Holiday 2020: 5 trends marketers need to know

In a normal course of events, the holiday season is the most important time of the year for many brands. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s shopping will contrast previous years. Industries are forced to accelerate digital transformation to adapt to consumers’ needs. Given the uncertainty we face, marketers need to plan for multiple scenarios. Therefore, agility is of great importance to face upcoming challenges with confidence.

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, here are some of the top marketing trends for Holiday 2020. 

Trend #1 – Positive sales forecasting

Despite global shutdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall sales forecast has been frequently revised upwards. According to Deloitte’s 2019 annual holiday retail forecast, holiday retail sales are likely to increase between 1% and 1.5%, of which holiday spending will result in sales between $1,147 billion and $1,152 billion during the November-January timeframe.

Research carried out by Tinuiti confirms these numbers. Consumers aren’t planning to cut back on gift spending this holiday season, as 81.3% state they plan to spend about the same or even more on holiday gifts compared to 2019. The sales trend is bolstered by a reduced spending on pandemic-sensitive services such as traveling and visiting restaurants.

Notable in the overall retail sales is that e-commerce will remain at the forefront. Consumers have shown a movement towards buying online rather than the traditional brick-and-mortar shopping. Deloitte forecasts that ecommerce sales will increase by 25-35% YoY during this holiday season, generating between $182 billion and $196 billion. Therefore, brands launch multichannel digital strategies and advertising to target holiday shoppers online.

Despite the positive trends, we have to be cautious in the near future. Several factors as the US presidential elections, increasing unemployment rates and the ongoing presence of the pandemic will influence the overall sales and ecommerce figures.

Trend #2 – Digital transformation: Mobile commerce

Although online shopping has been one of the most popular online activities worldwide, ecommerce will dominate the 2020 holiday season. The share of mobile devices owners who have performed select mobile shopping activities via mobile apps increases every month. In December 2019, already 46% of U.S. consumers stated they have used a mobile retail app to look for more information about a product or service or to make a purchase. Additionally, the share of internet users who are interested in purchasing products through social media is increasing. As of April 2020, 37% of U.S. internet users between the ages of 18 to 34 years reported they had purchased something via social media before but did not do so regularly. 

Clearly, the global pandemic has accelerated the pace at which consumers have shifted towards online. COVID-19 precautions taken by the governments demand consumers to spend more time at home, resulting in less traffic towards brick-and-mortar stores. These regulations stimulate consumers to buy online, as it offers a safer shopping experience simultaneously.

The following numbers – according to US research Sykes – support this trend:

  • 57% of the U.S. consumers has been shopping primarily online during summer
  • 43% feel comfortable visiting in-store retailers again once COVID-19 cases feel under control in the area or the U.S.
  • Almost 54% will rely this year on online shopping, shipping directly to the consumer
  • More than 76% of the respondents state a crowded mall during the pandemic would deter them  from shopping there this holiday season 

We will continue seeing digital transformation disrupting traditional retail, although the pace will fluctuate. Some of the areas where the digital transition can help brands to improve customer experiences include establishing digital platforms, especially mobile, and improving the overall presence by advertising online. In today’s tech-savvy world, online advertising is one of the most effective ways for brands to increase brand awareness, understand your audience and create high-performing content based on existing data.

Trend #3 – Flexible delivery options

To help stop the spread of COVID-19, it’s important that all retail businesses comply with their obligations to enforce physical distancing. ‘Traditionally’, many ecommerce brands make use of at-home delivery. However, due to the enormous surge in ecommerce during the upcoming holiday season, delivery speed might become an issue, impacting the online shopping experience.

BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store) and curbside pickup have been trending for several years. In 2019, BOPIS grew by 35% YOY. For the entire period between March 16 and June 11 2020, BOPIS orders rose 367.2%, topping 2 million orders picked up from stores. These options allow consumers to make purchases while minimizing physical contact. Furthermore, both BOPIS and curbside pickup offer the same-day convenience without shipping and delivery costs, while it becomes easier to return products.

In August, eMarketer forecasted that curbside pickup would increase during the 2020 holiday season. In the previous forecast, U.S. click-and-collect ecommerce sales would increase by 38%. Now, it expects growth to be over 60%, with sales reaching $58.52 billion.

Trend #4 – Connecting creatives with data

According to Deloitte, the upcoming holiday season will be marked by uncertainty. Two possible scenarios will play out this season: 1) a relatively stable YOY sales increase (0% to 1%) or 2) a more significant jump (2.5% to 3.5%). Due to the ongoing global uncertainty, agility is of great importance for all types of brands.

 To build effective strategies for digital campaigns, marketers have to analyse collected data thoroughly. Especially in online advertising, collecting and measuring data is crucial. When testing multiple creatives in online advertising, data tells you what does and doesn’t work, increasing the effectiveness of the campaign.

 It is essential for brands to act fast when they see an online opportunity. Working with a creative management platform allows companies to act quickly. Depending on the audience, relevant elements are put together in a video, created uniquely for the target viewer. Personalization and testing in real times bring enormous value to brands. This way, brands can switch fast and customize their messages among different circumstances.

Trend #5 – Connect with high value customers

The digital landscape is a great opportunity for brands to attract new customers, gain loyal holiday shoppers and maintain your existing consumer base. Consumers have to be incentivized to return to the company’s website and order online. This can be done via social media advertising, digital banner ads or (in-)app advertising. The greatest challenge is to preserve the responsiveness towards your advertising. When your target audience becomes overly familiar with your ads, they stop paying attention and your ad campaign becomes less effective. This can be prevented by reshuffling elements within an existing ad, which allows you to create ‘new’ ads, combating ad fatigue.

How Storyteq can help you prepare for the Holiday Season

We can relate that uncertain times can lead to more uncertainty. Hopefully, this article brings some order to the chaos and helps you prepare for the 2020 holiday season.

Whether you are or aren’t advertising online, the digital transition forces brands to advertise online. Personalization and testing in real times bring enormous value. However, unlocking the full potential of your creative requires a new approach on how to build, scale, and improve your creative supply chain. Creative Automation is the new way to achieve this.

Oct 14, 2020
Pim van Willige
Pim van Willige
Marketing Specialist at Storyteq
As Storyteq’s Marketing Technologist, Pim develops, implements, monitors, and optimizes digital marketing campaigns across various marketing channels. After hours, you can find him heading out for a run or racing his bike.

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