8 Predictions for the Upcoming Holiday Season

There is a ‘great acceleration’ underway – a massive eCommerce adoption across all industries in APAC. According to eMarketer, nearly half of consumers have shifted their spending towards online channels, across all categories ranging from apparel to electronics. Online orders are also seeing 2-3x of year-on-year growth, with some retailers seeing increases of more than 20x.

8 Predictions for the Upcoming Holiday Season

As you prepare for the holiday season, take the opportunity to be equipped with more insights and predictions for what’s in store for you – from companies scaling personalization for more growth to unconventional shopping journeys that zigzag online and offline channels.

There is no better time than now to position your eCommerce strategies, tactics, and marketing brainpower to focus on maximizing sales this upcoming holiday season. But, be prepared. Because this time, it’s different.

Discover what the future may hold for your business and prepare today.

Content Summary

Prediction 1: Personalisation at scale will accelerate
Prediction 2: Brands with a meaningful purpose will race ahead
Prediction 3: Shipping speed will become a key deciding factor
Prediction 4: Be prepared for record returns
Prediction 5: An end to the price war
Prediction 6: Shoppers will crave the human touch
Prediction 7: Be prepared for unconventional shopper journeys
Prediction 8: Consumers will demand multiple payment options and rich experiences
Get ready to accelerate your sales this holiday season

There is a ‘great acceleration’ underway—an event in which there is mass eCommerce adoption across all industries. According to eMarketer, nearly half of consumers have shifted their spending towards online channels, across all categories ranging from apparel to electronics. Online orders are also seeing two to three times year-on-year growth, with some retailers seeing increases of more than 20 times.

What’s more, lockdown mandates and self-isolation practices have dramatically changed consumer behavior, and this shift is reinforced by the holiday season. Anyone, especially businesses and shoppers, knows this is the busiest time of the year and a time when eCommerce activity often breaks records.

Ahead of the holiday season, Adobe had several in-depth discussions with industry insiders and investigated what businesses can expect from eCommerce over the coming months. In this report, you will see 8 predictions and insights from these experts to help businesses ensure they’re prepared for the changing environment.

Prediction 1: Personalisation at scale will accelerate

For as long as retail has been around, personalization has been at the heart of it. The ability for a store associate to suggest the perfect accessory for an outfit, give an informed opinion on which paint color will go best with the sofa fabric, or recommend the perfect wine to complement your meal—this kind of individualized human-to-human interaction has always been the definition of outstanding retail experiences.

And this holiday season, as MarTech continues to become more accessible, we will see personalization at scale accelerate. According to a global survey conducted by Forrester Consulting, 54% of retail marketers are using AI-driven personalization across channels to drive loyalty and growth—especially vital this holiday season.

“MarTech is increasingly becoming more accessible and adopted across eCommerce businesses. We will see personalisation at scale this holiday season and it will become a big differentiator for eCommerce businesses.” – Ben Popplestone, Head of Commerce Customer Success, Adobe DX APAC

Prediction 2: Brands with a meaningful purpose will race ahead

81% of global consumers feel strongly that companies should be doing more to protect the environment. That includes manufacturing sustainably made goods and packaging, using eco-friendly transportation methods to move those goods, and more. What’s more, the pandemic has made consumers realize the imperative for businesses to align their operations with the common good.

This holiday season will see consumers opt for brands that embody this keen sense of purpose.

“Consumers will shop for values more than ever this holiday season. Brands with a clear and authentic purpose beyond product will do better than their competition.” – Jeremy Meltzer, Founder & CEO, i = Change

Prediction 3: Shipping speed will become a key deciding factor

Last year shipping container vessels arrived on-time 80% of the time, the chances of that happening now are only about 40%. Due to the pandemic, there has been a global delay in shipping and brands need to adapt their shipping strategy and ensure global supply chain challenges do not get in the way of a successful holiday season.

Some common strategies to cope with these problems are Click & Collect, establishing partnerships with dedicated eCommerce shipping providers, and shifting focus to customers within closer geographical proximity.

“Shipping will be a big differentiator. Due to delayed shipping, brands that offer click & collect or faster shipping will win a higher share of consumer wallets.” – Tanuj Rastogi, Founder & CEO, 18th Digitech

Prediction 4: Be prepared for record returns

This year will see record shopping volumes as online shopping continues to accelerate and economies reopen. Businesses need to plan for success as well as be ready to have a robust returns strategy to cope with record volumes.

