A Look At Holiday Shopping Behavior In 2021: Proven Strategies To Help Engage Your Audience

A Look At Holiday Shopping Behavior In 2021: Proven Strategies To Help Engage Your Audience

Holiday Sales TrendsHoliday Marketing Tips

The holiday season is right around the corner, and the shoppers are already getting ready to stack up on deals and gifts that come with it. While 2020 was a big year for e-commerce, we’re all left wondering if 2021 will see the same growth in online sales.

With the evolving pandemic, continuing to influence shopping patterns and causing a heavy shift towards e-commerce, it’s crucial for businesses to stay on top of current trends and prepare for the upcoming changes in holiday shopping consumer behavior.

So, let’s walk through the main predictions for the 2021 holiday shopping season and proven strategies to engage and convert your audience.


Holiday Sales Trend #1: How Big Will In-Store Shopping Be?

In locations with the COVID-19 situation under control, consumers are likely to go for a mix of online and in-store shopping. With ~35% of the global population and ~56% of the US population being fully vaccinated, an increase in 2021 holiday in-store sales is expected. Especially as six out of ten consumers (58%) in the US feel more comfortable shopping in stores, now that vaccines are available.

Another important factor, prompting a surge of in-store sales, is that some consumers tend to shop last-minute and can’t afford the wait. With prolonged delivery times at peak shopping season, online stores don’t offer the same instant gratification that physical stores do.

In 2020, when the holiday online sales peaked, in-store sales were up 160% one week before Christmas across the US, while online sales returned to October levels.

In locations under lockdown, shoppers are expected to lean heavily towards e-commerce, as they did last year. Though, as the cases of COVID-19 continue to rise and fall, it’s difficult to fully predict how it will impact the online sales volume during the holiday season. There is undeniably a “cabin fever” among the consumers, many of whom can’t wait to get back out to malls and outlets just in time for gift shopping.

According to the latest Google research, only 35% of U.S. holiday shoppers say that COVID-19 will impact how they shop for the holidays this year, compared with 53% in 2020. Furthermore, only 14% of U.S. shoppers say they will not shop in-store this holiday season. But as 70% of Google’s surveyed participants reported their shopping journey involved online touchpoints, it’s safe to say that the role of digital has been cemented.

The surge of the pandemic has permanently changed the shoppers’ behavior. Consumers tend to spend more per visit and fill up their shopping carts with more items than before, expressing a preference for brands they trust.

We see more users finding inspiration across digital platforms and discovering new brands primarily online, causing a pique in popularity of high-quality informational and inspiration-based content. Because of that, increased hybrid shopping is expected during the holiday season, with a series of digital touchpoints leading to in-store purchases.

With that being said, leading into the holiday season, the strength of online shopping is unlikely to wane with users spending more on better products and a diminishing role of impulse buying.

Holiday Sales Trend #2: The Holiday Season Will Start Early

Last year left a lasting impression on a lot of consumers, who have encountered out-of-stocks and shipping delays during the holiday season. Add to that a fear of missing out on key holiday items, worry about new lockdowns or virus surges, and big brands’ attempts to lure in early shoppers with deals and promotions, and brands can expect the gift-shopping to start well before Halloween.

Though the trend has been greatly propelled by the pandemic, it’s actually far from new, going back to 2018, when it was identified with a Facebook survey finding that 1 in 5 consumers started their holiday shopping in October.

2021 is predicted to see an even bigger influx of early purchasers – according to Jungle Scout’s survey data, 55% of consumers plan to start shopping before Thanksgiving, and the majority of them intend to shop online at large retailers like Amazon or Walmart.

Source: Jungle Scout

This ultimately means that small businesses will have to rethink the traditional holiday timeline and prepare events and promotions of their own to keep pace with consumers as well as big chains.

Holiday Sales Trend #3: Consumers Are Planning To Shop More

According to the NPD Group research, around 29% of US consumers plan to spend more on holiday shopping than they did last year, and one-third of consumers plan to buy more gifts because they will be seeing family and friends over the holidays.

Based on Jungle Scout’s data

It’s still hard to predict, however, where the biggest segment of shoppers will come from. While this online shopping season will certainly be busy, with a likely boost in holiday sales across digital, businesses with brick-and-mortar and online sales channels should prepare for a potential influx from both sides.

Holiday Sales Trend #4: Holiday Shopping Will Be Omnichannel

Last year’s lockdowns, caused by the pandemic, made small businesses adjust quickly, switching to e-commerce and offering services such as curbside pickup and same-day deliveries. As those features have become widely adopted, shoppers expect them to stay for good. In fact, the yearly growth rate for click-and-collect could be upward of 10% this year.

Convenience has become king in e-commerce, with consumers relying on the new digitally-enabled features and tapping into innovations like virtual try-ons, all of which raises expectations for the quality of services they’re receiving online. So, retailers can count on features like BOPIS and BOPAC to gain even more momentum this year.

A survey by KPMG found more businesses plan to offer buy online, pick up in store, and curbside pickup services than last holiday season.

By offering the consumers a variety of shipping and shopping options they expect, delivering a seamless omnichannel experience, retailers would be able to meet the moment, seeing growth from both channels.

