The 2020 Christmas season was – to borrow an overused yet true phrase – unprecedented.
E-commerce experts had been predicting record sales in e-commerce for months. After all, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has deterred many from seeing loved ones in person or shopping in physical stores. Many of these predictions have come true.
In fact, U.S. consumers broke 5 records for Christmas shopping during Cyber in 2020, with online sales increasing 20.6% year over year.
With the 2021 holiday season approaching, many retailers are wondering what this year has in store.
We spoke to e-commerce experts from across the industry to find out what they think are the trends that are driving the 2021 holiday season the most.
Here is what they said.
Increased online and hybrid shopping
“On the way to Christmas 2021, even if in-store shopping reopens its doors in certain regions, online shopping is here to stay and will continue to grow. More and more consumers continue to shop on mobile devices and the digital world is making its way into the walls of traditional stores. The future of commerce lies both online and offline.
Before shoppers enter a physical store, they encounter various digital touchpoints during their decision-making process. You can research product details, find customer reviews and recommendations, and compare prices. Combining offline strengths and online benefits is key to improving customer interactions, whether they are shopping online or in-store this holiday season. Offering an exceptional shopping experience for the customer is the key. “
Mike Esposito – Content Producer, 1Digital Agency
… But be prepared for further shopping opportunities
“It is tempting to assume that the biggest trend that will affect the 2021 holiday season will be a greater influx of shoppers based on the fact that e-commerce has grown explosively over the past year. However, we believe that unpredictability will be the biggest challenge facing online businesses.
It’s hard to predict where the largest segment of buyers will be from. No doubt this online shopping season will be busy, but at the same time shoppers from all over the country are getting the cabin bug. Many can itch to go out and back to shopping malls and outlets.
It’s hard to tell if more shoppers will crouch down and continue shopping exclusively online, if most of them feel like jumping back into the traditional retail vacation experience, or if there will be a healthy mix. Companies with online and stationary locations should be better prepared for both scenarios. “
Connie Wong, Marketing Manager, Silk Software
“While many federal states and municipalities reopen, the lessons of the COVID-19 era will shape retail for years and possibly forever.
Many traders have felt the limitations of the supply chain. It is more important than ever to have a diverse range of products, services and channels for fulfillment. Building a comprehensive ecommerce strategy can ensure that you have the capabilities to keep adapting as customer needs inevitably change. “
Sarah Toth, VP Marketing & Partnerships, Consulting
Use omnichannel marketing
“The long-perceived norms of Christmas shopping have been turned upside down. And more than ever, a season full of surprises awaits us. You may not know how to ask for it by name, but omnichannel marketing is exactly what our consumers need.
Consumers want to know that despite the interaction channel, or whether they choose to go shopping or do so from the comfort of their couch, they are getting the same extraordinary experience.
Most of all, they want consistency, hyper-personalized messages, and convenience. “
Alita Harvey-Rodriguez, General Manager, MI Academy
“Have a complete omnichannel maintenance cycle! Merchants who haven’t set up their dynamic email and retargeting campaigns will have a hard time achieving their optimal conversion rates and CPAs. “
Duran Inci, CEO, Optimum7.com
Give shoppers what they want: convenient options
“The biggest trend this Christmas season will be convenience. Buyers will ask.
- Can I order online when and how I want?
- Can I pick up in the store when I want?
- Can I make a reservation in the store and wait for the product to be tried on?
- Can I get immediate delivery?
- Can I return my purchase using a simple pick-up service, or can I go back to the store and have replacements waiting for me?
Retailers who develop strategies based on these “5Cs” of convenience will be well positioned this Christmas season. “
Alan Moore., Group Managing Director, RANDEMRETAIL
“Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) will be important. Most of the shopping process will be online, but I also believe that more inventory will be distributed outside of retail and made available for easy domestic delivery. “
Michael Payne, sales director, Silk Software
Shopping on the phone is a must
“Buying on the phone is the one to watch. Shopping on mobile devices is easy for shoppers on the go, especially last minute purchases. However, the number of abandoned carts may be higher on mobile devices. This is a trend that online retailers should curb by providing a smooth mobile shopping experience and remembering that people are more likely to buy from their mobile device when a discount is available.
