Holiday Predictions to Help Marketers Ring in a Happy New Year

By Conor O'Malley  | 

Like most things about 2020, this holiday shopping season won’t be what we expected. The ongoing pandemic has meant a rethink for retailers, who are devising new strategies to incentivize consumer spending during a time of limited mobility and economic uncertainty. And their efforts are expected to pay off, as the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) predicts a 1.9 percent rise in holiday sales. Brands are also being proactive by partnering with companies like Lyft, Uber, DoorDash and Roadie to ensure timely package deliveries. Here are a few more holiday predictions to help marketers navigate a successful year-end.

Start Early
Black Friday typically marks the start of the holiday shopping season, but Amazon kicked off the festivities one month early by moving its annual Prime Day sales event (usually held in July) to October 13-14. That meant shoppers were purchasing Christmas presents before even wishing each other “Happy Halloween.” Retailers like Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney followed suit, debuting their own mid-October deals. Shipping delays are likewise on consumers’ minds. Salesforce estimates that the number of mailed packages will exceed capacity by 5 percent between Thanksgiving and December 26, potentially putting millions of gifts at risk of not making it home for the holidays. Such “shipageddon” fears are further prompting early shopping, so staying competitive will mean prepping for a longer-than-usual holiday season.

Emphasize Online Engagement
No one wants to brave a crowded mall during a pandemic—55 percent of consumers surveyed by PwC recently reported Covid-19 as their top holiday-shopping related concern—which makes online buying more attractive than in past years. Salesforce’s 2020 forecast projects a 30 percent global online sales surge, totaling $940 billion — an 8 percent increase over 2019. US consumers alone are expected to drop over $190 billion on e-commerce purchases, up 35 percent from last year. The Thanksgiving holiday promises to be the ultimate time for “couch commerce,” as Black Friday may witness its first $10 billion sales boom. This emphasis on virtual engagement demands effective online strategies from retailers. Customers crave personalized engagement. In fact, Forbes reports that 49 percent of shoppers are more likely to buy from companies that send curated content and offers this holiday season.  Being understood is even more important. Roughly 70 percent of consumers surveyed by Redpoint Global reported allegiance to brands that delivered messaging demonstrating genuine understanding of their desires and needs.

Staying Put
Dropping temperatures are expected to see a Covid-19 spike, which likely means less travel to visit friends and family. Instead, customers will splurge on cozy furnishings, holiday décor and outdoor home adornments. Health and wellness offerings will understandably be more popular, and we haven’t seen the end of last spring’s baking craze—homemade treats, cooking supplies and cocktail staples should remain hot, according to Nielsen. Companies can capitalize on these trends by innovating products and services to be shared from the comfort of home. Those who do brave brick-and-mortar establishments will likely favor stores that have been transformed into fulfillment centers able to offer multiple items, as opposed to one-stop shops. And sites providing pickup options (curbside, drive-through, in-store) are expected to enjoy a 90 percent sales uptick over past years.

Financial pressures and ongoing pandemic concerns mean these holidays will look quite different, but customers are still eager to celebrate and create new traditions. Successful companies can meet their needs by remaining creative, flexible and in tune with consumer mindsets.

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