This time of year is usually about reflection, joy, spending time with one’s loved ones, and shopping – lots of it, in fact. However, this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has classified shopping in stores “before, on, or after Thanksgiving” as a higher risk activity to avoid in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Despite the uncertain and unprecedented times we’ve all dealt with this year, advertisers are still making an effort to spread cheer throughout the holiday season.
Retail & Digital Trends Seen This Season
The holiday season began quite differently this year. As a consequent effect of COVID-19, Amazon postponed its Prime Day summer sale to two dates in mid-October; this, in turn, kicked off the holiday season with a 50% year-over-year surge in online spending for the week of October 11-17. According to Deloitte’s InSightIQ, the retail sector viewed a 6% increase in spending in the third week of October, following sales events from large retailers. After seeing the success of Prime Day, other big retailers such as Macy’s and Best Buy announced their Black Friday deals beginning November 1st.
In addition to elongated seasonal deals, nearly a third of advertisers are incorporating COVID-19-related themes into their brand messaging with the hopes of connecting with consumers, as stated by Ace Metrix. There have been several recurrent concepts seen by brands such as Etsy, including the portrayal of virtual celebrations, safe shopping practices, and a reflection of 2020’s challenges and highlights. Unfortunately, references to the pandemic did not generate a notable advantage for ads. Those that had themes centered around COVID-19 did slightly outperform those that did not, which was steered by better scores on Change, Relevance, and Likability; however, both groups of ads had equivalent scores on elements of Attention, Information and Desire. With this in mind, although it may seem fundamentally necessary to shed light on the pandemic in advertisements, consumers are not finding it obligatory.
Industry Predictions for Black Friday & Beyond
With the limitation of store visits in place this season, shoppers are depending significantly on eCommerce to keep the holiday spirit alive. Over three-quarters of consumers (77%) look forward to completing a half or more of their holiday shopping on the web, as stated by a Bizrate Insights and Digital Commerce 360 survey of 1,000 customers in September. Stores are being avoided because consumers are worried about shoppers not utilizing masks, getting too close to other individuals, touching products handled by others, and wearing masks themselves. For this reason, experts believe digital commerce will be the new way of shopping throughout the holidays – since it is safe, easy, and frictionless.
Adobe Analytics projects online sales to reach $189 billion, spiking eCommerce holiday sales 33% this season. As consumers shift to online shopping for the holidays, key findings from PowerReviews Holiday Consumer Survey display the top elements driving shoppers’ purchase decisions are customer reviews and price. This means brands will need to encourage and reward positive reviews, as well as constructively benchmark to ensure their products are priced at a degree that generates sales while also maintaining profit margins.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Holiday Shopping
Many major retailers are modifying their Black Friday strategies to adjust to the “new normal.” Brands like The Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond have begun reinventing Black Friday by making their holiday promotions available both in-store and online throughout the entire holiday season. To limit crowds and avoid lines, retailers including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, Best Buy, and Macy’s have all decided to close on Thanksgiving Day. Instead, stores are offering delivery and curbside pickup, as well as longer and earlier doorbuster deals.
For the 66% of customers still interested in checking off their holiday wish lists shopping in-store, survey data by the International Council of Shopping Centers in October shows that they are more inclined to visit stores with health precautions put in place, including capacity constraints, mask requirements, contactless payment, and one-way aisles. Retailers that consider the COVID-19 concerns while making shoppers feel safe are positioned to come out on top this holiday shopping season.
Continuing Promotion Beyond Black Friday
In response to the pandemic, global consumers have altered their shopping behaviors, with 65% of them conveying an intent to integrate these behaviors moving forward. Shoppers are no longer shopping from the same brands and retailers as they did in previous years; according to Periscope’s Retail reimagined report, 40% of consumers have tested new brands throughout the pandemic and will continue to over the holidays. In comparison, only 12% are sticking to the same brands from last year. Retailers looking to attract both existing and new customers may benefit from social media engagement and personalization, as 31% of shoppers indicate that social media could initiate a purchase, and 25% state that personalized campaigns could prompt purchasing a gift. Still, as consumers look at multiple sources for gift ideas, omnichannel marketing remains the top seller this holiday season.
In need of insights on how to design your holiday ads to improve your purchase rate? Download our eCommerce Holiday Ads Report to discover four creative considerations derived from more than 8,000 ads.