Fourth quarter 2020 is shaping up to be a holiday season like no other. The pandemic is changing buying behavior in significant ways, and online ordering volumes are way up as fewer people shop in stores, phone in their orders or, perish the thought, mail in an order.
Here’s what we can expect:
- More holiday buying will be done online than ever before. Americans have already pivoted to online shopping. And much of retail store shopping is simply closed.
- People may give more gifts than ever before because fewer will be able to visit with friends and family this season. A spike in coronavirus cases could also prompt travel restrictions, further limiting people from seeing loved ones during the holidays.
- People may order early. Why? They have nothing else to do and are at home in front of their computers. Slowdowns in shipping and the potential for delays are a big topic in the news, and will prompt many people to shop earlier than usual.
- People may also want to order early to avoid out-of-stock situations and to get the items they want.
- The election outcome remains a big unknown. Typically holiday sales spike right after the results of the election are clear.
Consider Your Messaging
With this pivot to online shopping, several key themes should be used in your brand’s email and digital marketing outreach:
- Order online. Because it is quicker, easier, and safer than trying to shop retail. You don’t need to go to the mall or hit the Black Friday sales. Order online and stay safe.
- Show you care. The holidays are a time to reach out to family and friends. While travel is still hard, give gifts that show you care and are still thinking about your loved ones.
- Order early. We promise you that we are giving you the best offers now. Please don’t worry that there will be a sweeter offer later in the season. We are guaranteeing these are the best offers so you can decide now what to give your loved ones.
- Reconnect. We have all been kept apart by this pandemic. Now is the time to reconnect with your network of family, friends, and business colleagues.
- Avoid shipping delays. UPS, FedEx, and USPS are asking everyone to order early. The three big shipping companies are already forecasting holiday slowdowns because of expected jumps in holiday shipping volume. Order early so your packages get delivered in time for gift exchanging.
It is unknown how big the surge in online sales will be compared to previous years. But the ongoing pandemic and the known post-election bump means that sales volumes will be stronger than in previous years. Anticipate these trends toward online ordering and message your customers with reasons to order and reasons to order early.
Know that postcards and direct mail can profitably drive December sales — especially when you send direct mail pieces to your very best customers to either order online or to drive traffic to your retail stores for last-minute holiday shopping.
Start Tracking Now
Track day-by-day sales to compare your brand’s holiday daily sales with previous years. Early trends in daily sales are the best indicator of how the holiday season will unfold.
Measure the incremental impact of your email and digital messages by using specific promotional codes. And don’t forget to measure the impact of your catalogs, direct mail pieces, and postcards. Measurement is vital so that at the end of the holidays, you can see the top line and bottom line impact of email, digital, and direct mail in driving sales and profitability.