Are Your Digital Channels Proactively Prepared for Holiday Shopping?

The pandemic forever changed a number of things, not the least of which is how people do their holiday shopping and how brands need to prepare for it. Now that we’re less than three weeks away from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and less than two months away from Christmas, we have a question — you’re digitally prepared for this holiday shopping season, right?

Pre-pandemic, online shopping and digital experiences were a nice-to-have. In 2020, they became absolutely essential to brands’ bottom line. Now, consumers are used to the convenience and time-savings of getting online purchases delivered to the front door, ordering them online and picking up curbside, and running into a store just long enough to pick up an online order. To demonstrate just how significant this shift has been, a recent study found that 54% of global consumers now prefer to do their window shopping virtually, as opposed to on foot.

The 2020 holiday shopping season was mostly reactive as brands tried to keep up with a new way of buying and, quite frankly, a new way of living. Here’s what we learned in the process:

  • The pandemic created a demand for online shopping that was unlike anything the industry had seen before, and many organizations didn’t have the digital infrastructure in place to handle it all.
  • Retailers must focus on agility. Not only does digital disruption occur at a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pace, there are other challenges like supply chain issues, labor shortages, and even weather delays that can force a brand to shift to Plan B… or Plan C.
  • Creativity is absolutely essential. This has always been a key to successful holiday promotion, but in an always-on digital world, it’s even more important. (More on that in a minute.) 
  • The traditional promotional periods are gone. Before the historic surge in online shopping, brands prepared for a giant peak between Black Friday and Christmas. Because it’s so convenient to click and buy — and because of the current market — consumers have started their shopping much earlier. Some even started before the kids went back to school! 

It just goes to show that this year, the stakes are higher than ever. With an entire year of new-COVID-normal under our belts, reactive doesn’t cut it anymore. Brands need to be more proactive than ever if they want to reach the full potential of the season.

Online holiday shopping is expected to be 10% higher than it was in 2020 and break all-time spending records, with Adobe forecasting $207 billion in U.S. purchases alone. Globally, they expect to see $910 billion worth of online holiday purchases. If you want your brand to benefit, the time to connect with your most loyal customers is now.

And that means connecting in the right way.

Whether you do it on your app, on your website, in a text message, in an email, on social media (where more and more consumers are discovering and researching products), or any other channel, today’s digital experience should be immersive and frictionless. If you can create an experience that’s as close to an in-store visit as possible and make transactions easy to complete, you’ll be giving consumers exactly what they want. Doing it, though, goes far beyond the basics. Consumers now expect instant results and advanced technology to help them on their path to purchase. If everything isn’t perfect, you’re in danger of losing them completely, because even loyal customers will abandon a brand after just one unfavorable experience.

Which brings us back to the point about creativity.

Chipotle made headlines with its cozy branded merchandise last year, along with its salsa and guac wrapping paper. Del Taco made gift-giving del-icious by offering free food with gift card purchases. In addition to being memorable, these digital offerings gave both brands a valuable opportunity to learn more about their customers’ preferences so that they could surprise and delight in the new year.

Time is ticking. Your digital strategy will play a bigger role than ever this year. Leaving things up to chance is no way to set your brand up for success.