eCommerce industry

Following the COVID-driven “death blow” to the 2020 retail season, retailers are looking forward to the 2021 season for its projected gains despite the economic uncertainty still looming. Going by the numbers, the forecast for U.S. retail spending is set to surpass $1 trillion, which is 6.5% up from the 2019 figures. Additionally, a survey conducted by Sitecore revealed that 41% of the retail brands say that the 2021 holiday season will either make or break their business.

With more consumers expected to return to “physical” stores and brands expecting a “normal” holiday season, how are retailers, both eCommerce and brick-and-mortar, planning their business for this holiday season?

Here is why the 2021 Holiday season will be a “make or break” retail opportunity.

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What is driving the 2021 Holiday Season?

The 2021 holiday season will surely see more people spending time with their families and friends, as compared to the pandemic days. Nearly two-thirds of consumers in both the U.S and the U.K have said that the upcoming holidays are more “important” and “emotional” than in the previous years. Similarly, the same number of consumers are planning to spend more on that “special” gift than what they did in 2019.

While the 2020 COVID pandemic made eCommerce platforms the one-stop destination for all demands, consumers will continue to look for the best value for their money while shopping this year. Even with physical stores opening for the holiday season, eCommerce is expected to continue its growth with both American and British consumers planning to do 75% of their shopping on online retail platforms.

Next, let us look at 5 ways in which retailers are planning for this year’s holiday season.

How Retailers Must Plan for the 2021 Holiday Season

As retailers, how can you prepare your business to serve customers during the upcoming 2021 holiday season? Here are 5 things to keep in mind:

1. Plan for early shoppers.

Traditionally, the holiday shopping season did not begin until Black Friday. That is no longer the case. Each year, both in-store and online consumers are starting to shop earlier. Going by recent trends, 22% of shoppers begin their Christmas shopping up to 8 weeks before, while another 21% start shopping 4-8 weeks before Christmas.

This year, retail experts are looking at an extended holiday season. While pent-up demand may be a significant driving factor, the growing convenience of eCommerce shopping through multiple digital channels is another major factor. It comes as no surprise that mobile shopping will continue to drive online retail shopping this year. The industry predicts that 73% of the overall eCommerce retail sales will take place on mobile phones.

2. Blend in both online and in-store shopping

According to Invesp, retailers with an omnichannel presence retain 89% of their customers on average. That is super-high when compared to the 33% retention rate for companies without an omnichannel marketing strategy.

Thanks to the low percentages of in-person shopping last year, retail brands began offering the convenience of the “Buy Online – Pick-up in Store” or BOPIS to gain a crucial competitive edge.

With consumers having the convenience of multiple touchpoints, retailers must look to provide a seamless omnichannel shopping experience that can blend both online and in-store shopping. Today’s consumers prefer the convenience of digital shopping as well as look for an immersive in-store experience from the comforts of their homes.

How do retailers provide the best of both? Think in terms of digital how-to-do videos, personalized product recommendations, and online fashion shows.

The Bumps and Wrinkles Holding Up a Frictionless Shopping Experience for your Customers

3. Focus on Growth Marketing

Crucial for business success, retail brands have invested in digital technologies to personalize their customer offering and generate sales leads. Monica Deretich of Sailthru talks about how “retailers can nurture leads through personalized content.”

To stay competitive in today’s retail segment, retailers must look to leverage technologies like customer analytics to improve their customer experience (CX). One such successful case study is that of Peapod, the online grocery store, which leveraged AI and machine learning technologies for its “Order Genius” service to provide personalized recommendations for its existing customer base.

Other digital platforms and technologies that could spell retailing success in the 2021 holiday season include the likes visual searches and social media marketing.

4. Leverage the market reach of retail technologies.

In his TotalRetail article, Ronald Dod talks about how Headless PWAs are changing the eCommerce retail industry. Progressive Web Apps (or PWAs) are now being hailed as the “future of eCommerce.”

How do retailers leverage the reach of those innovative technologies in 2021? With large volumes of data being generated, retailers would need digital technology tools to extract valuable insights so that they have complete visibility over their shopper’s online experience. Eric Erway of Magento tweets “PWAs are the future and working together on standards will make this easier, faster, and less expensive in the future.”

Similarly, retailers can provide an improved user experience using the “headless” architecture through faster website loading and performance.

5. Implement a value exchange with customers

According to Emarsys research, 79% of all businesses collected more customer data in 2020. Three-fourths or 75% of consumers are likely to buy from retailers who know them by name and can recommend products based on their previous purchases.

With the surge in customer data, how exactly are retailers offering a value exchange in return for their collected data? Matt Nolan of Pega talks about the importance of insightful data as “trying to understand the customer – and putting yourself into their shoes.”

Whether it is in the form of limited-period sales or discounts, free shipping, or anything more valuable, retailers need to implement the right value exchange with consumers in return for a piece of information like an email address or mobile number.

CX Solutions


The 2021 Holiday season is spelling “hope” and a return to normalcy for the retail industry. At the same time, retail brands need to be cognizant of shopping trends in the aftermath of the 2020 global pandemic.

To cater to the growing eCommerce retail sector, Ignitiv can help you provide an exceptional customer experience (CX) with the right use of digital technologies. Prepare your retail business for the upcoming 2021 holiday season? Give yourself an early advantage by downloading this free whitepaper on “2021 Holiday Preparedness.” All the Best!

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