Published June 29, 2021 | Updated September 14, 2021 In a post-pandemic world, everything is unprecedented. The 2021 holiday shopping season will be no exception, with consumers’ shopping habits and spending behaviors transformed by the events of the past several months.
To help your brand thrive this holiday season and navigate these uncharted waters, we’ll be keeping this blog post updated with the latest holiday ecommerce stats and trends. Bookmark and keep coming back so you’ll always be up-to-date with the 2021 holiday shopping landscape.
New 2021 holiday ecommerce predictions
- Holiday ecommerce sales will rise 11.3% this year to approach $207 billion (eMarketer)
- US retailers will face an additional $223 billion in costs this holiday season due to global supply chain issues (Salesforce)
- Social referrals will generate an additional 30% of traffic to ecommerce sites this holiday season (Salesforce)
- Holiday sales grew 8.3% last year despite the pandemic (NRF)
- US consumers spend approximately 15% of their monthly income on holiday gifting (World Atlas)
- 28% of US and UK consumers plan to do more holiday shopping online this year than last year (Qubit)
- Each year, US consumers spend an estimated $15.2 billion on gifts their receivers don’t end up wanting (Finder)
- 27% of US consumers exchange or sell the unwanted holiday gifts they receive (Finder)
4 content SEO tips for the holiday season
Many brands count on holiday seasonality to meet their overall business goals, which is all the more reason to ensure that all of your digital marketing efforts are based on a strong website foundation.
There’s still time to optimize your copy for Google to crawl during the holiday season and improve your organic keyword rankings.
Below are 4 content SEO projects you can work on now for a more successful holiday season!
1. Update the seasonal pages for your sales and promotions with optimized title tags, meta descriptions, and on-page copy to inform both users and search engines of a page’s main purpose. Your updated copy can share the details of an upcoming special sale with detailed expiration dates to generate a sense of excitement and urgency.
2. Consider including contextual links on your holiday sale pages, relevant categories, or informational content like gift guides to improve user navigation and help search engines understand page relevance. These links are particularly beneficial for pages that aren’t included within your main navigation to ensure they don’t become orphaned.
3. Add text overlay on your images so that they can be processed by search engines. If a page contains no textual content besides an image, search engines could determine the page has thin content and might not be useful to searchers. If you do choose to use text within image files, make sure you include keyword-rich copy elsewhere on the page as well as an image alt tag.
4. Create a gift guide to help inspire searchers and improve awareness during the giving season. Gift guides can be used across a variety of channels, including email, organic, and paid search.
Holiday ecommerce tips from ROI digital experts
This year, retailers and shoppers alike will navigate yet another unprecedented holiday shopping season. As we enter the uncharted territory of a post-pandemic marketplace, consumers’ holiday shopping behavior will be a hybrid of what it once was and what the pandemic pushed to be different.
An omnichannel approach will be necessary for brands that want to crush their competition this year.
Here are some tips to ensure your brand is optimized across all of your holiday initiatives:
Optimize your pages ahead of time for products that are more likely to be given as gifts. If you have any seasonal pages, don’t delete them and create a new page every year. Keep the same page, update it, and reuse it with an evergreen URL. And make sure any dedicated pages you create for email marketing are tied into your current navigation or redirected to the most relevant page once the event ends. – Andrew Flinchum, SEO Team Lead
Use countdown timers to give users an extra psychological FOMO push. Countdown timers could apply to a specific sale (like during Cyber Monday) or could be related to shipping cut-offs for guaranteed holiday arrival. – Brandon Howell, Director of Website Optimization
Make updates to your Amazon creative and copy focus on the seasonality of the holidays and gift-giving – for example, “The perfect gift for her this holiday season” or “Keep your pond protected from cold weather.” This includes updates to your Amazon Store, Posts, and DSP. – Carly Turpin, Marketplaces Team Lead
Finalize campaign structures by October to be ready to fully leverage automation. CPCs will continue to climb into Q4, so take that into consideration when determining budgets for October through December. – Michelle Jereb, Paid Search Team Lead
Get the most out of your promotions by using a promotions feed to submit them ahead of time. You can utilize the Promotion Effective Date attribute to have Google test your promotion before it goes live and the promotion display date to indicate when you actually want it to be shown in ads. This will help reduce any lag time in your promotion being approved by Google after going live. – Stephen Smith, Product Feeds Team Lead
New report: 2021 Holiday Success Plan for Brands
The world is in a very different place today than when we published our 2020 holiday report. Between recovering from a pandemic that disrupted every marketing executive’s expectations, keeping up with sudden transformations in how consumers shop, and reaching milestones that weren’t predicted to happen until 2025, this year has set brands up for yet another challenge this holiday season.
