Black Friday as we know it is over. Six predictions for Holiday 2020 and how to prepare for them.

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  • Holiday shopping will look different for most consumers this year and this means it will look different for businesses as well. Used to relying on the holiday season to bring you across the profitable finish line? A pivot in preparation for Holiday 2020 will be the key to success. 

While we couldn’t predict murder hornets, square dancing hurricanes, the death of Mr. Peanut, or Carole Baskin feeding her husband to the tigers, we’ve added some squares to our 2020 eCommerce bingo card. These are our predictions for Holiday 2020, and how you can make sure your business is prepared:

What To Expect In Holiday 2020

Holiday Shopping Will Start Sooner and Be More Spread Out

Prediction 1: Holiday Shopping Will Start Sooner & Be More Spread Out

For as long as most of us have been alive, holiday shopping has primarily been condensed into a 3-5 day stretch of crazy discounts. Last year, it was estimated 165 million people would do their holiday shopping between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. 

This 3-5 day stretch has always been a nightmare for some retailers (especially smaller businesses) to manage. One misstep, and the majority of your revenue for the holiday season could be in jeopardy. 

We predict that holiday shopping will start sooner, and be more spread out. 

Here's Why:

  • Amazon Prime Day: is on October 13th this year. Traditionally, Prime Day is the 2nd week of July. Pushing prime day to October means consumers will likely begin bargain hunting and purchasing big ticket items in anticipation of the Holiday Season, well before Thanksgiving (aka Black Friday) even hits. 
  • In-Person Shopping Is A Novelty: Last year, about half of consumers did their holiday shopping in-person. Many cited “tradition” as well as “social aspects” of in-person shopping as a reason to hold out on starting their shopping earlier. With the onset of the Global Pandemic, in-person shopping holds more of a risk, and may deter an older and younger demographic from participating in traditional shopping habits. Why take the risk if you can accomplish gift purchases from home, digitally?
  • Money Is Tight: It’s estimated that global economies are unlikely to return to normal until at least 2022, and that’s only if a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed. With no reason to wait for the social aspect of Holiday shopping, and many around the globe struggling financially, it’s likely consumers will purchase when it’s convenient for them: with price points and payday cycles being the main drivers of traffic.

How To Prep:

  • Put Prime Day On Your Radar: Plan to start your sales and promos earlier in October (not on Amazon Prime Day) and spread them out over the course of the next few weeks, rather than just waiting for the days leading up to Black Friday/ Cyber Monday. By Black Friday, many consumers will have already decided where they can get the best deals and where to spend their money. Start developing your promo calendar TODAY.
  • Prep Your Ad Budget: Historically, you may have condensed a large amount of ad spend into a 3-5 day stretch to support holiday spending. This year, consider spreading out your budget a bit more.
  • Warm Up Existing Customers: Consumers may not understand that they have an opportunity to shop Black Friday deals at your store as early as October. Create strong messaging to let them know your discounts start early and are competitive to other sites they may be scouting for discounts on similar products. Consider making your holiday strategy as email heavy as possible. Segment your lists now, and start coming up with a game plan to get your message across. 
Prediction 2: Your Website Isn’t Prepared For What’s Ahead

Prediction 2: Your Website Isn’t Prepared For What’s Ahead

If the holiday season has historically pushed your site to the limits, you may want to consider taking a deep dive into the technical aspects of how things are running, as well as historical conversion rates and how to improve site bandwidth. 

Here’s Why:

  • Online Sales Have Already Grown YOY: Since the start of COVID, we’ve seen a huge surge in online sales. From the start of lockdowns in April, all the way through July, we’ve seen online sales increase from a range of 49% all the way up to 78% YOY. The highest increase was during “panic buying” months, when brick & mortar stores were closed and consumers had high demand for household items. Though we may not see a full 78% increase during the holiday season, we are likely to see a similar surge in online traffic. 

