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Adapting for the 2020 Holiday Retail Season

Nov 20, 2020
Jeff Haws

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s clear that this will be anything but a typical holiday shopping season for the retail industry. This is the time that big retailers tend to count on to hit their annual revenue targets, and it’s tough to predict how it will all play out without a traditional Black Friday, though online buying shows quite a bit of strength.

And while no one in the industry has seen a year quite like 2020, that doesn’t mean that the lessons from this year won’t apply after the calendar flips to 2021. In many ways, the trends we’ve witnessed this year are going to continue to impact retailers headed into the foreseeable future. Smart marketers will look at 2020 as not an anomaly but an accelerant for trends that were on their way regardless, along with a reminder of how things can change.

You have to be able to adapt

If there’s one chief lesson retail marketers can take away from 2020, it’s the importance of being able and ready to adapt to the unexpected. Marketers had to pivot many times this year, and that likely isn’t about to stop. The most successful in continuing to hit their revenue targets are likely the ones who had Plans B, C, D, etc., for their campaigns throughout the year.

ShopStyle, for instance, sees the rise of influencer marketing as one of the big impacts of the huge shift toward digital shopping and is adjusting to invest more into that sort of promotional marketing this holiday season. They see a longer shopping season and new browsing habits driving this change, and expect it to continue past 2020.

You can’t always anticipate the external events that will impact your business, but having the willingness and systems in place to allow you to adjust strategy will pay off for you at some point, in ways big and small. This year was proof that adaptability to changing circumstances may be the most important asset for an enterprise retail marketing team, and that’s a lesson that will serve us well for years to come.

Changes won’t affect every company in the same way

While the ability to adapt to changes around your company is important, making that more complicated is that you don’t know how upcoming events will uniquely affect your particular sliver of the retail industry. Some retailers struggled to gather their footing for much of 2020, but the year’s events ended up driving even more business in the direction of others.

The Home Depot is an example of a company that’s seen business pick up over the course of the year. With more people staying in their houses, there was more time for them to either do home projects themselves or to hire contractors to do the work for them. In addition, the work-from-home trend enabled many people to move away from the city and into larger suburban homes, providing the opportunity to do improvements.

Meanwhile, at Target, understanding the shift to digital shopping helped them to increase year-over-year revenues. Digital sales were up 155% this year, while its curbside pickup service (Drive Up) saw a more than five-fold increase. They reported gaining $6 billion in market share, including $1 billion in the latest quarter, because they understood how consumer behavior was changing and adapted the way they served the customer.

You can’t always shape the changes around you, but you can stress test and think through how your marketing team would handle a challenge that greatly impacted your current marketing strategy — maybe even in a positive way.

Invest in what you can control

Whatever level of uncertainty retail marketers have faced in 2020 should make the need to invest in what you really can control even more clear as we head into 2021.

One need that never changes is the imperative to communicate with your customers, even if the tone and nature of that communication has to be malleable. And the most reliable way to do that is via email, mobile push, and SMS campaigns that cut through the noise and reach the customer wherever they may be.

It’s never been more important to earn your customers’ trust by being responsible with their data and using it in a manner that makes them feel like you understand how they interact with your brand. That’s why MessageGears is dedicated to living wherever your data lives, so you never have to let it leave from behind your firewall, and you can personalize cross-channel campaigns in real time. All our products are built around the idea that messaging technology should get out of the way so you can adapt as needed and send the kind of targeted campaigns your customers expect.

About the Author

Jeff Haws

As MessageGears’ Senior Marketing Manager, Jeff is focused on producing engaging and thoughtful content that resonates with enterprise marketers, helping them to better understand how MessageGears makes their jobs easier. He’s passionate about understanding the way data impacts messaging, and he’s also hopelessly obsessed with baseball.

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