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October 26, 2021 // Lisa Rosenberg // Opinion  //       //  Opinion

Deck the Halls. Now.

As a marketer, the phrase “Christmas in July” has always made me smile. Perhaps it was the absurdity of thinking about the winter holidays when the temperatures outside were sweltering, or maybe I just liked permission to start dreaming of a White Christmas and all the related festivities that much sooner. This holiday season, it seems the winners will be savvy shoppers who got a jump start on their holiday gift lists and marketers who’ve adapted to the way consumers want to shop today.

As we enter our second pandemic holiday season, some of the earlier questions plaguing marketers have already been answered. This fall with the Delta variant on the rise, questions swirled about whether people would travel to celebrate together or if they would be comfortable shopping in person again. With recent reports of domestic air travel reaching pre-pandemic levels, my money is on more in-person holiday celebrations this coming holiday season. In fact, people seem eager to return to tradition. And while the way they discover, shop and buy has been forever changed by COVID-19, the one-two punch of a massive stimulus package and increased vaccinations seems to indicate a growing eagerness among consumers to venture out and shop at stores.

Over the years, marketers have pushed the start of the holiday shopping season earlier and earlier. With current supply chain issues and the resulting empty store shelves, retailers have kicked off holiday promotions and consumers have started to stockpile their holiday gifts. It also probably doesn’t hurt that this year the first night of Hannukah falls on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Big box retailers began promoting upcoming holiday sales events back in September and Target introduced its new holiday price match guarantee beginning Oct. 10, which allows shoppers to request a price adjustment on all qualifying items purchased if they go on sale before Dec. 24.

With social distancing and pandemic restrictions in place last year, consumers had less opportunity to browse in person. This resulted in consumers viewing in-store shopping as simply transactional. And for many, hybrid solutions like curbside pickup and buy online pick up in store set new expectations for convenience. Conversely, digital shopping has become more immersive, with the most successful brands finding creative ways to replicate much of the in-store experience for consumers at home. In today’s new, hybrid reality, brands must create omnichannel offerings that are convenient, frictionless, and bring the store experience online and the digital experience to stores.

A September Deloitte report projects holiday spending could increase between 7% and 9% this year, with total sales reaching up to $1.3 trillion. Gen Z (57%) and millennial (53%) consumers were more likely to increase their budget for the 2021 holiday season than Gen Xers (32%) and baby boomers (12%), according to Klarna. Flexible payments continue to gain steam, particularly among younger generations.

Perhaps most heartening is more than half (53%) of consumers surveyed in Sitecore’s 2021 Holiday Shopping Trends Report plan to make bigger and more mindful holiday purchases this year. The research also suggests Americans now place increasing value on their mental health, with 43% viewing self-gifting as a form of therapy. And with shared values a key purchase driver, consumers are actively supporting local and minority-owned businesses and are willing to pay more to do so.

This should make for a Happy Holiday season, indeed!

Lisa Rosenberg is a partner and president of Consumer Brands at Allison+Partners. She has more than 30 years of experience leading brand initiatives across the beauty + personal care, CPG, Food + Beverage, Automotive, Travel + Hospitality, Consumer Health + Wellness, Luxury Goods and Retail sectors and has been a hands-on force for many successful brand journeys.

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