to shop earlier.
There can be a lot to fret over when it comes to Thanksgiving…
- Did I buy everything I need for the meal?
- How do I cook for 10+ people?
- What should I do if the turkey is still frozen on the inside?
- What if we run out of food?
- How many times will I have to go to the grocery store?
This is where Instacart can help:
If customers are in need of Thanksgiving meal planning or prepping advice, they can use ‘Ask Instacart,’ an AI-supercharged search tool in the Instacart App that makes it easy to ask questions in natural language in order to get personalized recommendations.
For example, people can use Ask Instacart to find alternative ingredients, get more information on cooking techniques, better understand what ingredients or dishes pair well with others, and plenty more.
Instacart will also update Ask Instacart with helpful holiday prompts in the search bar, making it easier for customers to get inspired and find solutions to common holiday scenarios. Prompts include:
- Help! I burned the turkey
- Frozen pie that looks homemade
- Low lift holiday side
- How to make green beans fancy
- Santa’s favorite cookies
- DIY charcuterie ideas
- Fancy mocktail ingredients
Delivery When You Need It:
Delivery through Instacart is open the day before Thanksgiving and on Thanksgiving Day, where available, matching most local retailer hours in the markets where Instacart operates.
- Peak Instacart order day & time in November, according to 2022 insights:
- Day: The day before Thanksgiving
- Time: Between 12 – 1 pm local time
- Top items ordered:
“The top foods that have their most popular day of the year the day before Thanksgiving are overwhelmingly related to desserts – whether that’s pre-made pies or ingredients to bake from scratch. According to our survey, desserts (60%) top the list of last minute items those who are likely to wait until the last minute to complete their shopping for Thanksgiving will be shopping for. With two sources citing a similar notion, it’s clear that dessert is top-of-mind during last minute shops, whether it’s because they’re more of an afterthought when it comes to planning the holiday meal or because they’re the easiest items for guests to bring to dinner.” – Laurentia Romaniuk, Instacart’s Trends Expert
Next to desserts (60%), ingredients for dinner or side dishes (59%), beverages (55%), and pre-made dinner or side dish items (33%) top the list of last minute items those who are likely to wait until the last minute to complete their shopping for Thanksgiving will be shopping for.
With desserts on top, here’s a look at apple, pecan, and pumpkin pie purchases made on Instacart around the nation in the week leading up to Thanksgiving…
The West Loves (Pre-made) Pie: There’s a pretty clear pattern across all three maps that states in the West are buying more pre-made pie than those in the East, with Washington, Montana, Hawaii, and Idaho all ranking in the top 5 for each category. Perhaps more folks in Eastern states are making their pies from scratch. Pie oh my!
According to our survey…
- 87% of Americans plan to celebrate Christmas this year.
- Of those who plan to celebrate Christmas, 37% say it’s likely they will wait until the last minute to complete their shopping for the holiday.
- One in four of those who are likely to wait until the last minute to complete their shopping for Christmas (25%) say it’s because they dislike shopping so much, they tend to procrastinate.
Similar to Thanksgiving, Christmas can be a stressful holiday – with the added layer of buying gifts for friends and family! In fact, our survey found that shopping for gifts (27%) and wrapping gifts (27%) were among Americans’ least favorite parts about prepping for the holidays – ranking even higher than holiday meal planning (19%) and hosting family (19%).
This is where Instacart comes to the rescue. Customers can shop for gifts for all their loved ones in just a few taps from retailers like Sephora, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, BevMo!, The Body Shop, Bath & Body Works, The Container Store, CVS, Petco, Walgreens, Costco, Lowe’s, Michaels, Five Below, and Dollar Tree, to name a few.
Delivery through Instacart is open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, where available, matching most local retailer hours in the markets where Instacart operates.
- Peak Instacart order day & time in December, according to 2022 insights:
- Day: December 23
- Time: Between 1 – 2 pm local time
- When it comes to peak gifting day, Instacart sees a spike in the share of orders marked as “gifts” on Christmas Eve, where it’s nearly 3x higher than the yearly average.
- 🔥Hot tip: You can select the “make it a gift” option during checkout, which will prompt you to enter your giftee’s name and phone number, select a festive digital card image, and add a special message. Once the order is placed, Instacart will send a gift notification to the recipient so they can view the special message and track the gift’s arrival to their doorstep in as fast as an hour.
Who are the recipients of these last minute gifts, you ask? Our survey found that more than one in three Americans anticipate they will be shopping last minute for holiday gifts for their partner/spouse (39%) and children (36%) this year.
Here are the top non-food items customers shopped via Instacart the most last year on Christmas Eve:
“We found it interesting that ‘dog treats’ and ‘dog toys’ made their way onto the top 10 list for last minute items ordered on Christmas Eve. People have so much love for their dogs, so we think these are stocking stuffers or under-the-tree gift purchases for Fido. Party gift bags and transparent tape are also really interesting items in the top 5 list, giving us a clue as to how many people wait until the night before to start thinking about gift wrapping.” – Romaniuk
Here are the top food and beverage items customers shopped via Instacart the most last year on Christmas Eve:
Similar to Thanksgiving, an overwhelming majority of the top items ordered on Christmas Eve are desserts, with cookie dough, hot cocoa, and cheesecake topping the list. Here’s a look at how these dessert purchases stack up across the United States and Canada:
Hot Cocoa Mix: Preferences for hot cocoa mix are not isolated to one geographic region, but these 5 states seem to enjoy the cozy beverage the most! What they all have in common is extra chilly temps, especially in the cold winter months.
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Eggnog: Eggnog is a hit in the northwestern regions of the country with Vermont in the east coming in at #1!
Sugar Cookies: Eastern states undoubtedly have a sweet tooth when it comes to sugar cookies – much more so than the west. A noticeable cultural divide!
- New Hampshire
- South Carolina
- Oklahoma, North Carolina, Vermont, and West Virginia (all tying for 5th!)
Cookie Dough: Southeastern states have the highest share of orders with cookie dough in the three weeks leading up to Christmas with these 5 states taking the cake – er, cookie:
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
- South Carolina
Cheesecake: Cheesecake wins the hearts of midwesterners with these top 5 states ordering the most ahead of the holidays.
- South Dakota
Gingerbread House Kits: Love for gingerbread houses isn’t isolated in any one region but the country’s two noncontiguous states – Hawaii and Alaska – prefer them the most.
- Utah, Louisiana (tying for 4th!)
🦃 Happy holidays from Instacart! 🎄
Don’t forget, ‘tis the season for merriment and play, but if you find yourself in a pinch, Instacart’s only a few taps away.
Adjusted for Growth:
We adjust Instacart growth percentages by the overall growth of total deliveries. Doing so removes the influence of our platform growth so we can focus on the change in consumer behavior.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Instacart from October 24-26, 2023, among 2,075 adults ages 18 and older. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.7 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact [email protected].
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