Ensure that you have your processes set in place such as a product return strategy, be it outsourcing to a 3rd party returns logistic provider, allowing customers to return directly to a physical store, or in the case of eCommerce only stores, return to your warehouse. Also, be sure to quickly respond to any consumer complaints to avoid backlash on social media. Let happy shoppers keep shopping, and keep unnecessary unhappiness at bay this holiday season.

“Record volumes bring in record returns. Businesses must be ready to fulfil those returns and solve consumer problems quickly to avoid consumer grievances.” – Nathan Brown, CEO Global Marketplace, Click Frenzy

Prediction 5: An end to the price war

eCommerce pricing has always been a race to the bottom but given the pandemic, this year’s holiday season will prove different. Due to shopper appetite, shortages, and supply constraints, businesses will be able to price their goods higher. It’s, therefore, no surprise that holiday sales this year are expected to grow at least 7% compared with last year, according to forecasts from Bain, Deloitte, and Mastercard.

The shortage of goods and supply disruptions is a double-edged sword. It can prevent retailers from accessing more merchandise and inventory, but on the flip side, it also offers them pricing power over shoppers. Especially as shoppers have come to expect fewer discounts, longer shipping times, and limited inventory at stores—they will be willing to fork out more.

“There is a shortage of goods and consumers can’t go out in the world to buy them. This year we won’t see deep discounting as consumers are ready to pay a reasonable price for what they need and want.” – Maurizio Stella, Director of Commerce, Ranosys Technologies

Prediction 6: Shoppers will crave the human touch

Empathy and ingenuity bring people together. Even when apart, your brand can be the bridge that links people with their needs and wants. Whether you offer your customers VIP-centric virtual events or run celebrity-driven campaigns, showing that you empathize with your customers’ contexts—working from home, working parents, you name it—will position your brand as highly relevant and aligned with your shoppers’ everyday realities.

Brands that can simulate or deliver authentic connections for customers will therefore achieve top-of-mind awareness and a visceral connection with all that is warm, fuzzy, and everything nice this holiday season.

“Consumers crave human connections and brands that can build digital experiences will see success during the holiday season. This can be done by hosting events, live commerce or contests on social media.” – Tom Franey, Head of E-Commerce, Motorcycle Holdings

Prediction 7: Be prepared for unconventional shopper journeys

Companies that pay attention to and plan for unconventional shopper journeys, report conversion rates approaching 30%—up to ten times higher than in conventional eCommerce. In 2020, the first 30 minutes of Alibaba’s Singles’ Day presales campaign on Taobao Live generated a whopping $7.5 billion in total transaction value.

Another example: live commerce offers a way for retailers to cater for unconventional consumer journeys. It is entertaining and immersive, keeps viewers watching longer, and gets them in the mindset for relevant purchases. It offers a telescopic perspective into customer decision journeys from awareness to purchase. These unconventional consumer journeys are non-linear and can be accelerated with time-limited tactics such as one-off coupons to generate a sense of urgency.

And this holiday season, we will see unconventional consumer journeys at play across APAC.

“Be prepared for unconventional shopper journeys that comprise of multiple channels, both online and offline.” – Priyanka Gargav, Commercial Head, SEA and HK at Adyen

Prediction 8: Consumers will demand multiple payment options and rich experiences

The past 18 months have given us a 20/20 vision when it comes to the agility required to capitalize on new opportunities and shifting landscapes. Today’s consumers will increasingly expect businesses to offer highly tailored and personalized experiences and they want them easily accessible at the right time and in the right place.

It’s therefore wise to ensure that you’re offering a variety of payment options at the checkout and that they are available however shoppers choose to shop be it in-store or online. But it doesn’t just stop at one element like payments. Making sure the entire shopping journey is smooth and frictionless is critical. Offering a rich and intuitive experience is no longer going above and beyond, it’s the standard that everyone has to meet.

“Payment options are becoming an increasingly important type of preference, and one that is driving loyalty, repeat purchase and overall value for retailers.” – Rhys Thomas, Head of Partner Success, Klarna

Get ready to accelerate your sales this holiday season

The coming holiday season will be the biggest shopping season yet. To get ahead, retailers will need to ensure their holiday marketing connects with shoppers in the right way at the right time throughout the festive season ensuring a smooth shopping experience for all.

Because it’s not just about the moment of purchase, it’s about the entire holiday shopping journey—and depending on who the consumer is, this could be a matter of months or just seconds.

Through the lens of 8 industry insiders, we hope you found these predictions insightful in formulating your eCommerce strategy. Now is the time to get ready, get set, and sell.