Rajarshi Choudhuri
Rajarshi Choudhuri 4 December 2020

10 Strategies to Navigate The Unusual Holiday Season 2020

As the world struggles to get back to a semblance of pre-covid normality, with users and businesses adjusting to the changed norms, the holiday season 2020 is bound to look different.

Owing to the pandemic and the consequent economic uncertainty, users have become very conscious of their spending which will likely affect holiday shopping and gift-giving. Add to that the artificial shortages of goods due to supply chain disruptions and transportation closures, and you've got a very unique and challenging festive period for brands and users alike.

It is therefore imperative for marketers and product owners to understand emerging trends and adapt their holiday marketing strategies to deal with these changes. That is precisely what I will discuss in this article, laying down the unique challenges, insightful trends, and actionable strategies brands can implement to navigate the festive period 2020.      

With Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday already out of the way, the festive season is truly here with Christmas on the horizon. While it is generally something people around the world wait for with bated breath, this year in addition to holiday cheer in the air there are also some legitimate concerns for consumers and businesses alike.

It's been close to eight months since half of the world's population went into lockdown with global governments taking every measure possible to curb the spread of coronavirus. In that period, new lifestyles and preferences have taken shape viz. surge of shopping online rather than in-store, remote work from home, exercising from home, renewed interest in cooking for oneself among other at-home activities.

All of these lifestyle and habit changes will carry into the holiday season of 2020. So, marketers need to be aware of the trends if they are to cater to them. Here's a look at some of the top trends that have emerged ahead of this festive season:

  • The pandemic induced economic uncertainty has made users value-conscious and less impulsive. This trend isn’t isolated or geospecific, extending beyond developing countries. 
  • One of the biggest trends emerging out of the global pandemic is preference of online shopping over offline, with more users moving to digital mode of shopping. Global studies show that as much as 36% of shoppers now prefer weekly online shopping as compared to the 28% pre-Covid-19. 
  • Supply chain disruptions, border closures, and lockdown protocols have created a further strain on an already overworked system. In April, the retail sales in the US declined by 16.4%, a clear sign of the bottleneck affecting delivery and, in turn, revenue.

Suffice to say, contactless delivery has become the topmost priority of users who shop online. In fact, a Google survey shows 63% users plan to shop at stores offering contactless shopping and 39% is interested in buying online but using curbside pick-ups.

In order to address these trends and meet the challenges of this unusual holiday season, marketers need to adapt their holiday marketing strategies. Here are 10 ready-to-implement, actionable strategies based on insights from 10+ global brands across 6 geographies (US, Europe, India, Middle East, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand) to get you started:  

  1. Cater to the new lifestyle: The pandemic has led to the emergence of a new lifestyle, with changing behaviors, habits and attitude. Users have switched to different practices. Target the new personas and new lifestyles by studying what your audiences have been browsing, adding to the cart and buying. Consider audience targeting to connect with your best shoppers and use data-driven product insights to drive your holiday deals and campaigns.

  2. Growing importance of the click and collect model: According to a study by National Retail Federation (NRF), 84.2 million people shopped in stores on Black Friday in 2019 and 37.8 million people did the same on Thanksgiving in the US, confirming the importance of in-store shopping. However, due to Covid-19 induced social distancing norms, click and collect is a convenient way of purchasing items online and picking them up, without waiting in queues.


  3. Keep up with travel habits: This holiday season, people are more likely to take short trips with families getting away to spend a portion of the holidays at some place. While users will be wary of planes and trains, they could be searching for nearby travel options. It would be a good idea to cater to those queries.

  4. Optimize apps for the festive season: The Global Mobile Consumer Trends 2020 show that shopping apps have seen an increase in new users by 15.09% globally in Q2 compared to Q1 of 2020. This indicates how important it is to optimize the app with seasonal graphics and making cross-device user experience seamless.

  5. Target users better by segmenting based on real-time triggers: One of the largest retail and ecommerce brands in the middle east, Landmark Group, used segmented campaigns based on real-time event triggers during White Wednesday 2019. The strategy was to encourage existing app users to opt-in for push notifications and prompt inactive customers to engage with the app through attractive offers, wishlist feature, and gifting options.


  6. Offer sequential discounts, not blanket deals: Don’t generalize discounts such as offering 50% off across the board. Test sequential number of deals ranging from 10% to say 50%, by breaking them into increments of 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, etc. You might be surprised to find that you can convert users equally effectively when using smaller denominations.

  7. Go heavy on omnichannel engagement: Research suggests that when a customer is approached through two or more channels, levels of engagement are 166% higher than single-channel and 642% higher than receiving no messages. It is possible to achieve this level of effectiveness only when the entire cross-channel experience is seamless for the user.

  8. Focus on mobile marketing: According to Adobe’s 2019 Holiday Recap, 84% of ecommerce growth accounted for in the holiday season in the United States was carried out through smartphones. The study also stated that 36% of online revenue (up 21% YoY) and 58% of traffic ((up 14% YoY) to retail sites from November through December was coming from smartphones. Needless to say, as a marketer you should focus on mobile marketing.

  9. Reach more users with rich looking push notifications: The average user receives one notification every 15 minutes during their waking hours! This number will only go up during the holiday season. Don’t let your notifications get lost, stand out with rich & personalized notifications that are hard to miss.


  10. Set up in-app offer zones to display exciting holiday deals: Showcase the exciting holiday offers by setting up an offer zone inside your app. Engage customers with relevant promotions delivered right to their app inbox, without interrupting their browsing behaviour. You can even reach users who opted out of push or emails!


For more actionable strategies and detailed insights from marketing leaders across top global brands, check out the comprehensive Holiday Marketing Guide 2020!

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