Holiday Shopping 2021: 4 Retail Trends & How To Prepare

florist taking a pic of a holiday wreath promotion
| 12.09.21
George Hancock Jr.

The 2020 holiday season was unusual. For one thing, eCommerce sales broke records due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with in-store shopping taking a backseat. According to BigCommerce, online holiday retail sales rose by 20.6% compared to 2019, a larger-than-usual jump.

As retail business owners around the country get ready for another busy holiday shopping season in 2021, we thought it prudent to list some of the trends of the year along with our tips, so you can capture a bigger share of this year's holiday retail sales. Here are 4 retail trends to watch out for during the holiday season in 2021.

Holiday Retail Trends for 2021 & How to Prepare

An increase in all 3 shopping modes. Modern shopping, especially during the holiday season — Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday — is a blend of online, physical, and hybrid shopping that includes order pickups. Few consumers shop solely online or solely in stores. Many will research products online and purchase in stores, or vice versa.

Tip: If your business is online-only, consider signing up to be a vendor at a flea market or holiday gift event so people can see your products up close. Another way to express the unique personality of your products is through hi-resolution videos. Although it is not the same as engaging with an actual product in a store, a video can be more impactful than images. “Live selling” has become very popular, too, through social media.

An early upsurge in shopping. People are expected to start shopping early this year, according to Radial. The perception is that consumers would like to avoid the supply disruptions of last year that caused so much trouble. Shoppers would rather stock up early than end up with delayed deliveries and out-of-stock notifications. 

Tip: As the early shopping trend is expected to continue this year, retailers and small business owners should stock up earlier than usual. Get your holiday plans and promotions into motion as well. Proper inventory planning is key. Try to approximate your sales numbers so that you will neither have excess stock nor stock shortages.

The biggest buzzword during the 2021 holiday season is convenience. Delivering a seamless shopping experience is key.

On a quest for convenience. In 2021, the biggest buzzword during the holiday season is “convenience.” Delivering a seamless shopping experience is key.

Tip: Here are some solutions to questions commonly posed by shoppers:

Q: “Can I buy it online and pick it up in your store?”

Connect your virtual and in-store shopping to deliver a stress-free shopping experience. Check out some in-store pickup apps at StreetFight.

Q: “Can I get what I want immediately, without the hassle of waiting for days?”

If you don't have a physical location or you sell items that aren’t in stock locally, offer free expedited shipping during the holiday season.

Q: “Can I try the product before I buy it?”

If possible, try to give everyone a chance to try your products. Even if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar store, there are ways to do this. If you have an email list, contact potential customers and arrange a place where they can check out the products. Something like “Meet Us at Our Pop-Up Shop Downtown this Weekend!” can be an eye-catching email subject. Another workaround is to offer a generous return policy.

Q: “Can I return the product or have it replaced without trouble?”

Returns, exchanges, and refunds are all a part of doing business. Spend some time creating a generous and fair return policy. Be sure all of the details are in writing, including under which circumstances your product can be returned.

Shopping on the go with mobile phones. We consumers are using our mobile phones more and more for shopping during the holiday season and for making that last-minute purchase. According to mediapost.com, 90% of consumers intend to use mobile apps for their holiday shopping in 2021 and 73% of consumers will purchase at least 50% of their gifts via mobile.

Tip: During the holiday season, endow your shoppers with a friction-free mobile shopping experience. Do lots of test purchases on different devices to ensure there are no snags during the checkout process. 

Final Thoughts

Remember, holiday gifts are expensive. People will be inclined to sign up for special discounts. Offer a coupon code once a shopper subscribes to your website or newsletter, then nurture them with emails to keep the holiday momentum going into next year and beyond. 

For retail businesses, the holiday season is a crucial time. With just the right amount of preparation and some smart thinking, retailers can provide a superlative shopping experience to their consumers.

About the Author

George Hancock Jr. is a content writer and advertiser with years of experience helping business leaders reach out to their audiences. He's worked with numerous clients in the automotive, information technology, finance, and construction industries. Having studied international business in school, he's always interested in learning about foreign places and cultures. He's also the proud dad of a biracial son. George's agency, Inkstone Marketing, became a Google Partner in 2020.

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