YOY Online Sales Growth

Low-Income Shoppers: Statistically, low-income shoppers are less likely to shop online vs in-person. This is due to a variety of reasons, such as lack of reliable internet access and mail routes causing delays in package deliveries. However, one of the main reasons low-income shoppers are less likely to shop online is trust. Consumers with household incomes under 50K per year are less likely to trust the checkout process than those with higher incomes. This makes sense, as fraud can potentially have a much higher impact on their financial situation than those with higher household incomes. However, this year stores will see more low-income shoppers digitally than in person on account of the health risks of in-person shopping. 

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HOW TO PREP:

  • Open Your Line Of Communication With Your IT Department Now: Start talking to your IT department about how to optimize your site for speed and prepare your website for increased traffic. Come up with a game plan to identify any on-site or server issues that may occur with a large number of users, and make sure it’s clear who to reach out to if there’s a problem.
  • Look At Your Checkout Process: With low-income households not being as comfortable purchasing online, and many more Americans struggling financially than in recent history, it’s important that you can build trust with a user throughout the checkout process. Here are some things to consider:
  • Studies show users are more comfortable purchasing on desktop than mobile, so having a seamless process where a user can browse a website on mobile and checkout on desktop is essential.
  • Consider adding in a number of previous purchasers on a product page, to reassure a user that they aren’t the first to purchase from your site. Reviews on product pages are also helpful.
  • If you have free returns, tell a user during the checkout process to reassure them any issues with a product will be dealt with.
  • Consider adding a customer service phone number for consumers to reach out to with additional questions.
  • Provide alternative payment options such as Apple Pay or PayPal so users don’t have to physically enter in payment information.
  • Make sure your SSL certificate is up to date.
  • If you have site security such as Norton, display the badges during the checkout process and add in language that reassures a user that your site is secured.

Make Sure Your Reporting Is Accurate: Check all of your pixels and ensure everything is reporting correctly. You’ll want any decisions you make during the holiday season to be based on “true reporting,” such as through your eCommerce platform (Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, etc.) as web data aggregator sites like Google Analytics generally have a reporting lag.

Prediction 3: Digital Marketing Will Be More Competitive

Prediction 3: Digital Marketing Will Be More Competitive

2020 is proving to be a very competitive year in the digital marketing space. With digital marketing budgets decreasing on average by 20% on account of COVID, we’re seeing an increase in competition as far as the quality of digital marketing programs to try to maintain revenue as budgets drop.

Here's Why:

  • Retailers Are Reevaluating Strategy: With COVID, we saw an average decrease in ad budgets by about  20% YOY. While this is generally a sign of a less competitive market, we also saw an increase in average revenue for eCommerce YOY. From this, we can gather that retailers are becoming more competitive in the quality of their digital marketing programs. Aka, focusing on optimizing their ad accounts for ROAS to maintain revenue goals without pushing additional spend. This could prove to be difficult to keep up with for smaller businesses as larger corporations begin increasing ad budgets around the holiday season.
  • Consumers Are Price Shopping: We’ve all been there — you’re holiday shopping at the mall and come across an item you didn’t think to add to your list. Do you price shop before purchasing or just put it in your cart? If you were shopping online, would you behave differently? Statistically, 65% of in-store shoppers price check on their mobile device before purchasing an item. From there, about half report leaving the store empty handed to go buy online. This is compared to online shopping, where a whopping 86% report price shopping before purchasing an item. This year, with many Americans financially struggling, you can bet there will be a lot more competitiveness around discounts and sales. 
  • Budgets Will Likely Increase: With even the largest retailers decreasing ad spend and still seeing a relatively high ROAS, it’s possible this ad spend will come back as ammunition during the holiday season, potentially inflating CPCs by a much higher percentage than normal. Plan for your CPCs to increase, and expect the need to spend more budget as more retailers regain confidence in digital advertising around the holidays.

