40% of every £1 this Christmas went on digital gifts
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40% of every £1 this Christmas went on digital gifts

11 December 2019

Introducing the “Empty Tree Effect” - 40% of every £1 spent this Christmas went on digital gifts

Christmas often involves British parents up and down the country frantically finalising their Christmas shopping, ticking off their child’s wish list, and wrapping those last-minute bits…

Or does it?

Compared to just ten years ago, we live in a much more technologically advanced world, where children are online from an early age, playing video games, and using tablets and mobiles on a regular basis.

empty tree effect

We surveyed more than 2,000 parents on what they bought their child this year, and our research shows that two in five presents didn’t physically exist this year. Presents are becoming more and more digital. We’re calling it the “Empty Tree Effect”, with 40% of every £1 spent this Christmas going on digital gifts.

Digital Gifts versus Christmas Magic

Ironically, the majority of the parents we spoke with (57%) agree that digital presents take the magic out of Christmas, and two in five parents (38%) bought a ‘consolation’ present (physical present) alongside digital presents because they wanted their child to have something to unwrap on Christmas day itself.

Online gaming products came out as a top gift this year, with two thirds (60%) of parents buying one as a gift for their child in 2019 and spending, on average, £58.30 - a 71% increase since 2017. Parents of boys spent more on average on online gaming products than girls, spending £70 compared to £43 for girls.

The amount spent on these products increases with age, with parents of those aged 11-16 spending on average £64 compared to £62 for parents of 6-10 year-olds, and £40 for parents of under-5s.

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Chasing the high-score: The rise of online gaming points

A quarter (24%) of these parents spent the most on digital gaming points such as Fifa points and V Bucks, followed by one in five (21%) who selected digital game downloads and a further 18% who answered that downloadable content (DLC) was the largest expense.

Over half of parents (51%) said that they had spent money on online gaming points in the past two years. Parents of those aged 6-10 are likely to spend the most on such products, having spent £75 on average compared to £50 for parents of under 5s. Parents spent on average £30 on gaming points for boys under 16 than girls.

Digital content subscriptions also proved popular gifts, with parents spending £55.70 on products like Netflix this Christmas.

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Streaming Services as Stocking Fillers

Netflix was by far the most popular option for digital content subscriptions with a third (33%) saying it was their largest expense this Christmas, compared to 14% that said YouTube premium and 12% who said Spotify.

When it comes to buying Christmas presents, parents are savvy about getting the best deals, with nearly three in five (58%) shopping around for vouchers and discounts, including 29% who say they always do this. Mums and parents aged 35-54 are the most likely to search for discounts.

Interestingly, 52% of parents agreed that digital presents make it a challenge to surprise their children and exactly half agreed that it is more difficult than ever to please children at Christmas.


Greg Le Tocq, vouchercloud’s founder, said:

“It’s fascinating to see how present buying habits have changed, although it’s not surprising that digital gifts are becoming a favourite. We’re living our lives more online than ever before and, as technology continues to evolve, I’m sure we’ll continue to see digital presents become even more popular.

“Many parents clearly still want to see their child opening something physical on Christmas Day, so I don’t think we’ll be seeing a completely bare space under the tree just yet! Online gaming products also emerged as a popular present choice. Again, this is far from surprising considering how big the gaming community is - especially with young players.”

Get gifting with vouchercloud

If you’re looking to save a little Sterling, or spend a little less, check out our Electrical discount codes for savings on brands like Game, Currys PC World, Amazon.co.uk.

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