Holiday Sales Trend #5: Mobile Commerce Will Spike

With the improvement of online experience and app functionality, mobile commerce is as important as ever. 2020 saw a leap in mobile holiday sales, based on Facebook’s 2020 Holiday Insights report: “Globally, mobile purchases by [Gen X and Boomers] during the holiday season have grown on average by 50 percent or more year on year.”

It’s also important to note that 38% of consumers said they would stop engaging if a website’s content or design is unattractive.

As far as mobile sales are concerned, according to Business Insider, mobile commerce is predicted to make up 36% of all eCommerce sales this year. Mobile apps are also converting customers 157% more often than mobile website counterparts.

For retailers and businesses in 2021, it means focusing on mobile optimization for their peak season strategy, ensuring their websites, product catalogs, and customer support is user-friendly on mobile devices.

So, how can retailers and marketers stay on top of these trends and meet the moment? Let’s dive into the best strategies to start off the holiday season strong.


1. Prospect Early With Promotional Offers

Attract early shoppers by running holiday digital marketing campaigns and seasonal offers ahead of time. Boost the conversion rates, offering flash deals, holiday bundles and combos, or timed promos to create a sense of urgency.

Brands can also implement pop-ups across their websites, showing an enticing offer, if a user exhibits an exit intent to keep customers on their page and drive them to complete their purchase.

Similarly, it would be a good idea to extend the holiday shopping season for businesses, preparing special deals for late and last-minute shoppers.

2. Embrace Mobile-First Optimization

Ensure a frictionless shopping experience on mobile for your customers by optimizing your website and developing mobile-first creatives for your holiday campaigns.

Check if your mobile implementation is on par across different displays (e.g. iPhone vs Windows phone) and if your website has a mobile-responsive and mobile-friendly design.

Increase your page speed by optimizing the images and the loading process through The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), or PWAMPs, as well as cutting down on unnecessary pop-ups.

Also, it’s crucial to consider the checkout process for your business on mobile, if it’s possible to speed it up or cut down on the information required at the checkout. By simplifying the checkout process, businesses can reduce the cart abandonment rate, and retain more customers.

Another good strategy is to give users the option to complete the purchase on desktop or save their shopping basket so that they can access it later from another device. Embracing the cross-device trend in the purchase path and enabling the features that recognize it might just be the key to ensure the user follows through with the purchase.

Want to learn more about mobile optimization? View our guide for developing mobile-first creatives.

3. Use Holistic Approach Across All Channels

At its peak, the shopping season is always the prime time for users to discover new brands and products, breaking their shopping habits to purchase items they never had before as gifts.

With the season kicking off early, consumers spend weeks researching and considering their holiday purchases, which gives them many opportunities to find new brands.

As the discovery process gets more varied and complicated, consumers find their purchases across search engines, physical stores, brand and retail sites, apps and online ads.

To make the most of the holiday season, it’s crucial to deliver a holistic approach across all channels, and ensure you can reach your audience across all digital touchpoints of their customer journey – from discovery to purchase to fulfillment. Syncing multiple digital marketing channels, like paid search and paid social activity, can be used to create a seamless narrative for your brand, pushing the user to complete the purchase.

4. Audit & Refine Your Account Structure

To avoid any unexpected hiccups, in face of the holiday season it’s best practice for marketers and businesses to go through their marketing campaigns, polishing them to ensure they’re running at max efficiency.

Make sure your ad groups and keywords are well-grouped together, and that your offer well matches the target audiences. It’s also crucial to remove any possible constraints to ad delivery, hiking up the budgets, if needed, to meet increased demand and accelerate the growth of your business.

5. Drive Recognition With Video Content

With the increasing usage of streaming services and video reel-based platforms, video has become one of the most powerful tools for engaging your audience.

61% of shoppers say watching a video about a product is important to their purchase decision. And, based on Criteo’s research, nearly 6 in 10 survey respondents said they research the products or services they saw in an ad.

Source: Criteo

Leverage the video content in your holiday marketing campaigns across all channels, increasing brand awareness. You could also use festive CTAs for different audiences and holidays as well as threading in more urgency in your messaging.

6. Use Remarketing To Retain Existing Customers & Win New Ones

According to Google’s research, 64% of existing customers and 80% of new customers, on average, engaged with a digital touchpoint during their shopping journey.

Run remarketing campaigns for your holiday advertising strategy, targeting website visitors, past purchasers, and ad engagers to get the most out of the holiday season.

Want to know more? See our guide to learn to effectively use remarketing campaigns across Google and Facebook Ads.

7. Be Flexible With Agile Marketing Strategies

With trends and customer behavior rapidly developing, it’s important to keep an eye on the evolving challenges and marketing solutions to gain the best results from your marketing campaigns during the holiday season.

By employing agile marketing strategies, you can meet the ever-changing demands and preferences of your customers and accelerate your business’s growth, adjusting to new online holiday shopping trends and changes.

Learn more about agile marketing here.

Get Ready Now

Getting on top of 2021 e-commerce trends can make all the difference for brands this holiday season. A surge of customers – and competition – can make it harder for businesses to meet their goals during the holidays, but taking steps in advance can help position them above others and win new customers.

Get your holiday campaigns running now, optimize your content and leverage your data to understand your customers, plan your inventory, improve your fulfillment, offer competitive prices, and give your customers a personalized and seamless shopping experience.

Find out how Viden’s marketing and analytics solutions can help you improve your brand’s profitability and meet all your holiday goals – book a consultation now.

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