We’re betting on an extended holiday retail season, more hybrid shopping, and increased reliance on first-party channels that allow for seamless, personalized, and “everywhere” experiences.
This holiday season, the stakes are high for brands to match (and exceed) last year’s performance. According to a survey by KPMG, retail executives expect this year’s holiday sales to make up an average 35% of their brand’s total annual revenue. Holiday sales are expected to grow 7% compared to 2020—almost double the retail industry's historical yearly growth rate.
While many consumers will be itching to shop in-person again, others will opt for the safety and convenience of e-commerce. Brands need to prioritize creating physical and digital experiences that are tailored to individual preferences. They’ll also need to prepare for expected supply chain and fulfillment delays by implementing creative strategies that avoid problems related to delivery and out-of-stock inventory.
Here are four marketing predictions to keep in mind as you’re planning for the 2021 holiday shopping season.
Supply chain delays will extend shopping timelines
Preparedness will be top of mind for shoppers this holiday season. Consumers have become familiar with shipping delays, and they’re already planning to start shopping earlier than Black Friday and Cyber Monday to make sure their items arrive on time. Extended holiday shopping timelines will also encourage consumers to spend more time browsing and researching before they’re ready to purchase.
This protracted shopping period will have marketers incentivizing early shoppers with special promotions and offers as well as planning for—and communicating—known shipping delays and cutoffs. Some brands who are already facing shipping delays have been rewarding customers with additional loyalty or rewards points as a “thank you” for their patience—a strategy we expect to see more of this holiday season.
Shoppers will also be hyper-aware of out-of-stock items and long shipping windows. With nearly one in four shoppers expecting items to arrive within two to three days, communicating the “why’s” behind potential delays and limited stock—and making them clear from the outset—will be key to earning consumers’ trust and keeping them engaged during a long holiday season.
Shoppers will appreciate brands’ recommendations for similar, in-stock options that will save them the time of looking for and considering new items. Marketers should consider implementing automated back-in-stock and product recommendation notifications sent via text messaging to subscribers.
We’re predicting an extended holiday season—similar to last year’s, which kicked off in October—so we’ll see marketers developing creative strategies that hold shoppers’ attention all season. We expect more brands to share the stories behind their products, people, and beliefs to create a sense of connection that keeps shoppers engaged. Brands will also be diversifying the channels they’re using to let consumers choose when and how they’re interacting with brands.
Marketers will rely on first-party data to personalize the shopping experience
This holiday season, shoppers will engage with more touchpoints than ever when considering their purchases. For marketers, ensuring their brand can deliver a seamless experience across different platforms to stay top-of-mind throughout the extended holiday season will be a top priority—and challenge—especially with the new iOS 14.5 and iOS 15 privacy changes. Savvy marketers will be increasingly relying on owned, one-to-one communication channels based on first-party data (like SMS) to effectively reach their audience.
Building direct connections with shoppers will have a significant impact on brands' ability to drive holiday revenue, too. Brands will focus on engaging consumers with direct, personalized conversations and highlighting their shared values.
Tivan Amour, GM of Conversational at Attentive, believes conversational marketing will create a massive opportunity for brands to build loyalty. “Brands will need to focus on building real rapport with consumers,” said Amour. “Engaging in real-time conversations sits at the crux of that strategy. From going live on Instagram to answering questions and clienteling via text messaging, brands need to take a more personal approach to their mobile marketing strategies.”
Consumers will continue to embrace hybrid shopping
This holiday season, 86% of consumers plan to complete a portion of their shopping in-store. But they’ll still rely on e-commerce to complement their shopping experience: 70% say their holiday shopping journey will include digital touchpoints.
By embracing hybrid shopping, consumers will create safe shopping experiences that still meet their needs. Regardless of where they’re shopping, consumers will turn to their mobile phones to discover new brands, do their research, complete their purchase, and ask questions.
Partly due to the acceleration of e-commerce over the past year, marketers have invested more heavily in SMS marketing to reach shoppers. This holiday season, they’ll be using this channel to start—and engage in—conversations throughout the customer lifecycle.
Through geo-targeting and other segmentation strategies, SMS marketing will help brands personalize shoppers’ experience, educate them about the different shopping options available, and drive revenue whether people are shopping online, in-store, or a combination of both. SMS will also help brands re-engage customers who embraced online shopping in 2020, while building brand loyalty and continuing to grow their audience on digital channels.
To give customers a memorable, personalized hybrid shopping experience, marketers will be rethinking their physical footprints while keeping in mind the experience that consumers expect while shopping in-store.
For those who want to quickly and safely pick up their purchases, brands will optimize their buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) experiences to shorten wait times and ensure items are readily available. They’ll also need to have a clear communication plan so shoppers know where and how to pick up their orders.
Meanwhile, shoppers who find themselves returning in-store will be looking to get inspired. And successful brands will treat their physical locations as extensions of their online presence—recreating the most engaging aspects of their website, social media, and other digital properties into an in-person experience. This will include prioritizing product discovery, gifting inspiration, and connection.
Brands will place transparency at the forefront
Consumer expectations of brands have risen significantly over the last year. They want transparency around where products and materials are sourced, corporate social responsibility, and brand values. 73% of consumers are even willing to pay more for products that guarantee total transparency.
This holiday season, as brands are vying for the attention of consumers—who have nearly limitless options when it comes to who they shop with and how—we expect to see marketers telling their brand’s story in a genuine and authentic way, while sharing timely and educational information with consumers.
With consumers becoming more invested in brands whose values they share, marketers will also be leaning into cause marketing this holiday season. Given that 89% of consumers say they’d like brands to focus on themes of connection and togetherness, we suspect that this strategy will be an effective way to further communicate brands’ values and build lasting connections. Being open and honest in your brand communications builds trust, and helps strengthen relationships with consumers.
Ultimately, we believe that this holiday season will reflect the shift towards personalized “everywhere” experiences that take into account a more consumer-driven shopping landscape.