HOW TO PREP:

  • Retargeting: With trust being a large theme with online shopping, having repeat customers could give you a large competitive advantage this holiday season. Start segmenting your retargeting lists now. Don’t rule out previous site visitors who haven’t converted historically. Anyone who has had interest in your brand should be bucketed into a retargeting audience. 
  • Create Urgency: With our overall timeline for holiday shopping increasing, urgency is going to have to be something you create with your brand alone. Socially, consumers aren’t going to be as willing to get trampled for an iPad this year. Here’s a few ideas on how to promote urgency this year:
  • Have a bucketed percentage off (we recommend 30%) your entire inventory at all times, but promote your best, high ticket sellers on different days to get the highest ROI. For example, “save 50% on LCD TV’s” should happen on one day, and “save 40% on DSLR cameras” should happen on a separate day.
  • Use countdown timers in ad copy, emails & on-site for high ticket promotion discounts so users know exactly when they end and to prep them to come back for what’s next.
  • Use email segments to target people specifically with the high ticketed promotion items.
  • Consider Your Budget Timeline: Focus a bit of extra dollars on traditionally high shopping times. Consider condensing a bit more budget closer to the holidays as well, with some shoppers potentially being more likely to wait until last minute to purchase, especially with financial insecure households. Again, make sure you’ve budgeted for more than the standard 3-5 days where we would historically push most of our spend. 
  • Start Testing Now: Start split testing ad copy, email headlines, etc. to figure out what your copy should look like during the holiday season. Do your prospects respond better to monetary value in ad copy? Do they respond better to urgency? Start writing your copy and mapping out your promotion calendar today. 
Prediction 4: Your Inventory Needs Will Be Different

Prediction 4: Your Inventory Needs Will Be Different

Can your inventory keep up with the demands of your consumer? 2020 may be a difficult year to determine how much to increase your inventory before the holidays. The last thing you want is to have a repeat of the great toilet paper shortage we saw earlier this year. The only thing worse might be overstocking and throwing your actual money down the toilet. Our prediction is that you’ll need more inventory than what you’ve needed in the past to keep up.

Here's Why:

  • Returns Will Increase: Generally speaking, the return rate of eCommerce stores is always higher than brick & mortar stores, with an even higher increase during the holiday season. Under the assumption that most holiday shopping will be done online this year, we can anticipate an even higher return rate. This is especially true for more expensive purchases, and apparel items. Statistically, holiday eCommerce return rates are around the 30% mark, with brick and mortar around 10%, so be sure to stock your inventory accordingly and implement ways to reduce your number of returns.
  • Fraud & Theft Will Increase: Now is a really good time to look at your fulfilment center and consider your damage and theft rates. As inventory requirements increase over the next few months, any issues coming across now will only be amplified later. Add this to the fact that around 40% of consumers have been victim to package theft, as well as the growing numbers pertaining to shipping and billing fraud, and you’ve got yourself a pretty unbalanced inventory.

How to Prep:

  • Be Prepared For The Returns: If your inventory consists of higher ticket items or wardrobe items, be especially prepared for an increase in return rates around the holiday season. However, first try to get ahead of the return game. Combat returns by providing as much information to your customer as possible. Other ideas include:
  • Having accurate size charts with clothing articles
  • Having reviews with real photos from past purchasers
  • Having detailed descriptions on product pages
  • Giving customers access to representatives if they have questions about products
  • Display accurate shipping estimates before the checkout funnel to ensure people are getting their gifts at the right time. (Not everyone is celebrating Christmas, some consumers may need their gifts before 12/25, etc.)

Consider Your Inventory While Making Your Promo Calendar: This year is going to be a disaster for some retailers. Even Apple is reported to have had to change the launch date of their upcoming iPhone due to a lack of resources to produce their products. Now is the time to open the line of communication with your fulfillment partner and suppliers to make sure the supply chain has enough resources to support your increased inventory before you determine your promotion schedule. Don’t push products for which you won’t be able to fulfill orders. 

