A Digital-First Holiday Season

In September, Deloitte predicted that this year’s holiday sales would see “tepid-to-modest” annual growth of just 1% to 1.5%. Ecommerce sales, Deloitte contended, would be responsible for the lion’s share of activity, expected to balloon by 25% to 30% – nearly twice the year-over-year growth recorded in 2019. 

To say that 2020 has not been a typical year is somehow both an understatement and a cliché. COVID-19 has changed nearly every aspect of our lives: how we work and study, how we travel, how we interact with friends and family. In the retail sector, the pandemic changed consumer behaviors and priorities. It caused shifts in brand loyalty and made availability, convenience, and affordability the predominant factors in consumer choice. 

For retailers, the holiday season typically stretches from Black Friday in late November to the New Year. This year, even the timeline is different. When Amazon announced in July it will postpone its summer Prime Day to the fall (finally settling on October 13), it effectively made it the new harbinger of holiday shopping. With China’s Singles Day on November 11—expected to be the biggest shopping day in history with sales of more than $45 billion—global merchants could be looking at a very busy 3-month shopping season. Consumers are on board: one in three shoppers plan to start their holiday shopping earlier this year. 

The expectation is that despite an unsettled global economy (and perhaps because of it) consumers will seek deals heading into the holiday season, and will continue to spend online (in the US, 71% of adult shoppers said they plan to do the majority of their holiday shopping digitally).

Most critically, COVID-19 caused mass-migration online: during the first half of the year, online retailers experienced holiday-like traffic. In July, Salesforce reported that Q2 2020 saw global digital revenue go up by an unprecedented 71% over the same period in 2019.