In case you missed it, the holidays are in full swing. Media outlets have started reporting on the top toys for the season, Amazon.com is moving up Black Friday to start now (!), and the threat of supply chain snarls and shipping delays are prompting consumers to get out their credit cards early this year.
This may be one of the reasons why 2021 is projected to be the biggest holiday shopping season ever, especially for e-commerce. According to eMarketer, U.S. holiday retail is forecasted to rise nearly 3 percent and e-commerce sales are predicted to jump 11.3 percent to $206.88 billion.
In a quick survey of retailers, here are the trends we’re seeing this year — and best practices that drive high conversions. Here’s how to make your 2021 holiday creative stand out:
Self-Gifting is Big This Year
Speaking of impulse buys … Consumers have a “for me” line on their gift lists: 51 percent of Christmas shoppers buy gifts for themselves during the holidays. (It’s been a crazy year, why not?) Average order value tends to drop during the holidays, so offer plenty of gift ideas at lower price points to make it easy to buy just one more. Also consider offering gift items that aren’t part of your everyday assortment to engage loyal customers in a different way during the holidays.
Give Your Customers Gift Inspiration
Shoppers are looking for ideas. High-density gift images deliver many ideas in one glance. Holiday shoppers also have lists of people to buy gifts for so creating curated collections and grouping products by giftees (e.g., moms, dads, fashionable friends, etc.) reflects how consumers think and makes it easier for them to shop. Mix in items that are boxed or wrapped and ready to give — they make gifting effortless for customers. Grouping gifts by price point also makes it easy for shoppers to stick to gift-giving budgets or go for impulse buys.
Drive Customers to Your Site or Store — or Both
Your creative assortment should be just the tip of the iceberg. Be sure your customers know there’s more on your website and in-store. Three in four consumers shopped in stores during the pandemic, and almost 80 percent of them made traditional in-store purchases. Expect this behavior to continue, especially after shipping deadlines have passed. Christmas lands on a Saturday this year, too, the first time since 2010, and as a result Sensormatic Solutions expects five of the 10 busiest in-store shopping days to be within seven days of Christmas. Look for supply chain hitches to drive customers into stores looking for gift alternatives that are available and ready to buy now.
Get Creative With Your Creative Buys
Digital ads are getting expensive and hard to target. Less tracking, less measurement, and less targeting thanks to Apple’s recent privacy changes are making online ads less efficient — and CPMs on Facebook are skyrocketing. This trend will only get worse before it gets better. Loyalty is more important than ever as third-party data is phased out. Get creative with your media buys with things like CTV, retail media, SMS, direct mail and more as we all prepare for Christmases without cookies.
Free Shipping Rules — and So Do Flexible Payments
Consumers love to shop online because it’s easy and convenient. They also really, really like free shipping — and thanks to Amazon have come to demand it. Fifty-three percent of consumers report shopping online because of free delivery, and 49 percent of retailers offer free shipping. For 60 percent of consumers, being able to return things easily is key as well. Tout your free shipping and easy returns prominently in your creative — it works. Flexible payments are key this year, too. A survey by Klarna found that a plurality (60 percent-plus) of Gen Z, millennial and Gen X shoppers are looking for more flexible payment options.
Everybody Wants to See a Deal Offered (Even if They Go for Something Else)
Retailers will push promotions earlier this year. Consumers are looking for special offers and the perception of value during the holidays is important. Even the most premium brands offer promotions in November and December. But here’s another interesting counterintuitive twist: The availability of promotions matters, even if customers don’t use them or buy full price. The promotions lure them in, and then they tend to buy something else. That said, not including a promotion in your creative (when most of your competitors are) will hurt your response rates.
And finally, remember that the holiday shopping season doesn’t end on Dec. 26. The window between Christmas and New Year’s and beyond is a great time to offer last-minute deals for consumers looking for an extra gift for their friends — or themselves.
Polly Wong is managing partner, strategic/e-commerce/creative services at Belardi Wong, the leading direct marketing firm in the industry, working with more than 100 retailers and best-in-class brands.
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