As retailers, predicting the future is part of the job description. You need to know what your customers want before they want it. And you have to be able to see trends and spot pitfalls before they happen. Otherwise, you can wind up with heaps of dead inventory and major financial issues.
Now that we’re headed into the busiest time of year, it’s time to take a look into the metaphorical crystal ball. Here are our top 5 holiday shopping predictions for 2021.
Holiday Shopping Will Start Sooner
The 2020 peak season was strange for many reasons, but the most notable one was the early start. Come mid-October, businesses were already rolling out “Black Friday” deals, many of which occurred on a weekly basis throughout October and November. And Cyber Monday stretched into an entire week, rather than occupying its traditional, single-day slot on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Given the roaring success of the change, this trend will likely stick around this year as well. More businesses will jump on the early deals bandwagon and customers will get their shopping done earlier to beat the crowds and shipping delays common to the holiday season.
Shoppers Will Keep Using BOPIS
Last year, concerns about health and safety forced many retailers to offer click-and-collect options like BOPIS and curbside pickup. But surprisingly, even with lockdowns being lifted, the trend hasn’t decreased in popularity. In fact, according to Statista, the YOY growth rate for click-and-collect will be upward of 10% this year.¹
At the same time, the National Retail Federation found that BOPIS improved the customer experience for 70% of surveyed consumers by increasing convenience.² And given that 90% of those surveyed customers are more likely to choose a retailer based on convenience, it should come as no surprise that BOPIS and BOPAC will be game-changers this upcoming peak season.
Shoppers Want Free Shipping
Who doesn’t like free stuff? And more importantly, what customer wants to pay more money to ship a product they’ve already purchased?
The short answer: no one.
As big eCommerce brands like Amazon continue to offer free shipping to their Prime members, consumers are getting more and more attached to the “free shipping” label. As a result, when resellers, wholesalers, boutiques, and omnichannel retailers slap a $10, $20, or even $30 shipping fee onto their order total, customers are likely to abandon their carts.
Heading into the 2021 peak season, it will be important for retailers and eCommerce brands to find ways to lower that shipping cost to zero, even if it requires price hikes for individual products or subscription memberships.
Shoppers Want Free & Easy Returns
If there’s a list for eCommerce predictions that are virtually guaranteed to come to fruition, the annual surge of peak season returns should be on it. Every year like clockwork, customers flood stores eager to return or exchange products. Customer service representatives field thousands of phone calls and messages a day. And fulfillment centers and warehouses bog down with the influx of returned orders.
But one thing that isn’t guaranteed is the ease and expense of the returns process. In some cases, it’s effortless and free, and in others, it’s excruciating for everyone involved.
Since the push for convenience is permeating every aspect of the customer experience, businesses will need to make sure their return process falls into the former category this peak season. Otherwise, they run the risk of losing customers soon after the New Years’ fireworks end.
Shoppers Will Embrace Mobile Commerce
Every year, it seems we can’t get any more attached to our smartphones. But as online experiences improve and apps expand their functionality, we’re still finding new ways to use them.
According to Business Insider, mobile commerce (m-commerce) is predicted to account for 36% of all eCommerce sales this year.³ And currently, mobile apps are converting customers 157% more often than mobile website counterparts.⁴
What does that mean for retailers and eCommerce businesses in 2021? Simply that mobile commerce needs to be at the heart of your peak season strategy. Everything from your marketing to your website, product catalog, and customer support should be accessible and user-friendly on mobile devices.
Holiday shopping in 2021 is gearing up to be an exciting if somewhat familiar season. As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of these trends kicked off with the pandemic last year or have been coming down the pipeline for quite some time. However, by working early sales into your game plan and enabling your customers to shop from their mobile devices, ship and return orders for free, and pick up products at the curb – you’ll be in great shape come October.
¹ “Click and collect retail sales growth in the United States from 2018 to 2022*”, Statista, June 2021
² “Convenience and the Consumer”, National Retail Federation, January 2020
³ “Rise of M-Commerce: Mobile Ecommerce Shopping Stats & Trends in 2021”, Business Insider, December 2020
⁴ “10 Mobile Commerce Trends That Will Dominate 2021”, Buildfire, January 2021