Three Things to Keep In Mind for the 2020 Holiday Season, Part One.

No matter how blurry the concept of time feels these days, the holiday season is inevitably and speedily approaching. In years prior, the impending holiday season would have meant a ramp up in in-store product promotions, email marketing campaigns and an influx of television advertisements. 

This year, in some ways, is no different. Amazon still encouraged audiences to start their holiday shopping early in its promotions for Amazon Prime Day, and retailers like BeautyCounter and Sephora have started sneak previews of their exclusive holiday collections. 

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But, as we all already know, in many ways 2020 is also quite different. Consumers are spending less time physically shopping in stores, yes, but a global pandemic, a shaken economy, expansive social disruption and a volatile election year have fundamentally altered both consumer spending and consumer priorities. That, in turn, has forced brands across industries to pivot, rethinking their messaging strategies and their annual KPIs to fit into unprecedented situation after unprecedented situation. 

This week, we’re kicking off the first in a series of three EnergyWire posts highlighting strategies that brands of all shapes and sizes should look to focus on, and plan for, this holiday season.

Up first: a strong, clear focus on reality.

An early-October survey from McKinsey showed that consumers will be less likely to allocate their money this holiday season to discretionary spending, focusing instead on essentials and purchases that make the most sense for right now.

Pandemic-weary Americans are also looking forward to a more meaningful, intentional holiday season, with 40 percent of respondents to a recent Accenture survey stating that they plan to support minority-owned businesses while doing their holiday shopping. The same respondents noted that they would also prefer to spend money with brands that have explicitly prioritized health, safety and hygiene throughout the months of the pandemic. 

No matter what it is that brands are selling or offering, reality should be top-of-mind. Brand loyalty is driven by trust, and with all that consumers are facing, they could use a little extra humanity and empathy. Glitz and glamour can certainly bring some wistful and much-need joy this time of year, but underneath it all it is important to remember that this year has been very difficult, and the months ahead remain just as uncertain.

This holiday season is a great time to affirm, or reaffirm, the values driving your brand, the shifts your brand has made throughout the year to help those in need, or the ways in which your brand has grown and is planning to continue growing in light of the social momentum of 2020, as long as it’s done authentically and without any underlying motives. While audiences find themselves more empathetic amidst the turmoil of 2020, they are also less likely than ever before to tolerate anything less than full transparency and honesty. 

Now is also a good time for brands to have meaningful conversations with their audience members, asking them what products, services or solutions they are most in need of to make life easier during the holiday season and in the months after. Use your owned channels (website, blog, social media and emails) to kick start conversations with audience members. Not only does this present an opportunity to drive engagement through interactive content at a time when consumers are typically being bombarded with primarily transactional, one-way communications from brands, audiences will also appreciate the outreach and the honest conversations. They are much more likely to support a brand that checks in with a clear intent to better serve and understand them. 

Stay tuned – next week we will dive into Part Two of our series, discussing why a focus on flexibility is a must-do for brands planning for the 2020 holiday season.