Retail holiday shopping 2021 season is officially underway and the numbers look…mixed.
In a typical year, retailers expect the sales that take place during the holiday shopping season — including shopping “holidays” like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday — to help them close the year on a high note. Pre-November estimates suggested that the 2021 holiday season would see spending growth above the pre-pandemic record set in 2019.
The early take on the impact of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, however, is that the retail season is looking good, but not yet great. Here’s the breakdown:
Salesforce data on the retail digital sales of over 1 billion consumers during November shows a 2 percent increase in global online sales, and a 4 percent increase in U.S. online sales over 2020 numbers. Cyber Week itself showed less definitive results. Data from the Adobe Analytics’ Digital Economy Index shows flat or even slight declines in retail activity for the major retail shopping holidays.
Both data sets, however, show the early weeks of November posting stronger sales than is typical. Analysts interpret the data as evidence that shoppers heeded advice to shop early. The caveat for all of the numbers is that inflation and inventory issues continue to be a major factor affecting this holiday season. Salesforce estimates that prices are on average 11 percent higher, a consequence of retailers passing on the costs of supply chain disruptions and inflation, and offering fewer holiday discounts.
Digital sales and mobile commerce have been touted as obvious winners in the wake of pandemic-driven behavior change. Yet hybrid approaches are also holding strong, as customers take advantage of curb-side pickup and buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIC) options that first came to prominence in 2020. Customers seem to view these options as more reliable than delivery for ensuring they will receive their purchases on time.
There is plenty to be optimistic about in these results. But let’s also be clear: there’s plenty of uncertainty, and uncertain consumers don’t always behave in predictable ways. Frequent product stock-outs, concerns about Omicron, and higher prices throughout the year may discourage shopping.
Retailers are not helpless in the face of these forces, however. Clear communication driven by effective language can build trust and provide critical information to motivate the customers who want to shop to engage with you.
To learn more about how retailers can leverage the power of language, download Persado’s retail holiday eBook: Make It Easy: The Retailer’s Guide to Holiday 2021