Prediction 5: Mail Carriers Will Struggle To Keep Up With Demand

Prediction 5: Mail Carriers Will Struggle To Keep Up With Demand

  • Delivery time is a major factor in helping your eCommerce store stand out from the competition. This is especially true if you have a smaller business and struggle to keep up with competitive pricing in your market. Between COVID increasing the amount of mail going back and forth overall, as well as the ongoing financial crisis with USPS, shipping is another hurdle for retailers to get through this year. 

here's why:

  • USPS Is Financially Unstable: While it seems like USPS should be thriving during a pandemic when no one is leaving their house, this just isn’t the case. Primary sources of revenue for USPS have consisted of corporations sending marketing materials, as well as first-class mail. Both of which have slowed severely during COVID. Unfortunately for small to medium sized eCommerce businesses, the US Post Office did not receive a stimulus package to help offset the financial loss.This is devastating to eCommerce retailers who rely on their affordable shipping options to deliver products to consumers. If you lean on USPS to deliver your products, here are just some of the issues you may be facing this year:
  • Mail is getting delivered slower, or not at all
  • More mail is getting damaged in transit due to systemic issues and lack of funding to hire an adequate number of workers
  • Mail is going to have a harder time getting delivered to low-income areas, or extremely rural areas that are not generally picked up by private corporations such as FedEx, etc.

UPS & FedEx May Not Cut It: While UPS & FedEX flexed their strength with a record holiday season last year, even they aren’t immune to COVID-related issues. Similarly to USPS, both carriers are seeing a large decrease in marketing dollars, as well as a large surge in residential packages (including deliveries that are now being transferred over from USPS). All of this put the couriers in a tough spot, and both have seen a decrease in on-time package delivery since COVID started up in May. It’s likely that we will see less of an issue with both having ample time to plan ahead for the holiday season, but with financial strain, it’s possible we’ll see a push back in overtime hours, resulting in additional delays

How to Prep:

  • Use Your Expanded Promo Calendar To Your Advantage: Take a look at your inventory and identify high-ticket items that may take longer to ship due to weight and size, and put their promotion earlier in your calendar. This will create urgency with your customers, and allow extra time for bigger packages to get delivered. This will alleviate some of the stress from your mail courier, as well as the consumer. 
  • Set Consumer Expectations: Let customers know that there may be a delay in deliveries, and to order sooner than they feel they need to. Emphasize estimated delivery dates, and provide disclaimers along the way. If you can, set up email updates that are periodically sent to consumers through various points of transit to keep them updated and avoid flooding your representatives with “where are my packages” emails.
  • Reevaluate Your Shipping Methods & Budgets: With USPS accounting for more than 50% of package deliveries in the United States, many SMBs rely on them to deliver packages at a low cost and to rural areas. Now is a good time to take a look at who your primary mail couriers are, and where your main demographic lives. If you can afford to pull at least some shipments away from USPS, now is the time to make arrangements.
Prediction 6: Brick & Mortar Holiday Shopping Is Dead

Prediction 6: Brick & Mortar Holiday Shopping Is Dead

Here's Why:

  • COVID Concerns: We know this year is going to look a little bit different for in-store shopping with concerns revolving around COVID. Between consumers being less comfortable inside of stores and stores restricting the number of customers allowed inside via state regulations, etc., we’re already seeing a huge impact on how people shop.   

How to Prep:

    • Keep In-Store Experiences Easy: If you have a brick & mortar store, create a map of the interior to help people get in and out faster & easier. Increase staff for in-store help. Expect to see an increase in shoppers who are looking to find exactly what they need as fast as possible.
  • Keep Foot Traffic Low: Try to keep steepest sales online if possible, or spread out over the course of a few days to decrease foot traffic in-store. Consumers are going to be less likely to line up to trample each other on Black Friday this year, but there will likely still be quite a few who are willing to do anything to get the best deals. Be proactive, and tease online discounts in advance to let shoppers know they will be met with better opportunities online. 

Use In-Store Visitors To Your Advantage: While it’s important to keep in-store experiences seamless for shoppers this year, you should also take some time to evaluate your store layout to make sure you’re getting the most out of the minimal foot traffic you’re seeing in-store. Consumers are going to be less likely to price shop, return items, etc. when they purchase in-store vs online, so consider placing the high-demand items towards the back of the store. Use COVID safety maps to your advantage to draw consumers in and out of aisles with surprise-and-delight items they may have not yet considered. 

What are you doing to prep your ecommerce store for Holiday 2020? What’s on your bingo card for the rest of the year?
Share this article, and let us know.

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