A new holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a new kind of seasonal shopper. While 2020 saw people around the world embracing digital commerce as a way to keep their spirits high, it also permanently changed consumer behavior, transforming the future of retail marketing altogether. From shifts in online activity to changes in ad preferences and shopping expectations, this year looks to be even more influential than the last. Here are six consumer trends that brands and businesses can expect during the 2021 holiday shopping season.
While the 2020 holiday season was strange for a number of reasons, one of the most notable was its early start. Supply chain and logistical uncertainties prompted a number of businesses to roll out “Black Friday” deals around mid-October, many of which continued on a weekly basis throughout October and November. Adding to this, Cyber Monday stretched on for a full week rather than occupying its usual spot on the first Monday after Thanksgiving.
Given the success of this change, many speculate that this trend will continue into the 2021 holiday season. More businesses are expected to join in to appease customers who wish to beat the crowds (and traffic) by shopping early. Of the industries most affected, key gifting sectors like electronics, apparel, and department stores stand to see the most omni-channel promotion.
It’s no secret that 2020 saw a surge in eCommerce-driven sales. Fears and restrictions on in-store shopping forced consumers to get creative with or, in some cases, reinvent the “window shopping” experience for themselves. That being said, analysts are predicting a return to in-store shopping for the 2021 holiday season, with MasterCard SpendingPulse forecasting a 6.8% growth in total retail sales, excluding auto and gasoline.
There are signs of pent-up demand; the stock market is doing well, the savings rate is high, and after a year of sheltering in place or reduced time in-store, most consumers simply want to get out and shop. This boost in spending will likely include a surge to impulse purchases, as these tend to occur more frequently during in-store shopping. Online and in-store apparel sales during the period of November 1st and December 24th this year are projected to grow by 45.9% compared to 2020. Jewelry sales and luxury sales are predicted to increase by a whopping 59% and 92.8%, respectively.
Lifestyle changes during the last year generated a need for products that made working from home easier and more comfortable. However, as parts of the world begin to transition closer to a post-pandemic life in the 2021 holiday season, those spending needs will likely shift again. Whereas 2020 saw consumers buying just what they needed in terms of groceries, furniture, or office supplies, more of those consumers will be focusing on what they want, with a boost in spending likely happening in the following categories:
Social: With weddings and parties filling up our calendars once again, it’s safe to say that goods and services designed to bring people together are going to be a hot commodity for the upcoming holiday season. From decorations to food and drink, shoppers will be eager to splurge on items that help them to throw one incredible party after another.
Adventure: With travel resuming all over the world, analysts predict that many consumers will be looking to upend the normal pre-pandemic vacation, especially after a year and a half of canceled trips or sheltering in place. Adventure items will be in high demand, with everything from vacation wear to luggage, sporting goods, and outdoor products vying for top spots in the holiday sales categories.
Luxury: Luxury apparel and accessories stand to hit it big this holiday season as consumers look for more ways to invest in themselves and stave off inflation concerns by liquidating assets into valuable goods. This falls in line with recent self-gifting trends. Facebook found that 74% of global shoppers research gifts for themselves during the holiday season.
People seem to get more attached to their smartphones with each passing year, and 2021 looks to be no different, especially when it comes to holiday shopping. “US retail m-commerce sales grew at 41.4% in 2020 and will grow another 15.2% in 2021,” according to eMarketer.
While loads of shoppers want to get back into stores this holiday season, it means that businesses and retailers will need to ensure their website strategies include a focus on mobile-friendliness and omnichannel marketing. In other words, consumers will come into the 2021 holiday season with the same expectations they had in 2020. They’ll expect consistency with the products and services offered (whether in person or online), and they’ll want the same hyper-personalized messaging and conveniences.
Just as people have become more attached to their smartphones, so too have they increased their time on video streaming platforms and services during the pandemic. From gaming consoles to social media and cable TV, viewing habits have changed dramatically, as have advertising preferences.
This, in turn, creates an opportunity for marketers during the 2021 holiday season, as while people looked for more ways to entertain themselves during the height of the pandemic, their increased screen time has also translated into an increased receptiveness to video ads. Brands utilizing the influencing power of TikTok and Instagram may well see an increase in customer engagement, especially in the beauty and skincare marketing, luxury marketing, and fashion marketing sectors. This is due in large part to the creator-driven word-of-mouth marketing so ingrained in each platform. Users become deeply invested in their favorite creators, often finding themselves with a new willingness to buy what they see on the platform, especially if those product recommendations are laced with fun and entertaining content.
It’s a concept TikTok has dubbed community commerce, and it’s a concept built on speed. Users can go from discovery to action in a split second, engaging with their favorite content, visiting a brand’s website, and making purchases quickly and efficiently. Best of all, they do so feeling a deep connection to the influencers and content creators who recommended these products, keeping the product discovery experience joyful, efficient, and repeatable.
Speaking of conveniences, the YOY growth rate for click-and-collect in the United States will remain above 10% this year, according to Statista. This means that consumers will still be on the lookout for retailers offering options to buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS) or at curbside (BOPAC), despite lockouts being lifted across the country.
Adding to this, consumers will still prefer the value and convenience of free shipping and free returns, especially as bigger eCommerce brands like Amazon continue to offer free shipping to Prime members. After all, what customer wants to fork over $10, $20, or even $30 to ship an item they already paid for? Retailers or eCommerce brands who fail to find ways to lower their shipping costs (preferably to zero) run the risk of abandoned carts.
Likewise, given that the pandemic has permanently shifted consumer behavior, the need for omnichannel customer support will continue into the 2021 holiday season. Just as not all customers will reach out during business hours, so too should retailers expect that not all customers will feel comfortable using the same channels to do so. Whereas some will prefer to email or contact representatives by phone, others will be more inclined to live chat or text. It’s for this reason that retailers and eCommerce brands need to ensure they’re using the right technology and messaging to reach their customers, with responsive web designs based on intelligent UX and search-informed data structure.
All in all, the 2021 holiday shopping season is set to repeat a lot of what made the previous year so influential, albeit with some slight variations. Should you find yourself wondering how you can leverage these predictions to optimize your 2021 holiday advertising strategy, we’d love to help! As a Google Premier Partner ranking in the top 3% of digital marketing agencies in the world, our digital marketing experts work with a variety of clients from multiple industries, helping brands build their landscapes, capture valuable new customers, and stand out from the competition.
Contact VELOX Media today to learn how we can help you improve and optimize your digital marketing strategies for the 2021 holiday season.