Holiday Shopping Trends: 3 Lessons To Learn From in 2021

by Chris Arey • ,

The 2020 holiday shopping season was like the rest of 2020—unprecedented. Due to COVID-19, in-store shopping saw a decline and ecommerce took over. In the U.S., online shopping revenue experienced 32% year-over-year growth, totaling $188.2 billion, according to Adobe Analytics.

Over the 2020 holiday season, Bizrate Insights surveyed thousands of consumers on the decisions behind the shopping choices they made. Below, we highlight some of the key findings and share relevant takeaways that retailers can leverage as they look ahead to the 2021 holiday season.

1. Consumers are shopping more on mobile devices. 

During the last few months of 2020, most of the country was still on lockdown, so it should come as no surprise that people were spending more time on their phonesA Bizrate Insights/Forrester Holiday survey found that people were also shopping on their mobile devices at higher rates. 

In a year-over-year comparison between 2019 and 2020the number of consumers that browsed, researched and bought products online from their mobile device increased 14%. 

In a Bizrate Insights Post-Cyber Monday Holiday Shopping surveyonline shoppers were asked if there was a particular time of week that they were more likely to shop on their mobile device. Nearly 74% respondents did not have a preference for buying on a mobile device or tablet, but were more inclined to make a purchase from their mobile device if a discount was available 

Takeaway: The Google recommended page load time is under two seconds and according to the 2019 Page Speed Report by Unbouncenearly 70% of consumers say that page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online retailer.  

With more consumers reaching for their mobile devices in order to engage with retailers, companies should optimize their website and app functionality for mobile devices.  

Best practices for mobile optimization include reducing the size of your web pages for quicker load times, including mobile payment options such as Apple Wallet and Google Pay, implementing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) plugins and designing an omnichannel strategy to ensure a seamless experience across your various platforms 

If your company has a mobile app, consider how you are promoting that convenient shopping experience to your customers. Include direct calls to action and prominent links to your app through website banners, social media, search ads, and pop-ups. These efforts are an effective way to drive mobile traffic to your mobile app. Make sure your links will open your app (if it’s already already downloaded) or direct the user to the download page in the app store.

2. Consumers expect free shipping and promotional discounts. 

Consumers are always trying to save, that’s no surprise. What’s interesting however, is that they’re looking to save in particular ways. In a January 2021 Post-Holiday Shopping survey we asked, “Which of the following promotions would convince you to buy a greater percent of your 2020 holiday purchases online than you did in 2019? ”  

Two things were top of mind for consumers: 

  1. Free shipping with no minimum order value (50%) 
  2. A discount on my total purchase, either a percentage off or a set dollar amount (49%) 

Another 2020 Holiday Shopping Trends survey asked online shoppers: “Which types of special deals did you take advantage of for today’s purchase?” 

The top results were: 

This data is consistent with a Black Friday survey finding, where 44% of respondents were looking for a special deal that applied a discount on the total purchase amount. 

Takeaway: Consumers are more likely to shop online when they are incentivized with either free shipping or a promotional discountMost respondents said they are looking for deals and coupons by signing up through a retailer’s email list (29%) or by searching the retailers website for a coupon or discount code (29%)One way retailers can leverage these findings is by running promotional discounts, particularly those that discount a total purchase by a set dollar amount or percentage. 

Free shipping can be a difficult pitch to decision makers within your organization, even with supporting data showing how important it is. If your business can’t afford to provide free shipping at this time, consider implementing a buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) program as an alternativeDuring the COVID-19 pandemic, BOPIS has become essential for many retailers. This cost-effective fulfillment option will allow for quick pick-up and savings for both you and your customers. 

A BOPIS program should be easy for customers to select on your website, have a strong inventory management, be efficient, and most importantly be promoted. For help implementing a BOPIS program, download our guide, Data-Driven Tips to Create a Winning BOPIS Program. 

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3. Consumers are shopping online because it’s faster and easier.

recent Post-Holiday Shopping survey oover 20,000 respondents found that 36% of consumers chose to shop online because “buying online takes up less time than going to stores,” and 27said “it was so easy – why expend more energy? 

Additionally, 49said they prefer to shop online because “there are no crowds, no traffic, and no hunting for parking.” 

The survey also found that 75% of respondents purchased at least half of their holiday purchases online and 16% bought all of their holiday gifts through an ecommerce retailer. 

Takeaway: These responses boil down to one thing: More people are shopping online because they want a quick, easy experience during the hectic holiday season. If your website has slow load times, a clunky checkout process, or unintuitive product browsing, we recommend improving that in 2021.  

A great place to start is with Bizrate Insight’s Online Buyer Survey. The two-part survey is triggered immediately following a purchase and a second survey is sent via email after their items have been deliveredThe survey will provide insights into customer experience with your website usability, order tracking, customer support, and checkout processes.  

This free solution will collect the information and immediately sync with your VitalSigns dashboard, giving your team the opportunity to address customer feedback in real time.

Post-Holiday Recap

When you compare the 2020 holiday shopping season to years prior, the main difference is that the majority of the shopping took place online instead of in person. Pandemic aside, one could argue things were headed in that direction anyway. Our findings show that when consumers do shop online they want the process to be fast and easy. If retailers want to retain customers, they’ll need to accommodate them with free shippingpromotional discounts, and an optimized mobile experience. 

Along with these discoveries from the holiday season, ecommerce retailers should take note of other emerging themes in buyer behavior. To learn what your customer’s want, your business first needs to know how COVID-19 is changing the retail space and the way consumers shop. Download our infographic: The Top 5 Ways COVID-19 is Changing Retail to help visualize the changes and adjust your business strategy accordingly. 

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