Emerging trends and actionable strategies to conquer the unusual holiday season 2020

The MoEngage team offers advice for brands on how to win this holiday season.

With the holiday season well underway, brands around the world have started focusing on their marketing strategies for the festive period. However, this year’s holiday season comes with a couple of unique challenges that marketers and product owners need to resolve. Owing to the global pandemic, user behavior and preferences along with purchasing power has been affected. With millions of people around the world adapting to a new normal and businesses adjusting to lockdowns and restrictions, we are looking at a strange holiday season.

Last year, holiday season sales for retail and eCommerce surpassed the $1 trillion (£747.9m) mark for the first time ever and a lot was expected from this holiday season. Although it is a tricky situation for shoppers and brands alike, Forrester expects eCommerce sales to grow by 18.5 per cent this year, thus proving that despite all the uncertainty, the spirit of the holiday season will be stronger than ever. This means when it comes to holiday shopping and gift-giving, brand need to add real value to consumers lives by helping them stay connected to who/what they care about most. Keeping consumers needs at the core of business planning will enable unique value adds during the holidays.

To better understand the situation, let’s take a look at some of the trends that have emerged from the unique holiday season 2020, ones that marketers and product owners should be aware of.

Trends emerged from the highly unusual holiday season…

Uncertain economic conditions
According to the World Health Organization, nearly half of the global workforce runs the risk of losing their livelihood due to COVID-19. The looming prospect of unemployment will make consumers more cautious about spending on gifts. They would prefer to save money for the future Instead.

Value-conscious buyers
COVID-19 has transformed millennials from swipers to savers. COVID-19 seems to have changed the spending habits of consumers not just in the United States, but also in developing countries like India. Consumers will be more value-conscious and less impulsive while shopping. As Chris Farrell, the Marketplace Senior Economics Correspondent, puts it, “More people are embracing frugality or thrift.”

More online shopping versus in-store shopping
A holiday season seems incomplete without the images of people lining up outside retail stores as early as midnight to buy their favorite products. However, this year is going to be completely different. Social distancing norms have led more consumers to shop online as compared to in-store. A new global study shows that 36 per cent of shoppers now prefer weekly online shopping as compared to the 28 per cent who chose the option pre-COVID-19. This is particularly challenging for brick and mortar shops that have relied mainly on in-store sales during the holiday season.

Shortages due to supply chain disruption
The disruption in supply chains due to the pandemic badly impacted the retail industry. In April, retail sales in the United States plunged by 16.4 per cent due to supply chain issues. Problems such as labour shortages, transportation restriction and border closures, have added stress on the retail supply chain and led to artificial shortages.

Expected growth of curbside pick-ups
With the potential of providing contactless delivery, curbside pick-ups are going to be huge this holiday season. According to a survey conducted by blackfriday.com, 50 per cent of respondents in the United States are likely to use curbside pick more than they did in 2019 and 36 per cent say that they will use it as much as they did last year. Another survey by Google confirmed these intentions. Among all the people who will shop during the holidays this season, 63 per cent plan to do so at stores that offer contactless shopping, and 39 per cent said that they prefer to buy online but collect their purchases in store or by using curbside pick-up.

Check out the comprehensive Holiday Marketing Guide 2020 for more detailed insights!

Now, that we know what has changed in 2020, let’s take a look at some of the strategies that can be used to address the changes and better adapt for the holiday season 2020. These strategies are framed taking into consideration verticals like gaming, retail, eCommerce, and more across Europe, US, Southeast Asia, and other regions, with insights from global brands like AliExpress, Ozon, IMVU, Landmark Group and more.

Actionable Strategies to help you navigate the unusual holiday season…

Focus on mobile marketing
According to Adobe’s 2019 Holiday Recap, 84 per cent of eCommerce growth (accounted for in the holiday season in the United States) was carried out through smartphones. During Black Friday, smartphone users spent $2.9bn and 67 per cent of total Christmas visits, with 48 per cent of revenue, came through smartphones. The study also stated that 36 per cent of online revenue (up 21 per cent YoY) and 58 per cent of traffic (up 14 per cent YoY) to retail sites from November through December was through smartphones. Hence it is crucial to have a robust mobile marketing plan in place, with a focus on automated, smart and targeted messaging.

Optimize apps for the holiday season
Shopping app usage has gone up, with an 18.28 per cent increase in downloads and 2.91 per cent increase in Daily Active Users in Q2 compared to Q1 of 2020, according to Global Mobile Consumer Trends 2020.

Other non-gaming apps, including those related to food delivery, finance and lifestyle, have also seen significant revenue spikes. The most downloaded apps in the past six months were in the categories of retail shopping, gaming and streaming.  Prioritize seamless experiences for holiday shoppers by targeting users across devices and using dynamic creatives to serve relevant messaging. This will ensure that consumers only see ads for the gifts they’re looking for. Adding a feature that allows shoppers to continue from where they left off across devices will make their check-out experience with your brand faster and simpler. 

Adaptation of current assets in the Wish app

Attract users by setting up in-app offer zones
Showcase the exciting offers and amazing deals you’re providing during the holiday season by setting up an offer zone inside your app. You can engage your customers with relevant offers and promotions, especially the ones who opted out of Push Notifications, Emails or SMS messages! What’s even better is that, unlike in-app or push notifications, these messages can’t be dismissed and stick around in a non-pushy way so that your customers can interact any time they’d like.

In-app offer zone highlighting exciting deals and offers

Test ads and keeping multiple ad formats ready
Test each of the different formats and sizes of creatives for all the various channels you’re using. Generally, people limit their creatives to the most popular format, which is both good and bad. The good news is that creatives in the popular format get the majority of the impressions. The bad news is that’s where most of the other advertisers are also focused, resulting in higher competition for such inventories, along with higher priced CPM/CPI. When you use creatives in all the different formats, including the least popular sizes, you can get additional exposure at a much lower price.

Reach users with creative, intuitive and personalized push notifications
The average user receives one notification every 15 minutes during their waking hours! This number will only go up during the holiday season with all brands vying for users’ mindshare. This holiday season, you have to up your game to win the battle of notifications. Don’t let your notifications get lost in the notification tray, stand out with rich and personalized notifications that are hard to miss.

Craft rich-looking, intuitive notifications to catch user’s attention
Array