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November 2020 Holiday Marketing Analysis: A New World for Holiday Shopping

The long-anticipated holiday season is here and so far, it has not disappointed. With all of the changes that COVID-19 has brought to consumers this year, extended holiday sales is one we can’t be mad about.

Bigger promotions. More personalization. Fast Delivery. Let’s take a look at how this year’s biggest shopping season is looking a bit different than in year’s past.

Holidays are here for a good time, and a long time.

“More is more” is what we imagine top retailers said when planning their holiday campaigns this year. Not only did we see a drastic increase in the number of emails sent by most brands in November, but the sales came much earlier, with promotions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday beginning as early as October.

Popular brands such as Macy’s, Target, Walmart, Sephora, Bonobos and Southwest Airlines all nearly doubled their email sends this month to stay top of mind with shoppers, and majority of these emails included holiday promotions.

Thanks to COVID-19, shoppers are more concerned about shipping delays, and in trying to mitigate exposure risk, doorbuster days like Black Friday have lost in-store foot traffic. With an earlier start to holiday shopping, it seems Black Friday and Cyber Monday may not have the buzz they once did, and because brands have had to be more flexible this year, extending sales and encouraging shoppers to make headway on their gift list sooner rather than later makes the most sense.

Personalization game, strong.

With more emails, comes more personalization. Or at least that is the case for major brands like Saks, Macy’s, Walmart and Home Depot, who focused more on personalization in the month of November than in previous months.

Bloomingdale’s and Sephora kept up the good work in November, hitting customer inboxes with cart abandonment alerts and tailored recommendations based on browsing behavior.

On the other hand, though, are major brands like Nordstrom and Best Buy who did not send any personalized emails, but rather focused heavily on mass promotions and highlighting specific discounted categories.

We know that 70% of millennials are frustrated with brands sending irrelevant emails, and right now, inboxes are flooding with huge sale alerts that may or may not have anything to do with the shopper’s interests. We predict the brands who can personalize their messages based on shopper preferences and past browsing behavior, are the ones who will capture consumer attention and capitalize on it this holiday season.

Brands Incentivized Shoppers with Alternative Pick-Up Options and Fast Delivery.

This has been an interesting year for retail (and, well, everybody), and the industry has had to adapt quickly to meet consumer needs. With in-store shopping being a more “planned” experience and brick-and-mortar carrying less inventory, it was assumed the majority of consumers would be holiday shopping from their beds this year. Combine this with the fear of shipping delays due to strains on fulfillment services, and brands were having to prove they could combat these obstacles on all fronts.

One of the solutions was to extend sale periods, giving consumers more time to make purchases at low prices. The other, however, was providing alternative pick-up options and fast delivery for those who shopped during the month of November.

This past month, we saw Macy’s, Nordstrom and Sephora all offer free shipping, and major retailers like Neiman Marcus, Saks and Bloomie’s mentioning free shipping in every email. Apple, Walmart, Macy’s and Target anticipated shopper anxiety with delayed delivery, and frequently advertised fast delivery.

BOPIS and Curbside Pick-Up took the spotlight, though, with top brands encouraging shoppers to utilize these quick and easy routes to ensure receiving their gifts in time.

It will be interesting to see how the aftermath of Black Friday and Cyber Monday will play out in December, and whether or not the changes we’ve seen in the competitive retail landscape this year will become a norm for all future holiday seasons.