2021 Retail Holiday Trends Unwrapped – Here's What You Need to Know

After last year's holiday season that was one of a kind, people are craving a full-fledged return to seasonal traditions, which also means the fun of doing the holiday shopping. This year's holiday shopping season is already in full swing. 40% of the shoppers have already started filling their bags with shopping from different brands.

Keep reading for some key findings you should know this holiday season -

  • 56% of buyers intend to do the most of their online shopping during Black Friday.

  • This year 34% of the shoppers want to spend more on buying gifts than last year. Hence, 53% of them are keeping a bigger budget of $101 - 500.

  • There's a significant concern related to stock-outs (75%) and delivery delays, especially with electronic items, toys, and accessories. This will inspire buyers to start early this year.

  • According to 40% of the retail executives, there will be double-digit online channel growth for brands.

  • 62% of the spending will occur online, which means engagement with digital platforms will be high. However, curbside pickup and BOPIS will remain popular for their ease of shopping.

The peak holiday season has always been a critical time for retailers. This shopping season is the right time to get the value exchange right and make a profound impression on customers. Even in the challenging times, customers honor the gift-giving traditions and shopping until New Year's Day.

In this blog, we take a quick look at how customer behavior will look and how retailers can take an insightful approach for the seasonal shopper.

Consumer Shopping Behavior Has Shifted

Since 2020 e-commerce sales spiked instantaneously as consumers shop from the safe, convenient environment of their homes. To compete during the busiest time of the year yet, brands need to predict customer behavior to make meaningful connections with added convenience and peace of mind.

Here are a few factors that brands should consider:

  • Customer behavior patterns have shifted drastically, and expectations have increased. 

  • Sustainability and transparency of retailers remain at the top priority for Gen Z audiences who continue to influence e-commerce sales this year. 

  • The e-commerce segment underwent years of digital transformation in just two months since last year. This means advanced technology like AI, ML, and AR/VR will play a crucial role in enhancing customer experience. 

Important Trends to Watch Out for Holiday Season 2021

This unprecedented time has dramatically changed every aspect of consumer life, shifting customer behaviors and expectations, and mounting pressure on retailers to adapt quickly. To stay ahead of the competition, many retailers have adopted different approaches, prioritizing online shopping and other convenient delivery as ways to meet customer demands.

To make the most out of this unpredictable holiday shopping season, retailers need to do things differently to bring operational excellence. For example, Sabon, an International manufacturer, and retailer of nature-infused bath & body products, sustained high traffic volumes during the holiday season by maintaining and improving its digital sales process. Utilizing custom-built integrations on the Magento platform brought automation in new product SKUs entry and efficient product return processes without losing a single sale. 

Here's a list of key predictions for this first-ever atypical holiday season -

Online Shopping Experiences Will Gain Momentum

Every year, there is steady growth in online shopping during the holiday season. But this year, the records are seeing an uptick in growth and are expected to be more significant. To little surprise, e-commerce sales have grown to a massive extent in the  first six months of 2021 compared to the last ten years combined. That is a 41% increase from the end of 2019 until June. Additionally, a survey from DaVinci Payments found that  71% of US adults do most of their holiday shopping online this year.

During last year's peak shopping season, several stores were open with full safety measures. However, customers made their purchases online more than they usually had before. So, after an incredible period of e-commerce growth, the question is - will customers stick to their shopping habits, or will they go back to their 2019 behaviors?

Key Takeaway - This upward trend signifies that eCommerce will focus more on as competition starts to heat up for the holiday season. It is essential to note down what consumers are looking for because this implies how they shop. Then, for specific brands, either drive them directly to a preferred e-commerce platform or use mid-funnel prospecting (a technique used for consumers who find out items on mobile but feel more comfortable through a desktop or laptop.)

Customers Will Continue to Prefer Convenience

2020 has seen some significant changes quickly shifting how customers engage with brands. As we are back to the new normal, retailers could reshape what that looks like and adopt some of the habits and expectations.

Customers have grown accustomed to alternative shopping options such as in-store and curbside pickup. The reason is not only that they're more health-conscious, but BOPIS and BOPAC enable consumers to browse the product catalogs into their mobile phones and pick up their orders at their most convenient time. In addition, the ease of pickup is greater than other shopping options available.

To keep up with the trend, retailers would need to take a major look at their strategies for BOPIS and BOPAC to incorporate a more delightful customer experience. To innovate effectively, retailers need a solid platform that can be tested at low cost and scale up to meet demand. For this, Icreon's AWS services are excellent for experimentation. It enables creating new services while experimenting with next-level features, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other incredible features.

Changed Shopping Behavior Will Play into Products Purchased

Holiday traditions will remain but will appear in new forms in 2021. A recent study by Klarna shows that consumer behavior has shifted through four phases

The stock-up phase - At the beginning, consumers are very much concerned about the shelter-in-place orders

The settle-in phase - As the new normal penetrated, consumers started to spend most of the time on digital channels across devices to accomplish the desired thing virtually.  For example, hanging out with friends online, shopping online, dating, etc.

