How Holiday E-Commerce and Paid Social Are Changing for the 2020 Season

Nov 05, 2020

While it’s no industry secret that consumers have been steadily moving online to do their shopping, 2020 has seen significant shifts in consumer spending. This holiday season will see an even greater uptick in a trend that has been increasing year over year.

Improve your brand’s paid social strategy by understanding previous trends, the current state of online shopping, and tips to compete in a unique, e-commerce-focused holiday season. This will be one for the record books.

The Benchmark: Pre-COVID Stats and Facts

The trend of shoppers turning to the Internet to make their holiday purchases has been increasing at a rapid rate for the last four years, and the 2019 holiday season was no exception. Cyber Monday 2019 saw record numbers with $9.4B in online sales, which was an increase of 19.7% over the previous year. US shoppers had spent $142.5 billion online over the course of the entire 2019 Holiday shopping season (Nov-Dec), which was an increase of 13.1%. It’s no surprise to say that even pre-COVID, the rate at which people did their online shopping was predicted to increase for the 2020 season.

The Now: Where Consumers Are Spending

So, just how far have we come this year? With physical stores closed across the country and strict safety measures in place, consumers have had no choice but to do the bulk of their shopping online. For some people, this meant a quick adoption of a technology they weren’t accustomed to before. In fact, COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital shopping by a “decade in days”. In just eight weeks, shoppers have taken to the Internet for delivered goods in place of a traditional brick-and-mortar shopping experience at a rate that was originally predicted to have taken up to 10 years. Even consumers who were already well versed in online shopping reported an increase in their digital buying behavior. Two-thirds of consumers are shopping online more frequently now than pre-COVID.

This has increased the importance of having a solid social and e-commerce strategy in place for brands. Even as some regions reopen their physical store locations, consumers report hesitation to revert back to their old habits. 70% of surveyed respondents do not plan to return to shopping in-store in the foreseeable future, meaning that the growth online shopping has seen this year will remain. Adobe Analytics recently predicted that this will result in a record-breaking year for e-commerce. U.S. online sales in November and December are forecasted to reach $189 billion, a 33% YoY increase from 2019.

The Pivot: Working Ahead in Uncertain Times

If your team has been feeling the time crunch regarding media planning, you’re not alone. US advertisers have reported that their average media planning time has drastically decreased to 2.3 months from a pre-COVID average of 4.2 months. This means that advertisers must remain flexible when it comes to their media planning and even more agile when it comes to planning and producing creative. Having a short turnaround time can mean that paid social teams need to be scrappy and do more with less.

The Plan: How to Approach Paid Social Ads

It’s never been more important to have a full-funnel, multi-channel approach to your digital marketing strategy. As more shoppers move online and compare products and prices, your brand should follow suit to be everywhere your target demographic is. Speak to your audience in a way that feels native to the channel you’re advertising on, and customize the messaging to fit with where they are on the customer journey.

Customer retention should be a key focus this season, as brand loyalty is not guaranteed. Consumers are switching brands at a rate that hasn’t been seen before. If done right, this can also be an opportunity for brand growth. Top and mid-funnel objectives should be leveraged to reach new potential customers, capture their interest while they are researching, and educate them about your offerings. To do “more with less”, use pixel data and remarket to those users who have visited or performed specific actions on site.

To retarget users with more intent, product sets can be created in Facebook Catalog Manager for the purpose of Dynamic Product Ads. Users who browsed through specific site content can then be served ads with similar or like-products.

Finally, to maximize success this holiday season, optimize the shopping experience for mobile users to be as frictionless and consistent as possible. Mobile shopping is on the rise and predicted to account for 42% of all online sales this year. Capitalize on this opportunity with your paid social campaigns, as shoppers are more likely to discover a new brand or product while browsing their social feeds.


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Kate Orchard

Performance Marketing Strategist