The New Holiday Retail Planning Guide

Here’s how to prepare for the 2021 holiday shopping landscape.


By all accounts, the 2020 holiday shopping season made history. Digital sales skyrocketed by 50%, year over year. Spending increased more than $300 billion compared to 2019. And retailers that offered even the simplest of shopping options – like curbside pickup – grew nearly twice as fast as those that didn’t.

In 2021, as vaccination campaigns accelerate in the U.S. and worldwide, consumers will increasingly shop in person to take advantage of the new appointment economy and engage with brands that sponsor live events. At the same time, retailers will need to re-engage digital consumers with experiences tailored to individual preferences and implement creative fulfillment strategies that avoid problems related to delivery and out-of-stock inventory.

This guide will help you navigate a holiday season unlike any other. With new tips and strategies from leading industry experts, data-rich insights, and a finger on the pulse of changing consumer behaviors, the guide has everything you need to plan for the holiday 2021 shopping season.

CHAPTER 1: Reengage digital shoppers with strategic holiday messaging

Grow your digital audience and build loyalty with customers.

Reengaging customers who embraced online shopping in 2020 is critical. Fifty-eight percent of consumers expect to do more online shopping after the pandemic than before, and 88% expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives.

To build loyalty and continue to grow your audience on digital channels, you need to know your audience. Here’s where to start.

58% of consumers expect to do more online shopping after the pandemic than before. “State of the Connected Customer,” Salesforce, October 2020.

Listen to your shoppers

Monitor consumer sentiment across social media, ecommerce, and feedback channels. Use listening tools to analyze behavior and shifts in demand on an ongoing basis. Partner with social media micro-influencers to authentically showcase your merchandise and bring your holiday products to new, highly engaged audiences.

Build new audience segments

From designer handbags to travel gear, shoppers are poised to spend on luxury goods in 2021. To capitalize on the moment, build segments around demographic information, purchase history, and channel preferences. Test special offers, creative elements, and content to see what resonates.

Choose your channels thoughtfully

Seventy-six percent of customers prefer different channels depending on context, whether browsing, seeking advice, or making purchases. Strategically engage your customers on the right digital channels and define your strategies for email, mobile, and social media marketing, keeping in mind that last year’s pandemic-influenced performance may not accurately predict this year’s shopping activity. If you’re deploying new creative assets, use A/B testing to determine which approach drives more engagement. Automate marketing journeys and employ AI to serve the right creative at the right time.
76% of customers prefer different channels depending on context. “State of the Connected Customer,” Salesforce, October 2020.

Update your SEO strategy

Gain deeper insights into search trends, emerging keywords, and search intent by device with open tools such as Google Trends and AnswerThePublic. In addition to typical holiday searches, understand what people are searching for as they plan for travel and social events. Analyze these findings along with your top 50 terms from last year. Update your target keyword list accordingly.

Enhance your loyalty strategy

Customer loyalty today is up for grabs as shoppers reevaluate their brand relationships. Today, 78% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand with a loyalty program – and 91% say good customer service spurs repeat buying behaviors. Go beyond discounts and points to provide experiences that feel relevant and special to shoppers, including early access to new products and sales, exclusive events, and upgraded shipping.
78% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand with a loyalty program. “Connected Shoppers Report, Third Edition,” Salesforce, 2019.

Reconsider your promotions

Even though retailers expect a robust holiday shopping season, getting the right item at the right price will always matter to shoppers. At the same time, don’t play “discount chicken” by continuously giving out discounts and coupons to the point that it doesn’t drive value for your brand. Instead, use artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver the best product sets based on shopper preferences and buying behaviors. In fact, shoppers who click on a personalized product recommendation have a 26% higher average order value. Try out alternative promotional strategies like limited-edition merchandise and brand collaborations to generate buzz as well. As people reenter their normal lives, showcase evening apparel, travel accessories, and luxury goods.

Unlock the rest of the guide to learn more.

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