The let's do something phase - This phase is where consumers feel extreme boredom at home. And as the summer weather kicks in, which stirred more outdoor activities.

The stimulus phase - As consumers received paychecks monthly, they were ready to spend extra cash while shopping online.

Experience-driven Commerce Will Pay a Huge Reward

Innovative brands are constantly looking forward to connecting with customers using both online and offline modes. For instance, a digitally native brand, ModCloth, is joining popup shops trend to create an in-person experience with its customers by allowing its customers to try on apparel with the help of stylists and order products online. A popup shop refers to a temporary retail space where native brands can interact in person with current customers and connect with new prospects. In addition, trends like AR experience through phone or online popup showcasing special offers, new products, or holiday gift guides can help brands engage with customers more personalized.

Key Takeaway - Before you jump into creating unique experiences for your target persona, you must understand how your customers navigate your website. Use site analytics to know user activities. Retailers should prepare to offer an enhanced digital experience at every customer touchpoint utilizing popup shops, landing pages, or online checkout popups. Experience management platform leader,  , brings you the power of customer data, analytics, and marketing automation capabilities to give you a clear picture of how much traction your website and campaigns get to your brand. Furthermore, retailers can leverage immersive technology like AR/VR to offer interactive experiences that sell.

Improved Decisions with Real-Time Insight Will Help Brands Stand Out

As we see a historic shift to digital shopping this season, companies pay attention to real-time insights to make better-informed decisions. To make sure their products are available where and when they are needed, e-commerce companies are working on forecasts and adjusting each lever of their operations to match their forecast with customer trends.

For example, Melissa Shoes, a product line of shoes bestowed with fine touch of Brazilian art & culture, leverages business intelligence tool to capture data from various departments and drive better business insights for planning and forecasting. This has enabled the brand to focus on making timely decisions based on trends and work efficiently in meeting customer needs.

Key Takeaway - Retailers should keep up with the pace of scalability required during this uncertain time. They should adopt technology and intelligence tools like AI and Big Data Analytics to obtain real-time insights to move at the speed of consumer trends.

Rise of Constant Commerce Will Fuel Early Shoppers

E-commerce is all around us, starting from offline stores to smartphones. Nowadays, there are many ways for a buyer to explore, research, and buy products and services from a wide range. Since last year, this 'constant commerce' became prevalent as people spent more time being at home plugged into their phones and devices.

This year, we will continue this even more as many discover unique ways to shop online. For example, a survey by Criteo showcases the fact that many consumers have found a new form of online shopping such as click and collect. This will be more prominent as customers' attraction to e-commerce sales will stay the same.

As consumers think about holiday celebrations and the next purchase and brands offering their best deals, 'constant commerce' will be even more significant. For example, in certain countries across EMEA, APAC, and the Americas, a new customer can take two weeks or longer to make Black Friday buying decisions.

Brands Will Use Videos to Stay Ahead of the Curve

Digitally sound shoppers are leaving traditional outreach methods. Instead, brands are increasingly shifting to video-based content to connect with the target audience to promote and build a connection. In fact, according to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research, one minute of video is equal to 1.8 million words when it comes to reaching a massive online userbase. Moreover, a survey conducted by wyzowl finds that 68% of respondents state they learn about new products by watching short videos. As a result, video attracts more product views, helps brands convey compelling messages to their audience, and reveals a small but critical advantage of a product.

Key Takeaway - Today, YouTube and IGTV advertising are gaining tremendous traction. Hence, it is safe to say that video advertising will stay to boost engagement and conversion during this holiday season. Retailers should produce clickable videos and place it alongside the product images. And like all content, product videos should be responsive as well.

Expect Scarcity Due to Global Supply-chain Disruptions

Ensuring there are enough items on the shelves is practically the lifeline of the retail industry. However, the recent global supply chain issues impact several brands such as Puma, Nike, Gap, and many others. A major surge in demand has clogged the system of supply chain as many of the products are being transported.

At the same time, holiday sales are beginning way early as Amazon has already started its "Black Friday-worthy deals" on Oct. 4. All these means: people will probably start their holiday shopping as early as possible to ignore the worst shopping issues. Additionally, consumers will have to decide two or three choices for their family and friends as there will be a lot of substitution if they don't find the right product.

For retailers, this could be an opportunity for growth as brands can take control of their inventory process and reshape them for modern buyers' 'buy now, wear now' attitude. Instead of going for odd markdowns and incoherent sales floors, brands can utilize this time to have new production and inventory planning to adapt to unexpected disruptions.

Are You Ready For This Retail Season?

Online retailers need to think differently and create strategies that will convince users to shop to hit this shopping season of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday with a bang during this uncertain time. Start preparing your digital platforms to respond to the changing buyer behavior shaping the new retail E-commerce shopping, curbside shopping, and mobile shopping. Make sure all your promotion-based campaigns and logistics are planned to fulfill customer orders on time. Failing to adjust all the levers of digital retail may cause you to lose your e-commerce revenue and backfire on your brand.

The game is on! Seize the moment by re-visiting and re-evaluating your needs for the peak holiday season. Then, get in touch with us to get success with your new revenue goal.