Luckily, we love challenges here at ROI – which is why we’re so excited to share with you our executive holiday guide for 2021. Our 2021 Holiday Success Plan for Brands reveals key insights to make sure your brand is prepared to thrive this holiday season. You’ll uncover insights like:
- The 4 crucial components that form the foundation of a successful holiday season strategy
- Strategies for navigating your brand through never-before-seen consumer buying behavior during peak seasonality
- The most buying factor to shoppers this holiday season and how you can make sure your brand achieves it
Don’t let the challenges of this year’s holiday shopping season stop your brand in its tracks. Download your report to make sure you’re in a position to thrive. Cheers to your brand’s success!
4 tips for holiday season success
The holiday shopping journey is a long, winding path from beginning to end. The key to successfully navigating 2021’s unprecedented shopping season is to take an omnichannel approach and make it as convenient as possible for shoppers to buy from your brand. Keep these four pointers in mind as you form and execute your holiday strategy:
- Consumers’ holiday shopping behavior will be a hybrid of the old and the new this year. Brands that optimize and align both their online and in-store presence will be positioned to thrive the most this holiday season.
- There’s never a more important time than the holiday season for consumers’ packages to arrive when they expect them to. Plan ahead so that when your peak days hit, you have time to focus on making quick, strategic decisions instead of worrying about whether your customers are able to buy and receive your product.
- Like last year, this year’s holiday shopping season will start earlier than ever. Be prepared for shoppers to expect early deals and to start buying products sooner than they did in previous years.
- A solid foundation is critical to a successful holiday strategy. Keep a close eye on your product feeds, be proactive about supply chain strain, optimize your organic presence, and use personalization to help ensure your brand is set up for success this holiday season.
4 pillars of a successful holiday strategy
Your brand’s holiday strategy can’t succeed without a secure foundation in place. These tips will help you ensure that your brand is set up for success this holiday season.
1. Keep a close eye on your product feeds: Ensuring the data in your live product feed stays up-to-date is absolutely critical, especially if holiday seasonality brings lots of changes to your pricing and availability.
2. Be proactive about supply chain strain: Product availability is top-of-mind for consumers this holiday season, with supply chain strain remaining an issue around the globe. Consider using FBM or direct fulfillment as a backup method to ensure you have strong inventory before Cyber 5 and throughout the holiday season.
3. Optimize your organic presence: If you have any seasonal pages, don’t delete them and create new pages every year. Keep the same page, update it, and reuse it with an evergreen URL. You’ll also want to submit your page to Google Search Console a month prior to your big sale, including promotional dates in your copy in case it shows up early.
4. Use personalization to connect with customers: Enable recommendation sections like “You May Also Like” or “Customers Also Shopped For” on your product pages before the holidays to boost your AOV. Consider modifying the language to match user intent by relabeling these sections like “Additional Gift Options” or “One For You, One For Them.”
Preparing for an extended holiday shopping season
Last year, brands and retailers started pushing holiday deals earlier than ever to both discourage large swaths of shoppers from coming to their stores during the pandemic and mitigate supply chain concerns.
And shoppers followed suit: 40% of consumers started shopping for holiday gifts earlier than they normally would.
How can your brand capitalize on a lengthier holiday shopping season without sacrificing your sanity? Determine your goals and start testing, planning, and discussing budgets as early as possible. Asking the right questions early will make it easier for your brand to know what to expect and measure success in the right way.
With a longer holiday shopping season comes the opportunity for brands to run Cyber Week promotions earlier and longer. Black Friday saw a huge spike last year that carried through Cyber 5 weekend, compared to previous years when Cyber Monday saw the biggest spikes. Offering a promotion before Cyber Week can entice them to purchase from your brand over your competitor.
During the busiest shopping season of the year, remarketing is a must. Only 4% of website visitors are ready to make a purchase, meaning that 96% of website visitors haven’t decided if they want to buy from you yet. Build up your remarketing lists for Cyber 5 shopping by running brand awareness strategies starting in late Q3 or early Q4 (or even earlier) to ensure your brand is top-of-mind during that critical purchase decision process.
Blast from the past: Our 2020 Holiday Guide
Did anyone say they want to go back to 2020? Probably not, but if you want to take a step back in time to reflect on how much our world has changed since the holiday season last year, look no further than our 2020 Holiday Guide.
