Retail and Consumer Demand this Holiday Season

From Lauren Sak, Senior Marketing Director, Intersection


Has COVID has changed the way people discover, shop and buy, how can brands/retailers better represent themselves this holiday season?

In 2020, there were a few things people were doing more of, and one of those things was shopping online— ecommerce grew over 30% for the year. There’s no debate that the challenges of 2020 forced innovation in ecommerce, with the proliferation of BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store), expansion of mobile marketplaces like Instagram’s Shop, and rapid adoption of QR codes. But along with innovation, 2020 also forced extreme digital fatigue. By the end of 2020, nearly half of consumers had taken steps to reduce screen time, with those numbers sustaining into 2021.

Experts are predicting up to 10.5% growth in holiday spending in 2021. With income rising, unemployment dropping, and a booming economy, consumers are ready to spend. The opportunities are seemingly endless, with retailers fiercely competing this holiday season. First and foremost, people are spending earlier. Many might be surprised to know that despite it all, even in 2020, nearly 40% of holiday shopping was done in-store. In 2021, as consumers venture further back into the real world from the virtual world, winning brands will strike a balance between showing up (and standing out) in both spaces.


Adobe found that over half of digital Christmas revenue in 2020 came from smartphones and with that said, ecommerce sales will undoubtedly soar this holiday season – given this shift, how will marketing budgets shift?

Consumers are bombarded daily with brands in an increasingly crowded digital ad space. As many as 75% of consumers are tuning out digital ads, ultimately reducing effectiveness for brands. While it could seem counterintuitive, advertising in online and offline channels (like linear TV and OOH) will be key in driving growth in ecommerce.

MAGNA recently forecasted OOH spend will rise 16% for 2021, making it the second fastest-growing channel behind digital media (+36%). Further, we know people are much more comfortable with in-store shopping this year, so the importance of showing up “out of home” is something brands should emphasize. Marketers can look at advertising in popular downtown shopping districts, and along busy highways to build awareness and engagement in spaces that are contextually relevant to the holiday shopping experience.


What are some ways in which brands can bring the in-store experience online and the digital experience to stores?

I can’t help but go back to the mobile device as the center of all things for this question as well. The reality for today’s shoppers is that most purchases involve the mobile device, even if the purchase is ultimately made in store. In addition to using the store as a “showroom” for an ultimately mobile purchase, nearly two-thirds of consumers use their mobile devices during an in-store shopping experience to check for product availability or information.

The mainstreaming of QR codes among all age categories also has made it really easy for brands to present “pop-up” experiences for consumers on the go. It’s not surprising that many of our advertisers are adding QR codes to their street-level OOH creative, and driving consumers to places like online shops, or even AR experiences. In this case, with a little technology, the “in-store” experience can really happen anywhere, at any moment.


Consumers are purchasing on social now more than ever. With that said, how can brands revamp their social channels to help with in-app purchases?

At the end of the day, regardless of the channel, everything should be done with the customer in mind. A recent study from Sprout Social surveyed marketers and customers, and found that while marketers think their customers care about buzzy social content, what they’re really looking for is a positive, customer-focused experience. While social feeds are cluttered, there are other spaces, like digital OOH, where brands can seamlessly extend the rich content they’re already producing for social. Social content is such a focus for brands, it would be a shame to not give it additional life and reach in places (like city streets) where consumers are in the shopper mindset.