Offer discounts cleverly by offering a coupon code as soon as a customer has subscribed to your newsletter. This way you have your contact details and can continue to maintain them via email. You can also display a very enticing opt-out offer to keep customers on your website and motivate them to complete their purchase. “
Emilie Murphy, Product Marketing Manager, POWR
Prepare for buyers who start early
“Consumers will start shopping early. The interruptions in the supply chain from last year have had a lasting impact on perception. Last year we heard that 70% of shoppers wanted to shop early to avoid both the crowds and items being sold out. Similar trends are expected this year. To meet early demand, retailers should consider launching vacation plans and promotions earlier than usual. “
Erin Sagin, Product Marketing Manager, Google
Dealers also need to prepare their stocks at an early stage
“Be aware of the supply chain restrictions. Typically, retailers need to order their items 3-9 months in advance in order to meet them in time for the holidays. Global supply chains are experiencing major bottlenecks as production capacity is exhausted and consumer demand increases. Will retailers be able to buy enough inventory? Will it come on time? Will the shipping problems continue or will the reopening of stores distribute consumer demand and ease the burden on freight forwarders? “
Jake Cohen, Head of Customer Marketing, Klaviyo, www.klaviyo.com
Social media will become more important
“More people than ever before are buying their Christmas gifts on social media. This may not be new, but as the impact of the pandemic continues, consumers are turning to more digital channels. In addition, brand recognition now takes place – mostly and safely during the holidays – on handheld devices. That’s thanks to social media, as 45% of people who discovered something new online last season said it was a gift for someone. So this holiday season, make sure your social media strategy is in tip top shape – as it can generate lots of sales. “
Chris Cano, Content Lead, dotdigital
Facebook for BigCommerce gives merchants the tools they need to be successful on Facebook and Instagram. Check out our guide to Selling on Instagram to learn more about how it works, how to set up product tags, and more.
Online experience as a differentiator
“As more and more customers shop online, the demand for exceptional customer experiences is higher than ever before. During the Christmas season it can be difficult for retailers to differentiate themselves solely on the basis of price. With a little creativity, minimal investment and a good dose of empathy, retailers can convince customers with an outstanding customer experience from the first touch to the interaction after the purchase. “
Francis Pilon, Head of Global Partnerships, LimeSpot
Reviews play a big role
“Reviews will play an increasingly important role this year in the 2021 holiday season. In fact, providing reviews and social proof has been cited as critical to success. It is recommended that brands and retailers do everything they can to educate, encourage, and increase the chance of conversion for buyers.
In fact, 70% of ANZ shoppers read at least one review before making an online purchase (source: BigCommerce report). Consumers want full pre-purchase education and research, and retailers need to offer this or they risk losing sales.
Additionally, consumers will be looking for three things in the reviews: authenticity, timeliness, and relationships. Consumers want a mix of positive and negative reviews. Trust is therefore the number one factor when it comes to reviews and their influence on increasing conversions. “
Steph Gillies, Head of Marketing & Communication, Trustpilot
SMS marketing will be an indispensable channel
“SMS is no longer a nice-to-have channel, but a must-have – especially during the holidays.
Last year, Omnisend sent 378% more SMS messages than in 2019, with the fourth quarter accounting for 68% of those shipments. While SMS conversion rates rose more than 100% year over year, they were especially effective during the holidays.
On Black Friday, SMS accounted for 2.5% of all channel sales and 19% of all SMS orders in November. The Cyber Ten generated 72% of all November orders.
We expect this trend to accelerate. First, consumers are increasingly adopting SMS as the preferred communication channel. Second, we assume that marketers will not be able to resend marketing emails to non-openers due to the iOS update.
Whitney Blankenship, Senior Content Marketing Manager, Omnisend
Time will tell how the upcoming holiday season will go. Will shoppers be thrilled to return to the stores or will they continue to enjoy the convenience of being online for much of their Christmas shopping? What channels will they flock to and what functions will their business bring in?
Our best advice is to prepare by covering your basics as best you can. Prepare your website early on. Serve customers wherever they shop. And ensure a seamless shopping experience. For more information on how to prepare your website for the magic of Christmas, see our guide.