Retailers learned a lot from 2020 peak holiday season. And there’s no question, these learnings will play a big role in how they prepare for holiday 2021.

Digital Commerce 360’s Top 1000 Retailers Report asked more than 100 retailers: What had the biggest impact on your 2020 online holiday sales performance? These were the top responses:It’s impossible to predict if these same factors will impact holiday sales performance in the same way this year. Here’s what we do know: consumer spending patterns are still wildly unpredictable and general uncertainty is still looming large. This isn’t going to change anytime soon. We expect that retailers will need to do as they did last year and focus on ‘pulling demand early’—enticing consumers to shop early for the holidays— as well as being ready to adapt quickly to fast-changing global dynamics.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest trends and how they may impact Holiday 2021.

Ecommerce continues to grow

We like to say that all commerce is ecommerce now and based on its growth trajectory, it’s predicted that ecommerce sales will surpass $1 trillion next year, a feat that was originally forecasted for 2024, the momentum for ecommerce continues to be going strong. There’s a definite need for more investment in this channel and in digital transformation in general. An agile, resilient digital supply chain can reduce costs associated with the management of online purchases, streamline fulfillment, and give consumers access to more choice without the capital expense of owned inventory.

Consumers are still embracing the shift to digital

According to Retail Touchpoints, 43% of U.S. consumers plan to regularly shop online for products they used to buy in stores — something that’s likely to become the norm for many Americans. Convenience has become top priority for shoppers. As many were forced to find new ways to get the items (essential, non-essential) they needed/wanted, they discovered the ease and convenience of shopping online and having items delivered to their homes or available for same-day pickup/curbside at a store location.

For holiday 2021, retailers will need to continue their efforts to perfect convenient shopping options like buy online pickup in store (BOPIS), curbside or same-day delivery. Consumers expect an exceptional customer experience and they’re counting on retailers to offer them the convenient (and contactless) ways for them to get what they want, when they want it.

More product choices capture more customers

Last year, 70% of consumers said product availability and product assortment were most important when deciding where to shop during the holiday season. As online marketplaces grow by offering a wide assortment of readily available products with a simple click, it’s crucial for retailers to stay competitive this Holiday 2021 by giving customers ample product options to choose from. Expanded product assortment helps to increase customer loyalty, eliminate out of stocks, drive up conversions and eliminate the need for consumers to look elsewhere to find what they’re looking for.

Running a well-executed, drop-ship program can help cost-effectively manage and distribute inventory, and offer more choice, while seamlessly getting products to consumers quickly.

On-time gift delivery is key for the holiday

Retailers that had BOPIS capabilities were able to cater to last-minute shoppers and saw 60% higher growth than those that didn’t during the 2020 holiday season. A Rithum survey found that more and more consumers are also choosing curbside as an option. 67% said that they are likely to continue using curbside pickup post-pandemic. Physical stores have the advantage when they make these options available to consumers. It saves on shipping and fulfillment and appeals to consumers who want convenient, instant access to their items.

When ordering online, delivery dates matter to holiday shoppers. If retailers can’t ensure fast, reliable delivery in a matter of a few days, shoppers will go elsewhere. The ability to provide accurate, precise delivery dates can increase conversion rates and customer loyalty.

Retailers may experience some of the same challenges they did last year with delivery carriers once again putting in place volume capacity limits and surcharges. Retailers will want to put strategies in place to navigate through any potential delivery disruptions. Promotions to get consumers shopping early will help ease some of these challenges. Working with a third-party logistics partner can also expand a retailer’s fulfillment network and keep delivery on-time.

We’d love the opportunity to help make Holiday 2021 a success. Contact us.