We all know that the year 2020 is different than any that came before. With the global pandemic still affecting our world, people have had to adapt to this “new normal.” But how will that affect the upcoming holidays? Just as people have had to flip their routines and traditions upside down, brands need to adjust their messaging and strategies to fit this unique holiday season.
Digital-First Shopping Season
The holiday season is typically a time where consumers shop for gifts, stretch their budgets, and splurge on luxuries rather than necessities. This means that the last few months of the year are the most important for retailers’ sales, with between 50% and 80% of total annual revenues often generated in these final weeks. However, with adjusted incomes and fewer in-person shopping trips, brands need to be prepared to adapt.
“2020 will be a digital-first shopping holiday,” said Karl Haller, retail industry expert at IBM Global Business Services. “IBM is projecting sales at non-store retailers to continue to accelerate, growing by 35% in November to December (vs. an increase of 24% during March to July).” Consumers will be doing their holiday shopping online more than ever before, so brands need to make sure their digital content stands out.
The Downfall of Black Friday
The day after Thanksgiving, dubbed “Black Friday,” is typically characterized by crazy crowds, long lines, and stellar sales. Yet, in a COVID-19 world with social distancing guidelines, retailers relying on the biggest shopping day of the year need to rethink their strategies. The CDC labels going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving a “high-risk activity” when it comes to contracting the virus. In fact, more than a third of U.S. shoppers who normally shop in stores for Black Friday say they won’t this year.
Brands should take these considerations into account when marketing their Black Friday sales, and ensure their messaging is socially conscious. This may mean promoting online sales instead, or offering curbside pickup and BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store). “Curbside pickup is going to be a big secret weapon for us. We didn’t have that last holiday season. First off, the speed and the safety of curbside pickup, we think that’s going to be huge for this holiday season if [customers] are not comfortable to walk into a store,” said Jeff Gennette, the CEO of Macy’s.
The Early Brand Gets the Worm
It seems as if the holiday season gets earlier every year, and that is even more true in 2020. Although curbside pickup, BOPIS, and package lockers are becoming more popular, postal services will still be exhausted with shipments for the holidays. As of October, many companies are already starting their seasonal sales and messaging. Amazon moved their annual Prime Day to October 13 and 14 from the typical July date, with other brands like Target following suit in digital discounts.
Consumers have seen shipment delays throughout the pandemic, and will be shopping earlier than normal to ensure their packages arrive in time for their festivities. Amazon, UPS, and FedEx are hiring hundreds of thousands of seasonal employees in preparation for the influx of online orders, while The U.S. Postal Service published a guide outlining when to order packages to meet specific arrival dates. With this in mind, brands need to start their holiday messaging as soon as possible.
Inspire Ideas in Online Shoppers
“In previous years I would often go into the city and into shops for inspiration. We can’t do that at the moment at all…inspiration-wise, you’re stuck with whatever you can find online,” said a Pinterest user about the upcoming 2020 Christmas season. According to Google, 75% of U.S. shoppers who plan to shop this season said they will shop online more for the holidays than they did in previous seasons, and a similar number said they would browse for gift ideas online rather than in store.
One way brands can inspire shoppers struggling with gift ideas online is through curated gift guides. A gift guide is a collection of products based on a certain demographic or interest, like “Gifts for Mom” or “Gifts for Dog Lovers.” Companies like Buzzfeed, Amazon, and NY Magazine are already doing this, and brands of any size should be hopping on the bandwagon. Whether you’re partnering to get your product featured on existing gift guides or creating a guide of your own, a curated collection of gift ideas is a great strategy for any brand during this unique holiday season.