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How to Start Preparing for the 2021 Holiday Season Now

As they grapple with an ongoing pandemic and the supply chain shortages it has created, consumers are being urged to get their holiday shopping done earlier than usual this year. And while November typically kicks off the holiday buying season, the labor shortage and inventory constraints may force shoppers to rethink those plans.

Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast predicts that the November-January timeframe could boost sales by 7-9%, pushing total holiday sales to about $1.3 trillion. Deloitte also forecasts an 11-15% bump in ecommerce sales during the 2021-22 holiday season (compared to the same period in 2020). If this plays out, ecommerce holiday sales will reach somewhere between $210 billion and $218 billion this season.

“We anticipate strong consumer spending for the upcoming holiday season,” Deloitte’s Daniel Bachman said in a statement. “A steady decline in the savings rate to prepandemic levels will support consumer spending and keep retail sales elevated this season.”

So a year-end push by performance marketers to reach these enthusiastic shoppers has the potential for big returns. Here’s how to have a happy holiday marketing season.

Don’t lump shoppers together

Not all shoppers will be of the same mindset. Some will stick to their traditional shopping strategies (i.e., a mix of brick-and-mortar and online spending), others will lean more heavily on ecommerce, and still others will explore flexible gift-giving options like beer or wine of the month club-type offerings and virtual products (e.g., digital book or music downloads).

These gifts are not only convenient, but they can also help consumers skirt the many physical supply chain issues that so many organizations are grappling with in 2021. The global semiconductor chip shortage, for example, has made consumer electronics, high-tech coffee makers and children’s toys harder to find. The issue could get worse as the holiday season rolls into gear.

According to Quantum Metric, 81% of Americans did more than 50% of their 2020 holiday shopping online and plan to purchase the same amount, if not more, of their gifts online this year. Breaking shoppers down by generation, it says millennials like to purchase gifts with a personal connection, while Gen Z focuses on convenience, prefer holiday gift guides, and often take less than an hour to make a gift-related buying decision.

Deals wanted

According to a recent Shopkick survey, holiday buyers will continue to take advantage of deal days, with 61% reporting that they are planning to shop on Black Friday and 67% on Cyber Monday. The majority (78%) of those planning to take advantage of Black Friday will do so online, followed by in-store (64%) and mobile (36%).

“Younger generations are more likely than their older counterparts to steal deals, with 76% of Gen Z and 66% of millennials planning to shop on Black Friday,” Shopkick points out, “compared to 61% of Gen X, 53% of baby boomers, and 43% of the silent generation.”

One of Hawthorne’s interns offered their interpretation of the survey. “Based on personal experience, I’ve noticed that people my age prepare early for holidays or other occasions that involve gifts,” our Gen Zer said. “The incline of technology and decline of brick-and-mortar—especially during a pandemic—has caused the upcoming generations to look upon convenient websites like Amazon.”

She mentioned that subscriptions delivered to your home are particularly appealing. “In my opinion, convenience will always be key when it comes to online shopping,” our intern adds. “If I know it’s a trustable company, I will most likely opt to support them, even if it means I may spend slightly more.”

Make it personal

From 3D garment try-ons to personalized shopping experiences and easy return processes, consumers will expect a lot from online and offline retailers this upcoming holiday season. By effectively blending the digital and the offline experience, performance marketers can meet these demands while also harnessing what may prove to be a banner holiday selling season.

For example, using dynamic product ads, marketers can target audiences based on those buyers’ unique shopping patterns. The more tailored those ads are to consumers’ specific interests and shopping histories, the better.

“Smart and personalized shopping experiences captivate consumers, shortening the path to purchase across every stage of the purchase funnel,” Yahoo’s Andrea Wasserman writes in Forbes. “Personalization leverages data to control the conversation and experience of content being delivered to customers throughout their journey, across all digital channels—and even beyond.”


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