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Holiday Shopping Trends Reshape Retail Direct Marketing Efforts During the Pandemic

Michelle Peel

Before we explore the latest holiday shopping trends, I want to wish our readers and subscribers a safe and healthy holiday season! The holidays are a special time for traditions—decorating, baking, gift giving, and—my favorite tradition—shopping. For my annual shopping trip, I gathered my shopping list, my direct mail and email ads and coupons, and a few new accessories this year: hand sanitizer and a facemask.

As you might expect, health and safety are the main holiday shopping trends, and the top priority for retailers and shoppers, due to COVID-19. As Matthew Shay, President and CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), explained in their news release, “Retailers have been planning for the season by ensuring that their stores are safe, their associates are trained, the inventory is stocked, and the online experience is seamless.”

For example, Staples is taking extra steps to make the holiday shopping experience safer with enhanced in-store health and safety protocols including physical distancing guidelines, all-day disinfection, facemask requirements, sanitization stations, and a ShopSafe app that gives customers the option to join a virtual queue in-store during peak times.

How to Safely Holiday Shop During COVID

Holiday shopping during COVID is all about safety, and here are a few tips:

  • Shop online: OK, so this tip is pretty obvious. Online shopping is the safest way to shop. According to a survey conducted by the NRF, 57 percent of holiday shoppers reported shopping online due to COVID. Take advantage of curbside pickup and buy online/pick up in store offerings, which have escalated in popularity in recent months.
  • Shop for the hottest gift this holiday season…gift cards: Holiday shoppers are expected to spend $27.5 billion on gift cards this holiday season. Top choices are for restaurants (29%), department stores (28%), and Visa, American Express, and Mastercard gift cards (26%).
  • Shop with precautions: If you do shop in stores this holiday season, wear a mask and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer and shop during retailers’ slowest hours of business: early morning or late night before the store closes. You won’t be alone; a large majority of holiday shoppers (70 percent) say they feel safe shopping in stores this holiday season given the precautions retailers have taken for COVID.
  • Shop local and support small businesses: Since your chances of spreading the virus increase the further you travel from home, shop local. Picking up a gift card will help small, local businesses (restaurants, local salons or barbershops, boutiques) with cash flow.

How Did Retailers Fare Black Friday Through Cyber Monday During COVID?

Although habits have changed this year, one holiday shopping trend remains – consumers are opening their wallets this time of year. U.S. shoppers spent a record $34.36 billion on retail websites over the five-day period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday according to Digital Commerce 360. This is an increase of $28.49 billion compared to the same period last year.

  • Black Friday, Friday, November 27
    Retailers encouraged shoppers to adhere to store capacity restrictions, and as a result, Black Friday store traffic was down 50 percent compared to last year. Black Friday online shoppers exceeded 100 million, up 8 percent from 2019.
  • Small Business Saturday, Saturday, November 28
    77 percent of shoppers said they were more interested in supporting small, local businesses. Small Business Saturday logged 68.2 million online shoppers, up 17 percent from the same day in 2019.
  • Cyber Monday, Monday, November 30
    Shoppers spent a record $10.8 billion online on Cyber Monday, an increase of 15 percent over 2019, making it the biggest online shopping day ever in the U.S.

Experts say shoppers have about half of their shopping completed. NRF expects 2020 holiday sales of $766.7 billion, a 5.2 percent increase over 2019 sales.

Direct Mail and Email Holiday Marketing Best Practices for Retailers

All of these holiday shopping trends combine to reshape how retailers have focused their direct marketing efforts. According to Comperemedia, retail direct mail offers reached a low of 58 million pieces in May, rebounded 63 percent to nearly 96 million pieces in July and August, and steadily hovered near 90 million pieces in September and October.

To stand out in the mailbox, marketers should incorporate these best practices into their holiday marketing campaigns:

  • Use QR codes: Include a QR code that links to a map showing the retail location, where to park for curbside pickup, or leads the customer to your website. Be sure to include your address, phone, website, and business hours.
  • Include personalized coupons or discount cards: Affix a personalized coupon or discount card to your mailpiece so the customer feels they are getting a special offer or incentive.
  • Coordinate email: Send an email as a follow up to the direct mail piece reminding potential or loyal customers to visit your retail location during the holiday season. Mention your in-store health and safety protocols and capacity limitations.

IWCO Direct can help retailers this holiday season with effective direct mail and email marketing campaigns. Contact us today!

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2020/12/09/holiday-shopping-trends/
Michelle Peel


Michelle Peel

As Sales Content and Research Manager, Michelle enhances the customer experience for our clients by keeping her finger on the pulse of key consumer trends, new vertical market developments, and competitor insights that impact their business. A graduate of Elizabethtown College with more than 20 years of direct marketing experience, she brings the “make it happen” attitude to IWCO Direct every day. She is a dedicated Pittsburgh Steelers fan who enjoys shopping, crafting, and spending time with her family.

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