Shopping is ramping up as the COVID crisis recedes, but many brands are still way behind the ball when it comes to recouping the damage done over the last 16 months—4 out of 10 (41 percent) marketers strongly agree that this holiday season is a make-or-break opportunity for their business, but only 21 percent feel completely prepared for it, reveals new research from digital experience management firm Sitecore.
With the 2020 holiday season marred by austerity, health concerns, and shipping delays, the firm’s new report serves as a wake-up call for brands that are not yet thinking about the holidays—and are running out of time.
Make-or-break holiday season
Of marketers with a brick-and-mortar presence, 60 percent are making it an experiential destination this year, while 49 percent feel the 2021 holiday season is the last chance to prove the value of their store. Meanwhile, 65 percent of marketers think that digitally native e-commerce brands will win the holiday season.
Marketers will embrace new ways to boost customer engagement
Nine out of 10 (91 percent) marketers are likely to enhance VR/AI offerings by year’s end. With third-party cookies phasing out, 51 percent of marketers are increasing the value of discounts and other services offered to consumers in exchange for their data. And 74 percent of marketers plan to introduce a subscription content program to boost customer engagement this holiday season.
Dark days for Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions
Only 60 percent of brands plan a Black Friday promotion, down 17 percent from last year. A whopping 85 percent of marketers are using the pandemic to “reset” Black Friday sales practices—80 percent feel that Black Friday has become outdated and associated negatively with consumer culture.
Three-quarters (76 percent) will limit Black Friday promotions to the lone weekend on the calendar, out of fear of devaluing their brand and reducing consumer spend all year long, while 78 percent of marketers say Cyber Monday is no longer “a thing” for their business.
Earlier, longer shopping season
A third (34 percent) of consumers say they intend to start holiday shopping by Labor Day, so 53 percent of marketers are planning their campaigns to start earlier this year than last, and 53 percent added more domestic or local suppliers, to mitigate supply chain challenges. Nearly all marketers (91 percent) are optimistic of a revenue boost this holiday season.
Changing health conditions/regulations—and inflation—are top concerns
Nearly all marketers (95 percent) are concerned with changing health conditions/regulations impacting holiday performance, while 93 percent are concerned about inflation having an impact.
“Retail sales were challenging all last year, especially during the critical holiday season. With attitudes around big events like Black Friday changing, the industry now needs to move quickly to connect with their most loyal customers as they plan to begin holiday shopping much earlier this year,” said Sitecore CMO Paige O’Neill, in a news release. “The right technology should showcase those promotions that will incentivize early holiday spending and get customers excited to engage with the brand and their products. The pull through to the in-store experience will be equally critical so consumers feel connected to the brand no matter where they choose to shop.”
As marketers prepare for this unprecedented holiday season, they need to understand where their customers’ minds are and what their shopping plans will be. This holiday season will be a make-or-break moment for many—so planning for it well ahead of time is critical. Marketers must truly understand their customers and build strong relationships through personalized digital experiences—which are more critical than ever for businesses looking to survive and thrive.
Sitecore conducted survey research among consumers and marketers about the 2021 holiday season, querying 1000 US residents and 400 US marketers (consumer brands, 100+ employees) who completed a 10-minute survey conducted June 7-14th, 2021. Participants were recruited from an actively managed online panel and were incented using rewards points offered by their online panel. Consumer data was weighted to reflect the general population (age/gender/country). Marketer data was not weighted. A mix of company size and responsibility level is present in the survey responses.