With insights from experts at not just ROI Revolution but also our partners at Attentive, Pepperjam, and Trustpilot, this report will take you back to last year’s coronavirus considerations with insights to help you:
- Cut through the clutter of Q4 with SMS marketing
- Increase eyeballs on your products through affiliate partnerships
- Leverage customer reviews to fuel buyer confidence
You can claim your copy of The 2020 Retailer’s Holiday Ecommerce Playbook here. And stay tuned for our 2021 Holiday Success Plan for Brands, coming soon!
The scary side of shipping this holiday season
There’s never a more important time than the holiday season for consumers’ packages to arrive when they expect them to. Delivery times and shipping rates are always extremely important factors in consumers’ online holiday purchase decisions.
But this year, retailers and shoppers alike will navigate yet another unprecedented holiday shopping season. Merchandising, fulfillment, and shipping have been major concerns of ecommerce brands since the onset of the pandemic. Last year, many shoppers bought gifts earlier last year in hopes of avoiding shipping delays, a trend that is expected to continue into this year.
This year more than ever, the ability to have speed and flexibility in your decision-making will be paramount. Do as much of your planning ahead of time as you can so that when your peak days hit, you have time to focus on performance and making quick, strategic decisions instead of whether or not your customers are able to buy and receive your product in the first place.
Make your last ship dates extremely clear to the customer. If you feel confident in your inventory supply, consider promoting “quick shipping” incentives to target your loyal customers. If warehouse and supply chain delays mean you’ll be able to ship less of your product, consider promoting virtual gift cards.
How COVID-19 transformed holiday shopping
Ecommerce soared to new heights in 2020 as the pandemic drove consumers to shop online instead of in-store more than ever. Nearly 1 out of every 5 holiday purchases were made online last year. While that may not sound like much, it was a significant year-over-year jump and nearly twice what happened in 2016.
What does that mean for your brand this holiday season? As pandemic restrictions have eased up and shoppers have become more comfortable shopping in-store, brands should expect more traffic to their brick-and-mortar locations than last year. Brands with a presence both online and in-store will be positioned to thrive the most this holiday season.
Whether it’s offering hybrid shopping options like curbside pickup, using localized campaigns to target shoppers on their phone when they’re near your physical store during the Cyber 5, or implementing augmented reality in your app for virtual try-ons, any way that your brand can connect your physical and digital experience this year will resonate with consumers.
Last year, shoppers were wary about spending discretionary income. As the pandemic has subsided, so have consumers’ economic concerns, with consumer spend now accelerating past pre-pandemic levels. Expect consumers to be more willing to part with their money this year to find the perfect gift.
Approaching now: 2021 holiday shopping season
Summer may be in full swing, but now is the time to start thinking about your holiday marketing strategy.
Last year, 69% of shoppers planned to shop for the holidays earlier to avoid long shipping times and out-of-stock items. Your planning period for holiday marketing strategies and the beginning of seasonal consumer buying behavior may sneak up faster than usual.
49% of U.S. consumers expect retailers to offer them discounts when shopping during the holidays.
Promotions will be crucial in differentiating yourself from your competitors this holiday season. Knowing that the majority will expect some sort of discount, planning your promotions now will allow your team to determine a creative and intentional strategy to attract customers away from your brand’s competition.
The best way to successfully navigate the holiday and Q4 shopping season is to start with a solid marketing strategy and to begin planning early. Creating a detailed schedule of all marketing initiatives, tests, promotions, budgets, and 2021 competitive trends can make the difference between year-over-year growth or flat (or even declining) performance.
June 29 update
2020 holiday shopping ecommerce: Where are we coming from?
US holiday retail sales are expected to surpass $1 trillion for the first time ever this year. But before we dive into what brands can expect in 2021, let’s rewind to last year and see where we’re leaving off from.
Consumers did spend more conservatively last year, with total retail sales for Black Friday down year-over-year. Black Friday numbers could have also been down because shoppers started shopping earlier than ever last year, with brands and retailers offering special holiday sales starting as early as October and continuing throughout the shopping season.
As it did throughout the entire year, ecommerce thrived during last year’s shopping season. Ecommerce made up 19.7% of overall retail sales this holiday season, a jump from 13.4% last year.
According to data from Mastercard SpendingPulse, total ecommerce sales from October 11-December 24 were up 49% year-over-year. At the same time, total YoY retail sales declined 19.1%.
Cyber 5 – also known as Cyber Week, or the five-day period between Thanksgiving Day and the day after Cyber Monday – managed to hit an all-time high of $60 billion last year, reaching $270 billion globally. ROI’s clients also reached new records online, including 881% ROAS and a 207% revenue increase. See our Cyber Week 2020 recap post for more.