5 Online Shopping Trends You Should Know for the 2021 Holiday Season

Fashion & Lifestyle Ecommerce12 min read

The 2020 holiday season was unfamiliar ground for every brand and retailer. With in-store retail mostly locked down, these businesses had one route for success: Go big on online shopping – or go home, which resulted in a stellar year for eCommerce growth. But how big will the 2021 holiday season be? Let’s take a look at what lies in store for online retail and which trends you should consider when preparing for the holidays this year.

Trend #1: Consumers are shopping sales even earlier

The last few years, we’ve been seeing holiday shopping shifting earlier and earlier: in 2020, more than half of holiday shopping was completed by Cyber Monday. This year, we expect to see consumers starting even earlier: more than 52% of Americans, for example, have already begun their holiday shopping or plan to shop earlier than last year in response to supply chain issues.

Source: Google/Ipsos, “3 early holiday shopping trends for the 2021 festive season,” August 2021

The good news is that consumers shopping earlier means that the holiday season is more spread out, which has benefits for both retailers and consumers. Rather than preparing for one short peak in holiday shopping around Black Friday, retailers can better forecast demand for different products throughout the holiday season, enabling them to respond more effectively to marketplace trends. This also helps to avoid large bottlenecks in order processing and fulfillment which result in delays and will inevitably impact customer satisfaction. Additionally, these early shoppers are expected to spend 16% more on average than the consumers who will start shopping later. For consumers, shopping their holiday purchases earlier means they have a higher chance of getting everything on their lists amid continued supply chain issues.

Trend #2: Shoppers expect a seamless, omni-channel experience

With many physical stores locked down, millions of consumers turned to online shopping to meet their needs last year. Businesses that were primarily operating offline had to hastily move online to meet their customers, and those who had a small-scale eCommerce business, had to quickly scale up their online presence.

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely reshaped how consumers purchase goods and services for the better. Many consumers easily adapted to shopping in a digital store as it proved to be faster, easier, and more convenient than shopping in-store. This may sound like the beginning of the end for the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, but it’s not. While 73% of shoppers have changed their shopping habits in the past year, 68% are now true omni-shoppers who mix purchases across online channels and physical stores.

Shoppers are fully embracing this experience, exploring online and offline channels in an unprecedented way. It’s therefore crucial to understand this new omni-channel landscape and how to combine channels in a way that engages shoppers. With 80% of consumers now expecting a seamless, interconnected online and offline shopping experience, omni-channel isn’t just the future, it’s the present.

Trend #3: Holiday shopping must be convenient

Going hand in hand with omni-channel retail, consumers are also looking for convenient payment and delivery options when it comes to shopping online and in-store. From contactless payment in-store to alternative payment options like PayPal to Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) payment plans offered by companies like Klarna and Afterpay, consumers expect a variety of flexible payment options while shopping this holiday season. BNPL in particular, is on the rise, as shoppers can pay a portion of the price upfront and then pay the rest in zero interest installments. This naturally has quite the appeal; in the UK, for example, 25% of online shoppers already use BNPL. Among younger generations, BNPL is a deciding factor whether they will make a purchase; a study conducted by Afterpay showed that 69% of millennials and 42% of Gen Z shoppers are more likely to make a purchase if a BNPL service is offered.

Payment options are not the only thing that should be fast and convenient. Holiday shoppers want to have plenty of options for receiving their purchases, such as immediate delivery, Buy Online, Pick-up At Curbside (BOPAC) and Buy Online, Pick-up In Store (BOPIS). BOPAC and BOPIS, for example, are convenient for a number of reasons. Shoppers looking to avoid crowded stores for health reasons can quickly and easily pick up their products, while those looking to pick up some last-minute gifts, can ensure the exact product they want is waiting for them in-store. 70% of customers found that BOPIS improved their shopping experience by increasing convenience, according to a study conducted by the NRF. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that these pick-up options have experienced massive growth since the beginning of the pandemic; this year alone, BOPIS/BOPAC sales are expected to grow 10% in the U.S. compared to 2020.

Trend #4: mCommerce is continuing to grow

The growth of mCommerce is not a new trend; the last few years have seen more and more shoppers turning to their smartphones to make purchases.This year, however, mobile sales are predicted to account for 72.9% of eCommerce sales in 2021 and mobile spending will amount to $86 billion this holiday season alone. Indeed, at a time where attention spans are short and time is precious, many shoppers are looking for a fast and easy shopping experience: 76% of consumers shop on mobile because it helps them save time. 

Unsurprisingly, the majority of consumers making holiday purchases via their smartphones are millennials who spend an average of 5.7 hours on their mobile phones daily. As much as 80% of millennials often make purchases on their smartphones, and it will be no different over the holidays. But let’s not forget the older generations; surprisingly mobile purchases increased by 50% on average year over year among Gen X and Baby Boomers in 2020. Undoubtedly, mobile commerce will continue to play a large role in the shopping habits of all online shoppers this holiday season, which is why it’s essential to optimize your mobile experience.

Trend #5: Shoppers are craving personalized, inspirational content

Finally, consumers want a more tailored, personalized holiday shopping experience that will not only ensure they find exactly what they are looking for, but that it will be fast and convenient to boot. Consumers are constantly flooded with thousands of generic marketing messages every day which unfortunately do little to inspire or engage, and are often simply ignored. As a matter of fact, 72% of consumers only respond to marketing messages that are aligned with their own interests. In order for retailers to win over shoppers, they need to engage these shoppers with quality content that helps them connect with products on an emotional level. Remember, consumers are also human beings with needs & wants driven by complex emotions.

Source: Stylight survey, August 2021

Offering effective and personalized content that appeals to consumers’ emotions, delivers valuable products and content to shoppers when they want and need it most. Whether it’s a gift guide on the best gifts for their loved ones, or a TikTok video on skincare products that actually work, shoppers are showing strong interest in inspirational content, which can often drive them towards making a purchase. This is why it’s essential to start incorporating shoppable content into your strategy this holiday season.

Now that you know the top shopping trends for this holiday season, find out how you can adapt your online strategy to respond to these trends by downloading our whitepaper on how to offer shoppers what they really are looking for this holiday season! Be sure to also check out our webinar, offering 3 distinct industry perspectives on how to maximize your sales during the holidays.

Find out how to offer shoppers what they really are looking for this holiday season in our whitepaper:

    written by:

    Anne Startup

    Jr. Partner Marketing Manager

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