What a Prolonged 2020 Holiday Shopping Season Means for Retail and E-Commerce—and How to Navigate it Successfully

Fall holidays leaves graphic
Published on
Sep 21, 2020
Written by
Elodie Huston
Written by
No items found.
Thank you! You've been subscribed.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

This holiday season, consumers are expected to begin shopping nearly a month before Black Friday. Big-name brands—including Walmart, Target, and Amazon—have already shifted their promotions calendars to adapt to these changing behaviors.

The 2020 holiday shopping season will be different than any other before. Due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19, many consumers have shifted their shopping behaviors to purchase items primarily online—and this trend is expected to continue during the upcoming holiday season. As a result of this—in addition to the limited capacity guidelines for brick-and-mortar locations—consumers and brands will enter the holiday shopping season significantly earlier than usual.

Many consumers plan to start checking items off their holiday shopping lists as early as mid-October—a full month before the traditional start of the season, Black Friday. Brands are embracing this shift, too, in order to avoid supply chain shortages, delayed delivery windows, and high shipping costs. Major retailers including Amazon (who’s expected to launch Black Friday deals as early as October 26), Target, and Walmart have already shifted their holiday promotions calendars and created entirely new shopping holidays to meet these changing expectations.

Consumers are also embracing new ways to shop. While traditionally many holiday purchases are made in-store on major holidays—especially on Black Friday—shoppers will be making the majority of their purchases this year online. IBM predicts that e-commerce will grow an additional 20% by the end of the year. Mobile will continue to fuel this growth: last holiday season, 61% of e-commerce sales were made on a smartphone, a 27% increase year-over-year.

Keep reading for tips on how to adjust your communications strategy, maximize online traffic, and drive more incremental revenue this holiday season.

Navigating the lasting impact of COVID-19

As a majority of the US enters the seventh month of social distancing due to COVID-19, brands are still facing some of the same challenges that appeared at the beginning of the pandemic. Supply chain shortages are often leading to higher numbers of out-of-stock items. And, as shoppers continue to embrace online shopping, shipping windows could become delayed as businesses attempt to meet unprecedented demand.

Extending the holiday shopping season window

This year, consumers will enter the holiday shopping mindset a full month earlier than the traditional start of the holiday shopping season—Black Friday.

Many major retailers are extending their holiday promotions windows to maximize revenue, with companies including Home Depot and American Eagle Outfitters who will officially start holiday season promotions in mid-October.

By starting holiday shopping promotions earlier than ever—spreading them out over the course of a few months—brands can also avoid potential supply chain and delivery issues. Rather than handle a barrage of orders all at once, brands will be able to maintain inventory and shipping expectations.

While an extended holiday shopping season is an invaluable opportunity to increase audience engagement and drive more revenue (while avoiding operational pitfalls), it also poses a challenge: how can you keep your brand communications fresh and engaging?

Impactful brand communications strategies

Because the holiday shopping season is starting earlier than ever, it’s important to diversify your marketing communications to keep your audience engaged. Sending a mix of promotional and non-promotional messages at a regular cadence will help your brand acquire new customers, build loyalty, and drive incremental revenue.

To keep your audience engaged, the content of your promotional messages—and what you’re offering shoppers—should vary. Incorporate a mix of offers—like free shipping, a dollar amount or percentage off, or a free gift with purchase—so your customers receive something new and exciting with each message.

Brand marketing messages are equally important during the upcoming holiday season. Helping your audience get to know your brand better will build loyalty and promote repeat purchases. Send text messages promoting seasonal product launches, gift guides, and loyalty programs to stay top-of-mind as your audience kicks off their holiday shopping.

Here are a few other tips that will help keep your brand’s messaging fresh:

  • Strategically time your messages around “micro-holidays.” Celebrate fall holidays including the First Day of Fall (9/22), US’s version of China’s “Singles’ Day” (10/10), Amazon’s Early Black Friday (10/26), and Halloween (10/31) to capture your audience’s attention and drive sales before the holiday rush.
  • A/B test your promotions. Take advantage of the prolonged holiday season by A/B testing offers prior to major shopping holidays like Black Friday. Test CTAs, message length and voice, and incentives to understand what resonates most with your audience.
  • Remind subscribers of upcoming shipping deadlines. By sending a text message alerting subscribers of upcoming shipping cut-offs, you’ll be able to create a sense of urgency encouraging your audience to complete their purchases. Your subscribers will also appreciate knowing their items will arrive on time.

As consumers start shopping earlier than ever this holiday season, retail and e-commerce marketers need a strategic and varied communications plan to keep their audience engaged—and drive incremental revenue starting with the earliest promotions.

For more tips on how to use personalized text messaging to engage shoppers, build loyalty, and drive revenue throughout the holiday season, explore our 2020 Holiday Planning Hub. You’ll get in-depth insights, list growth and text messaging strategies (including real-life campaigns), and case studies from leading brands that will help you plan for (and achieve) a successful 2020 holiday season.

Related Articles