Interesting holiday 2020 behaviors . . . let’s start planning for 2021

As part of our holiday shopping study, we looked at holiday shopping and planning behavior to help our clients better prepare for the following year. 2020 revealed some interesting behaviors that we think can be leveraged for 2021.

Despite all of the changes for the 2020 holiday season, most traditions were held dear and consumers continued with customs such as decorating, gift-giving, and baking/cooking. The main difference versus previous years was that planning was more last minute for all holiday activities including decorating, gifting, events, or religious services.

Interestingly the pandemic influenced some gift-giving traditions such as stocking stuffers with hand sanitizers and soap being in the top 10 items.

Not surprisingly there was a big drop in many social activities this year. So, what do we think these overall behaviors might mean for the holiday season next year?

  • If in-person gatherings are feasible, we may see early planning and larger/more holiday celebrations – retailers and manufacturers can get in on this early planning and pent up demand to celebrate.
  • Ensure all holiday inspiration messaging online and in-store happens prior to Black Friday. Provide consumers with ideas to make the most out of their 2021 holiday season.
  • Showcase items and inspiration that speaks to hosting and attending holiday events.
  • Many categories may benefit from the pent-up holiday demand – premium food products, fashion and electronics to name a few.

Another big trend was online shopping with over half of holiday shopping done online this year. We saw a dramatic lift in holiday online shopping with a +21 percentage point increase in online shopping in mass and a +19 percentage point increase in online shopping for grocery. These numbers aren’t at all surprising but what we found interesting was that while online provides convenience and price comparison, there is also an important role for inspiration around recipes, gift guides, and decorating.

Online will continue to be important, so what do we think our clients should think about when planning for next year?

  • For online websites/promotions incorporate holiday ideas/gift guides and other inspiration (recipes/decorating/activities). Yes, price plays an important role, but inspiration is important as well.
  • This content should be heavy from Thanksgiving to early December when shoppers are planning and looking for inspiration, whereas the focus should shift to sales/promotions as planning shifts to buying in November.

For food and beverage shopping, planning was done within the week leading up to the event and mass/club was the predominant channel for holiday food shopping. This year, recipe planning was more last-minute with friends/family and online was a key source of inspiration. Food inspiration is important during the holidays with 62% of shoppers buying more premium products during the holiday season. Also, limited edition products were appealing for cookies, alcohol, meat and frozen products. For in-store experiences, sampling, demos and signage are key influencers and enhance the holiday shopping experience.

With a return (hopefully) to a more normal holiday season in 2021, what do we think the implications will be for this season?

  • Recipe/meal planning may happen earlier in 2021 so promotion timing may need to move earlier.
  • Ensure a strong online presence around food inspiration and recipes.
  • In-store may play a stronger role in 2021 for retailers and holiday 2021 is an opportunity to showcase premium products, holiday-themed products, and an enhanced in-store experience.

See our full holiday study here and feel free to reach out to us with any questions about shopper, pack, product, or behavioral science.

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