The holiday shopping season is always a focal point for marketers and consumers.

But for most people, last year’s holiday season was dramatically different when it came to socializing with friends and gathering with family members. And for many marketers, it meant relying on digital channels more than usual to reach consumers.

How will this influence the lead-up to this year’s holiday shopping season? Sitecore has partnered with Advanis to conduct research that offers a glimpse into the trends marketers need to know for the rest of the year.

We surveyed 400 marketers in both the US and the UK, and the results provide interesting insights for marketers focusing on the coming months and how to reach potential customers before holiday shopping picks up in earnest.

Here’s an outline of what we found – with a link to the downloadable report at the end of this blog.

Embracing a brighter outlook

A challenging year for many businesses has made the upcoming holiday season a crucial time in both the US and UK markets:

  • 46% of marketers in the US and 56% in the UK say that, financially for their business, this year has either been tough or they were dramatically hindered by the pandemic
  • 85% of marketers in the US and 83% in the UK either strongly agree/somewhat agree that this holiday season is “make or break” for their business

That’s the sobering news. The good news is that consumers are in a frame of mind to start their typical holiday shopping earlier this year, setting up a positive foundation for businesses to see strong sales.

Understanding consumer behaviors, motivations, and wants – which may have changed since last year – will be key to marketers getting started on the path to maximizing their opportunities.

A Black Friday reset?

While Black Friday has made itself a fixture in the run-up to the holiday season, one interesting aspect of our research is how marketers are approaching what is typically the busiest shopping day of the year.

In the US, 85% are using the pandemic as a reason to “reset” Black Friday sales practices. And while 60% plan to have a Black Friday offer this year, that’s a 17% decrease from last year. More than 75% will limit their promotions to the weekend of Black Friday only.

Smaller and mid-sized companies are least likely to plan a Black Friday offer in 2021, with many saying that consumer interest has waned, or that the event negatively impacts spend at other times of the year.

While the decline in marketers planning Black Friday offers is less marked in the UK (down 4% from last year), one-third of marketers strongly agreed that Black Friday is in need of a reset, or that it is synonymous with consumer culture and is outdated.

Timing is everything

While Black Friday may be changing, many consumers aren’t going to wait until then to begin their holiday shopping.

Around 33% in the US have indicated they will start shopping before the end of summer, while one in three younger people will start shopping earlier than normal this year to take advantage of sales, spread out their spending, and avoid crowds.

At the same time, marketers are addressing supply chain issues and taking significant steps to avoid them. In the US, 97% said that the last year has brought supply chain challenges to their business. The knock-on effect is that marketers are counting on pulling consumer demand earlier and throughout the holiday season, as well as beefing up their product ordering for the season.

By being prepared, and getting an early understanding of customers, marketers can connect with them on a human level, and lead them on a path to purchase. When it comes to making the most of this crucial holiday season, there’s no better time than the present to get started. 

To see all the insights from our survey of marketers, you can download the US report and the UK report.

Paige O’Neill is the Chief Marketing Officer at Sitecore. Connect with her on LinkedIn.