Predictions are bold and shoppers are poised to get started. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday spending will eclipse previous records. They have forecast that sales during November and December will grow between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. Online purchasing is expected to increase between 11 percent and 15 percent to a total of between $218.3 billion and $226.2 billion, up from $196.7 billion in 2020. From another vantage point, Adobe expects U.S. holiday sales online to hit a slightly lower $207 billion from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, but still setting a new record. This 10 percent increase from 2020 is still strong, especially given the pandemic’s robust purchasing in 2021. With that, what are some of the 2021 gifting trends that propel growth and capture the customer’s heart?
The e-tailing group’s holiday elves are busy on our annual gifting index, which will be published in January. But now it’s time to look at how retailers captured their customer’s hearts in the days leading up to the Cyber-5 (the period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday) to propel that growth. While many tactics appear as one might expect, we are on the lookout for the outliers that catch our attention, from the wow factor that makes us think twice about making a purchase to omnichannel execution that delivers on channel choice, to a set of confidence builders that never give shoppers pause as they make their way along the holiday shopping journey. As this is an unprecedented year, we may have some that surprise you. We encourage retailers to keep these simple and savvy approaches in mind to capture the customer’s heart now and into the new year.
The week of November 8th kicks off pre-Black Friday
In shopping this week, it’s not a surprise that Nike had the perfect slogan as I was hunting for holiday execution, “Shop early, relax later.” This is a theme present across an industry plagued by inventory shortages and potential delays. They reinforce their free shipping for members highlighting one of its core value propositions.
Attention Grabbers: A Little Something Extra
Shopping starts with lists, but inspiration is the ingredient that powers the shopper to push the buy button. It takes a little something special or extra to catch our attention and all the examples below do just that.
Neiman Marcus has long been known for its fantasy gifts and yes, they are available this year. But for those who can’t splurge on such extraordinary items, their Merry Charisma guide hits the mark. They tout that their style advisors have sourced the perfect presents and certainly it will be fun looking through the assortment.
Apple too always gets things just right reminding us of a heartfelt expression, “Let the holidays be for everyone.” Though I’m not a huge technology customer, I’m certainly inspired to take a look for my daughter and others on my tech-loving list.
Make it both efficient and engaging for shoppers to find gifts is Ulta’s mantra. It was great to arrive at their homepage presented with one simple question, “Are you looking for a gift?” When selecting yes, they subsequently default to the ideas that include top gifts, gifts sets and exclusives along with categories and price points so shoppers can then follow their lead.
And yes, most retailers will feature gifts by different recipients and price points. While some recipients can be classified, these creative suggestions from Macy’s can help harried shoppers and guide their selections. What’s unique though about this example is that it’s integrated into the gifting page. An option to select the gift recipient via a drop down and then also select from among sixteen categories that included everything from pet lovers to unique & one-of-a-kind powers this experience.
Kate Spade knows gift gifters just might like a little something extra. While others have offered up gift finders, their approach includes a shopping profiler that makes gift giving a little more enjoyable. Visitors start by identifying the recipient and the range of choices including “someone I love” to “someone I don’t know that well.” I love the “someone who makes my life easier” as all may lead to a unique selection. Occasion covers the usual suspects from anniversary to the more irreverent such as “they did something awesome.” Price points are in play as most shoppers have a budget in mind while styles range from bold to feminine. In the end, recommendations are made and shoppers can go on their merry way.
Just Another Reason to Send a Gift Card is in Play at REI
And it’s advisable, as in 2020, the gift card business was $160B. Retailers can move beyond the standard gift cards to excite shoppers and encourage other ways to use the card. Post-Covid, given the time spent cooped up, there will be a renewed interest among many of us to get outside. As REI’s business is built around their co-op membership model, they position “Gifts that give back” as a reminder that gift cards are ideal for buying memberships.
An Extra Helping of Omnichannel Goes a Long Way
During Covid, omnichannel options grew in importance for shoppers. Each of the examples shown capitalizes on its evolving role for the upcoming holiday season.
And speaking of omnichannel, filtering has new meaning. As part of Crate and Barrel’s favorite picks to guide customers to safe and proven selections, the ability to see if they can be picked up in store or curbside makes for the ultimate shopper convenience. Pre-holiday research from Digital Commerce 360/Bizrate Insights of 1000 online shoppers suggests that 33% or survey respondents will be checking product availability at stores.
Once you click into any of their gift themes, shoppers will see a hero image and then a selection of products. Positioning these conveniences within these themes makes it easy for the shopper to find what they need by channel.
American Eagle Outfitters’ “Get if Fast” home page links to information on allowing store access as well as in-store and curbside pickup. They wisely add the growing same-day delivery capability to their offerings, which is especially valuable for last-minute shoppers.
Dick’s Sporting Goods’ home page hits all the right buttons from early Black Friday savings to free shipping for Scorecard members. To see one-hour curbside and in-store pickup messaged front and center emphasizes its importance. And great to see that they have introduced curbside returns which is sure to be cheered, especially for those of us in cold-weather climates.
Lastly, in search of holiday shipping cut-off dates, I came across Barnes & Noble’s clever holiday destination message, “This season is one for the books so make sure to wrap up shopping early.” Their holiday shipping cut off dates are clear and the addition of buy online pickup in store is ideal for those who simply prefer this option or procrastinate as are their promotion of gift cards.
Gifting Trends That Propel Growth: Confidence Builders Foster Buying
It’s always important to give customers the confidence they need to make a purchase. While confidence is in the eye of each individual shopper, there are universal themes that resonate with most gift givers.
Guaranteed prices garner shopper attention because no shopper enjoys feeling buyer’s remorse. At Best Buy, they know they can get the best deal up front. My sense is that knowing it’s available is more important than using it.
Being flexible with returns extending into the new year does make for a “risk-free” proposition. Not only are they encouraging shoppers to buy early, knowing their recipients have more time to return, should avoid any issues along the way. Positioning this messaging in search results ensures it gets the attention of Coach shoppers.
Tumi gives customers two things that are high on their personal holiday shopping list and smartly integrates the message on the search results page. That includes free shipping and free returns and Tumi positions both at the top of their gift guide. This should save shoppers money and makes for risk-free shopping.
Gifting Trends That Propel Growth: Delivering Holiday Experiences
Retailers should be especially focused on creatively delivering holiday experiences. Shoppers are in a hurry and it is always nice to encounter something special along the way. Putting omnichannel practices in play extends the retailer’s reach encouraging both online and in-store visits. And lastly, giving customers the confidence they need ensures they open their wallets.
Lauren Freedman is the President of the e-tailing group
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