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The Shopping Trends Shaping The 2021 Holiday Season

4 MINUTE READ | November 10, 2021

The Shopping Trends Shaping The 2021 Holiday Season

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Laken Faccio

Laken Faccio has written this article. More details coming soon.

PMG’s Strategic Planning and Insights team recently hosted its first Trendspotter: Outlook 2021 webinar to discuss key trends shaping retail, travel, and wellness, showing how the last 18 months impacted various industries and will make this holiday season unlike any we’ve seen before. If you missed the event, check out the full webinar here or continue reading to learn more about the top trends and insights impacting the retail industry.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that there is no return to the normal pre-pandemic life, but a new normal that is uniquely different for everyone based on their lifestyle and lived experiences. This new normal is more about adapting and evolving, rather than settling into time-tested routines. It’s led to new shopping behaviors that will drive this holiday season.

Earlier holiday shopping — By some estimates, 78 percent of consumers will conduct holiday spending earlier this year. As back-to-school shopping started earlier than ever this year, holiday shopping will be no different. Peak week still matters, but the sense of urgency to shop from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday is diminishing as shoppers feel confident they can get good deals all season long.

Social commerce — Social media is driving online sales across age ranges, with at least 55 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds reporting they have purchased a product via social media. Instagram Checkout and Facebook Live have seen great success with social shoppers, while platforms like TikTok are rapidly building out opportunities for merchants to add product catalogs to business profiles. 

Retail conveniences — Curbside pickup and buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) are more popular than ever and clearly here to stay. Buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) usage increased 81 percent year-over-year and is predominantly driven by Gen Z and Millennial shoppers. More than 45 million people ages 14 and older are expected to use these services this year. 

Blended digital worlds and physical worlds — Brands are increasingly using digital capabilities like AR try-ons or VR experiences to blend the digital world with the physical. Shoppers want to be involved in the holiday cheer, and brands are finding unique ways to involve their customers in one-of-a-kind experiences. 

Dive into these shopping trends and more by watching the full webinar here.

With e-commerce adoption continuing to grow, digital channels are expected to drive more sales than ever this holiday season, with eMarketer projecting retail e-commerce sales to account for nearly 20 percent of total holiday retail sales this year (up from 17.5 percent in 2020).

Marketers can better position themselves — and their brands — to swiftly navigate through the uncertainty of the current circumstances, while also accounting for the staying power of these unique trends, by keeping the following considerations in mind heading into the holidays:

Think early — Consumers are shopping earlier this year as they plan to spend their holidays settling into new homes, as about one-third of all homes sold in 2020 were to first-time home buyers. They will be creating new traditions while reconnecting with loved ones after a stressful year and a half. It will be important for brands to get messages in the market earlier than in previous years to help meet customers as they are seeking gift ideas, and to meet delivery expectations. 

Convenience matters — Customers want convenient and seamless experiences wherever they are as they seek to shop how they want to shop. This holiday season it will be important for brands to use messaging that highlights new conveniences, like curbside pick-up or in-person shopping appointments, on the channels consumers spend the most time on, such as social. 

Appeal to the conscious consumer — Social action and sustainability will remain top of mind for consumers heading into 2022, and it’s no secret that consumers feel good about supporting brands that do good. Brands should consider diversity and social action as a part of their holiday media and messaging plans (and beyond) to show the action being taken behind commitments. 

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Brands that remain agile amid the volatility of the American economy while implementing these recommendations and keeping a pulse on changing consumer behavior will be best positioned to deliver strong performance throughout the holiday season as they set up for a successful 2022 and beyond.

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