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2020 Holiday Marketing Analysis Kick-Off

We’re back this year, and with a twist-- holiday shopping amidst a global pandemic. What will the holiday shopping season look like this year? Will it start earlier? More contactless shopping? Even bigger discounts? How are brands going to communicate these changes with their customers? If these questions are on your mind as much as ours, don’t fret. We’ve been tracking a range of brands, from top retailers and department stores to digital native brands, and plan to report our findings on a monthly basis through the holiday season. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s what we found in the month of September.

The Holidays Haven’t Hit...Yet.

While the arrival of September had some pulling out their cable knit sweaters and dusting off seasonal decor, retailers seem to be waiting to push holiday messaging this year. Only a few brands, such as Sephora and Target, mentioned holidays in their emails, and for the most part, any messaging around the holidays was secondary content. According to our survey, 23 percent of people plan to do their holiday shopping on Amazon Prime Day. With Amazon Prime Day on the horizon, we predict a drastic difference in holiday messaging in October.

Retailers Are Still Sending Too Many Emails.

Email volume stayed the same YoY for many retailers—which means they’re still sending a lot of them. Big department stores take the lead, sending as many as 88 emails in the month of September, and some digital native brands sending 30 or more. To top it off, most of these emails were mass email promotions or generic messages, with the exceptions of Sephora, Best Buy and Bloomingdale’s. We know that Millennials prefer 1-3 marketing emails per month, and are frustrated with the amount of blast emails they receive from retailers, which leads us to ask, “Why are brands not listening?”

COVID-19 Precautions are Playing a Big Role in How Brands Encourage Shopping.

Ah, the not-so elephant in the room. When kicking off this year’s holiday showdown, we were interested to see how brands would be responding to holiday shopping amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they would be communicating those transitions to customers. There is a stark contrast in brands mentioning COVID-19 outright. Brands like Target, Best Buy, Saks and Nordstrom all mentioned COVID-19 safety precautions and alternative shopping options in some, if not all of their emails this month; and department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Sephora have no COVID-19 messaging at all. While last year saw a rise in buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS), this year is seeing major brands like Target, Macy’s and Nordstrom promoting curbside pickup. And let’s not forget free shipping, which seemed to be a unanimous offering from brands across the spectrum. It’s still a bit early to tell how the retail industry will cope with holiday shopping this year, but we have a feeling October will include a significant increase in holiday messaging. Stay tuned.