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    Rising and Falling 2021 Holiday Shopping Trends

    7 minute read
    by: Ashley R. Cummings
    Rising and Falling 2021 Holiday Shopping Trends

    The retail world has seen more rapid and significant changes in the last few years than ever before. Most notably, nearly every retail sector experienced massive upticks in online sales.

    In 2020, 40% of U.S. consumers relied on online shopping, according to research from the Salsify "Consumer Research Report 2021." 

    To quantify this, “Ecommerce reached $612.86 billion, up 16.4% from $526.72 billion in the first three quarters of 2020,” according to Digital Commerce 360

    With critical stay-at-home orders and stores shuttering doors, it makes sense why online sales skyrocketed. What's especially interesting, however, is that 43% of consumers report they expect to continue to shop more online instead of returning to pre-pandemic shopping behaviors, according to the Consumer Research Report 2021. 

    If brands want to capture consumers' attention this holiday shopping season, it's critical to stay informed on the most recent shopping trend predictions and plan accordingly.

    Take a look at holiday shopping trend predictions and what your brand can do to prepare.

    Holiday Commerce Trends on the Rise

    Here are some of the most popular trends we expect to see this holiday shopping season.

    Online Commerce Will Experience Continued and Compounded Growth 

    Research shows that ecommerce will continue to thrive throughout the holidays and beyond — even as the world returns to normal. Seventy-three percent of Americans recently said they would continue using the new purchasing channels and brands they’ve discovered in 2021, according to Forbes

    Mobile commerce is rising too, to the tune of growth rates of nearly 5,399.6 billion by 2026, notes Modor Intelligence. As more brands offer convenient mobile payments (e.g., Paypal, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, etc.), mobile commerce will continue to grow.

    Social commerce is another market trending upwards as it’s on track to grow by $2,051 billion during 2020-2024, progressing to a compound annual growth rate of almost 31%, says Bloomberg.

    Brands that offer convenient purchasing options across online channels will win out this holiday season.

    Online Shoppers Will Compare Prices and Look for Bargain Buys During the Holidays

    Another trend that will continue through the 2021 holidays is the widespread consumer habit of looking for good deals.

    Nearly half of shoppers compared prices online across several retailers before purchasing in the last three months.

    This particular data story offers clear insight. As brands prepare for the holiday season, it’s essential to offer holiday discounts.

    Consumers Will Look for Convenient Shopping Options During a Hectic Holiday Season

    As we get closer to the holiday season, consumers say they still prefer to avoid crowded shopping areas. In a recent Bizrate Insights report, 49% of respondents said they would shop for holiday gifts online to avoid crowds, traffic, and cramped parking lots.

    That same report found that 75% of respondents purchased at least half of their holiday purchases online, and 16% bought all holiday gifts online.

    Brands should also consider that 83% of shoppers say a convenient shopping experience is more important to them now than it was five years ago, according to the National Retail Federation.

    This shift translates to easy payment options, buy now and pay later, buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPUS), and subscription services.

    Holiday Commerce Trends on the Decline

    Here are areas you can spend less time and energy on this holiday shopping season. 

    Shopping Priorities May Shift During Holidays — and Throughout the Rest of the Year

    The pandemic created a massive change in shopping priorities, and we may see new shifts as people return to the office and socialize more.

    Increased opportunities to meet with people may spike demand for apparel, footwear, beauty, and hygiene products.

    Recent research from NPD supports this prediction. For example, while footwear and apparel experienced a hit in 2020, NPD’s stats show this vertical has the highest consumer purchasing intent looking forward. 

    Older Consumers May Purchase Less Online and Return to Brick-And-Mortar Shopping Experiences

    In 2020, consumers aged 65 and over quickly adopted online purchasing for groceries and merchandise.

    When comparing the numbers from the same period in 2019 and 2020, data showed a 10% rise in online purchases, making consumers over 65 the fastest-growing group regarding online spending, notes NPD.

    While older consumers started shopping online, this trend may decline. Instead, we may see these older consumers return to their preferred brick-and-mortar shopping locations, says NPD.

    Physical Stores Won’t Look the Same, and Will Continue to Evolve

    As consumers return to in-person shopping, their expectations will have shifted. For one, consumers are now used to same-day delivery, BOPUS, and curbside pick-up.

    As a result, retailers that want to stay ahead of the curve may need to cater to this consumer demand for convenience.

    People also may have higher expectations for safe shopping experiences.

    Retailers will need to continue emphasizing customer safety with contactless purchases, sanitized and clean shopping environments, and maybe even continued social distancing until customers feel more comfortable.

    As people quarantined, consumers also relied on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram to interact with friends, brands, and influencers. 

    In some ways, the "Creator Economy Renaissance" was born from the isolation of 2020. But as consumers re-engage with brands in person, the newfound love for content creators and social influencers isn’t going anywhere.

    Brands that create immersive shopping experiences and incorporate digital strategy into in-house shopping experiences will win this holiday season.

    Stay on Top of Holiday Shopping Trends

    If you take advantage of the rise of social and mobile commerce, offer good deals, and make it easy for customers, you’ll earn your spot in the hearts (and shopping carts) of customers this holiday season. 

    Download our 2021 holiday shopping trend report for insights into growing (and declining) holiday shopping trends, a market breakdown of nine different verticals, results-focused next steps for brands, and more.


    Written by: Ashley R. Cummings

    Ashley R. Cummings (she/her) is a freelance writer specializing in ecommerce software as a service (SaaS). Her words appear across the web in places like Insider, LinkedIn, ShopifyPlus, and Hashtagpaid.