The way consumers purchase products has changed significantly in the last 18 months. This shift in consumer habits is important to take into consideration when planning your programmatic campaigns for this upcoming holiday season.
In a discussion for the How Agencies Thrive podcast, Sam Jensen, Jessica Uttley, and Aanchal Bajaj shared their past learnings and future strategies for holiday shopping as we head into this year’s busiest retail season. Read on to learn some of their holiday marketing tips, or listen to their discussion, here.
Looking Back to 2020’s Holiday Season
Sam, Jessica, and Aanchal all agree that no one knew what to expect going into the 2020 holiday season. But as it turns out, the season was a good one! Aanchal, Senior Analyst on StackAdapt’s Solutions team says that holiday sales shot up, 7-10% in 2020—an increase driven mainly by e-commerce. Aanchal also noticed that the holiday season was longer in 2020. Because shipping delays were a concern, consumers started shopping earlier. Rather than flash sales, brands kept promotions active for a few days, and discounting started earlier in the season.
Sam, an Account Manager at StackAdapt, says that the season was one filled with creativity, experimentation, and adaptation. Brands shifted their approach to fit the uncertainty of the times. For example, Sam says that some brands directly addressed the realities of the year, like was seen in the Miller Light “No More Awkward Holiday Parties” ad.
Examples like this ad show how advertisers put more effort in 2020 toward building an emotional connection with consumers, rather than just pushing a sale. Brands and advertisers were sensitive to the fact that people wanted to escape their current situation and dream of how the world would be when the pandemic crisis had started healing.
Jessica, Director of Creative Services at StackAdapt says that these adaptations didn’t apply just to ad creative and messaging. She says she was pleasantly surprised to see advertisers also trying new or different channels, like connected TV (CTV). Making quick and bold changes like this allowed advertisers to thrive in the new pandemic landscape.
The Rise of e-Commerce
Holiday sales in 2020 were very much driven by e-commerce, and Aanchal says this didn’t come as a surprise. Pandemic restrictions meant many shoppers had no choice but to shop and purchase online. And, the rise of e-commerce was already in motion, with adoption of online purchasing growing even prior to the pandemic. The pandemic then accelerated this adoption. Aanchal says that while in-store shopping still has its place, the e-commerce shift is here to stay.
Sam explains that some shoppers may return to in person shopping for the personal and unique experience, while others will likely stick to their now established habit of shopping online. Consumers have recognized, and enjoy, the benefits of online shopping—like quick delivery times, easy returns, and lots of payment options, like buy now, pay later. And in the last year, those benefits grew as brands quickly adapted their offerings to make online purchasing as frictionless as possible.
According to Jessica, the rise of e-commerce has led to a shift not just in how consumers purchase, but in the way that consumers discover new products. This discovery is happening more online, in part thanks to new and dynamic ad formats. There are now ads that allow you to explore products in detail. Immersive audio and video can provide shoppers guidance, and there are now interactive CTV ads that consumers can engage with. Jessica explains that it’s important for brands to know that even if a consumer decides to go in person to make a purchase, that discovery still may have happened online.
We’re seeing lots of innovation that is helping to enhance that cohesiveness between online and offline, which enables brands to approach customer journey across digital and in-store as one experience. For example, some direct-to-consumer brands are starting to have stores that are “inventory-less” where you can interact with the products, but go online to purchase. This is a continuation of the digital discovery experience.
2021 Holiday Marketing Tips
To help you prep your 2021 holiday marketing campaigns, Sam, Jessica and Aanchal shared their top predictions and advice for the shopping season. You can use these tips to plan your campaigns in a way that aligns with current consumer behaviour and expectations.
Listen to How Agencies Thrive For More!
Sam, Jessica, and Aanchal say that in 2021, we don’t have to tip-toe like we did last year. In this year’s holiday marketing campaigns, empathy in your messaging has a place, but remember that pandemic fatigue is real. It’s a safe bet to go with a lighthearted but sensitive tone, mixed in with some humour.
To hear more of Sam, Jessica, and Aanchal’s holiday marketing tips, tune into the latest episode of the How Agencies Thrive podcast.