By Kyle Henderick, Sr. Account Director, Data Axle
Holiday trends in recent years have fallen into established patterns, growing year over year, but 2020 is unlike any year in recent memory. Amid the global pandemic and climate of economic uncertainty, brand planning for this upcoming season needs to extend outside of marketers’ comfort zones.
Based on established trends, viewed through 2020’s anything-but-established lens, let’s look at three bold predictions that could set the 2020 holiday winners apart from all the rest.
People will spend more despite economic conditions
Feel-good moments are at a premium in 2020, and consumers will invest accordingly to ensure they happen. For many people, budgets are tight right now, but expenses in many entertainment categories—movies, concerts, dining out, vacations—are also lower than ever. Those funds are going to be redirected toward the holidays this year.
Despite current economic conditions, monthly retail spending has continued to grow for the past four months, which shows momentum going into the holidays—and that’s without another economic stimulus package. As we near the Nov. 3 election, the pressure to improve unemployment benefits and inject more stimulus money into the economy will mount. The resulting infusion will supercharge the existing retail momentum for an even stronger holiday season. In that regard, despite the earlier start to this year’s holiday shopping season, last-minute shopping holidays like Green Monday (set for Dec. 14 this year) will also become more important than ever for retailers.
Spending will start earlier
OK, so maybe this prediction isn’t the boldest given recent trends, but it’s one marketers need to pounce on now. Economic uncertainty can prompt tighter spending, but it also leads to advance planning, and we’re going to see that tendency on display this holiday season. Make no mistake: People are excited for the holidays this year. And given that they’re still sitting at home more than they have in years past, a lot of that excitement and energy will be funneled into advance planning and deal-shopping for the upcoming holidays.
Mega-sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are well-worn these days. In 2020, brands will win the holiday season in October. With Amazon Prime Days moving to Oct. 13-14, brands can pre-empt or follow on strong to this giant sales generator.
In past years, major retailers like Macy’s, Target and GameStop have generated some of their biggest sales days by planning major promotional events around Prime Day. This year’s proximity to the holidays opens new avenues for creative campaigns and messaging from large and small brands alike. Retailers that acknowledge the craziness of 2020 and position their early holiday shopping conveniences as bastions of sanity are likely to resonate with customers seeking control amid the chaos.
Bonus tip: Holiday spending will also grow at the tail end for impulsive and last-minute shoppers. 2020’s increase in online shopping has ensured consumers that they can order whatever and whenever they want. There will be an increase in last-minute shoppers from both impulsive buyers and those who are currently hurting from the economic conditions who may struggle in earlier months to spend.
Experience will win over product
To truly capitalize on this unique holiday season, it’s going to take more than well-timed deals and creative messaging. People aren’t just shopping differently this year. They’re completely reprioritizing where they find value through their spending. In that regard, brands that expand their offering to include experiences that empower customers to connect with their loved ones, virtually or via gift offerings, will dominate the 2020 holidays.
This year, “frills” like gift wrapping and more-precise delivery windows will become more important than ever to helping people deliver holiday tidings to family members they won’t be seeing in person this year due to the pandemic. Retailers might want to consider creative add-ons to online gift purchases—like the opportunity to send scheduled video greeting cards alongside the arrival of a package. If that is a bit aggressive for your brand, an easier win would be for brands to expand the level of detail explaining the benefits of their gift wrapping. Ensure you’re communicating how great your brand is at gift wrapping and consider creating videos to show your employees’ attention to detail to ensure that special moment for your customer.
Above all, this is the year where retailers that demonstrate a personalized knowledge of their customers will excel, and that means good data hygiene needs to be a bigger priority than ever. Retailers must be able to look at their data in a way that indicates how people have traditionally spent around the holidays—and how that might be different this year. This understanding can often be achieved by the smart application of third-party data to first-party records, revealing not just past spending trends but also unique demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioral details that help the retailer understand how 2020 is uniquely affecting people.
With creative planning, smart timing and good data practices, retailers have a chance this holiday season to make up—and then some—for earlier months lost to the pandemic. After all, the 2020 holiday season isn’t canceled. Quite the contrary: It might be the most important one ever.