COVID-19 cancelled a lot of plans in 2020. Teachers. Doctors. CEOs. Politicians. Parents. Children. Travelers. They’ve all had to adapt to The New Normal. With Black Friday approaching, we’ll add retailers to that list.
Most retailers rely on Black Friday doorbusters to make their year profitable, and this year Black Friday is even more important to many retailers as they’ve suffered with shutdowns, lockdowns, and letdowns.
97th Floor has helped hundreds of brands find success during their holiday marketing push, but we’ve never done it in a year as unique as 2020. We wanted to know how shoppers would react to these changing times, so we commissioned an independent research study of 1,000 US shoppers to understand their hopes, fears, and behaviors when it comes to crowded malls, bustling stores, and online shopping this holiday season.
We’ve put together some of the most interesting insights in this article, but all the data can be seen in the PDF download attached to this article.
Shoppers are moving online
- 68% of shoppers plan to do most of their holiday shopping online due to COVID-19
- A usual year would see long lines and big sales in brick and mortar stores across the country. But with only 32% of American shoppers willing to show up, online sales will take the stage this year instead.
- 52% of shoppers say they expect they’ll never shop in person again for the holidays
- The pandemic’s effects may stretch beyond 2020 as a majority of shoppers say they won’t go back to stores for the holidays, even after the pandemic has passed. Shopping trends are changing, and those changes will be lasting.
- 81% of shoppers say that even if retailers offer great in-store experiences for the holidays, they’re still not sure they’d want to shop in person.
- In past years retailers could count on big sales to bring in foot traffic in a crunch. This year, however, it looks like even in-person sales won’t be enough to bring shoppers into brick and mortar stores.
- Only 20% say they’re in definitely in “a shopping mood” this holiday season
- Shutdowns, layoffs, and economic uncertainty have left a majority of American shoppers with a less-than-eager desire to shop this holiday season. It remains to be seen how this will reveal itself in the revenue numbers this holiday season.
- Many retailers are hurting financially this year, but 73% of shoppers plan to spend either as much or less than they did last season
- Unfortunately, this has been a hard year for retailers and shoppers alike. Nearly a third of retailers are feeling the effects in a desperate way, while two thirds of shoppers are in no place to help them out. Most shoppers are planning on spending either the same or less than they did last year, leaving little room for retailers to make up loss.
The pandemic spreads anxiety
- 48% of shoppers worry more about having a holiday package stolen from their doorstep than catching COVID-19.
- COVID-19 poses a real medical threat to Americans, yet shoppers are hunkering down. Nearly a majority of shoppers are more worried about package snatchers than the virus itself.
- 1 in 3 shoppers say they plan to wear a mask even when shopping online this holiday.
- It might seem strange, but not every online shopper is shopping from the comfort of their own homes. Nearly a third of shoppers plan to wear masks, even while shopping online. This is likely indicative of their plans to shop while on the go-- in transit, at work, etc.
- 88% of parents aren’t sure they will let their kids sit on Santa’s lap this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Frightened toddlers might catch a break this Christmas, although we’ll also see fewer traditional photos. Almost all parents say they aren’t eager to let their kids sit on Santa’s lap this year, risking exposure to COVID-19 in the process.
- 45% of shoppers say they are more likely to get injured in a Black Friday doorbuster sale than catch COVID-19.
- Logical or not, many shoppers are frightened of Black Friday crowds — even more frightened than they are of the current global pandemic.
In general, people are thinking practically
- 54% of shoppers say they want to do their holiday shopping by early November to avoid crowds
- A majority of shoppers are thinking ahead this year, with plans already in place to shop before Black Friday hits, in order to avoid crowds altogether.
- 30% of shoppers would rather step on a lego than get stuck in a store while holiday shopping
- Clearly there's no love lost on the consumer side for holiday shopping in store. No doubt it's stressful to holiday shop in-store, so online retailers need to do everything possible to create a stress free shopping experience.
- Only 26% of people who have been to a midnight Black Friday doorbuster say it was worth it
- It looks like even in years past, shoppers weren’t thrilled with their Black Friday shopping experiences. Less than a third feel like shopping at midnight was an experience that was not worth it in the end.
What can marketers do now?
It’s true that this has been a difficult year for business. However, there are steps that you can take to safeguard your own sales as the holiday season approaches. Our advice? Focus your efforts online. 97th Floor will be releasing a small series of in-depth articles covering these topics deeper.
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Some SEO tactics take months to see results, but the holiday shopping season is already upon us. So, this year we’d recommend finding that sweet spot between SEO that works for ecommerce sites and the SEO practices that yield results quickly. A few “quick wins” you should look at to increase the readability and user-friendliness of your site are product schema markup, proper rel=canonical for duplicate product pages (for holiday special prices for example), appropriate redirects, claim unlinked brand mentions, strategic internal links, and title tag adjustments.
Many brands can expect an influx of traffic during the next two months, so this could be a good time to roll out some testing in order to capture revenue from as much of that traffic as possible. Small changes can make a big difference on your site — one of our clients saw a 29% increase in revenue in just 18 days, without any increase in traffic at all. Imagine the possibilities as traffic does increase this holiday season. Our advice? Get started testing as quickly as you can. That way, when traffic really starts to peak, you know you’re getting that traffic to the most optimized versions of your pages.
It’s difficult to predict what will happen with ad auctions and CPCs during the holidays, but it’s certain prices will go up. Perhaps more this year than any other year since so many brands are hoping to make up for poor performance in previous quarters. Work to get more traffic right now, so that you can form remarketing campaigns later, which will be cheaper and more effective than cold ads. This might mean getting ads out the door earlier than you may have planned. Additionally, get all of the pixels you can active on your site. Even if you are only running Facebook Ads right now, still include pixels for Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google if appropriate. Doing this will allow you to quickly pilot to new platforms if rising prices caused by holiday influxes on your platform of choice push you out. This will help you keep a steady ROAS.
Keep in mind that people are more likely to try a new product or business during the holidays, so if gaining new customers is a focus for your business, this is your time to shine. Monitor all of your channels closely, as well as CPM and CPC. Become hyper-aware so that you don’t end up paying more than you’d like per ad. Also, build your remarketing pool earlier and be ready to pivot.
Email is a channel that deserves more attention this holiday season. Work on more specific segmentation, increase your email frequency. A greater volume of emails is much more acceptable by most users this time of year, so it’s a great time to show them all the value you can), and be sure to keep it personal. There are little things you can do to add personalization to your emails, such as personalization in both copy and context, that make a big difference to those on the receiving end. Email your contacts based on their interactions with you, as well as the information you already know about them. When the situation is more specific, your emails are more likely to be effective.
That’s a wrap
There is no doubt that this holiday season will look different than any that has preceded it. Yet, even in 2020, there is still room for success when you plan strategically. Strive to work with the times rather than against them. The data collected in this study can be used to help tell a more accurate story this holiday season. And, taking to heart these suggestions, you can be armed to take this challenge head on — and hopefully see incredible results in the process. We’re going to be dropping more specific articles on our blog throughout this season, so be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss a thing!