Let’s Talk Holiday Shopping Trends 2021

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The holidays may have just started rolling by, but for those of us in retail and ecommerce, we’ve been immersed in holiday planning for months. Our marketing community may run the gamut in company size, strategy and category, but everyone gets to participate in the hecticness and rush of holiday. To help support marketers, we talked holiday shopping trends 2021 in this webinar, “The Holiday Gifting Playbook: A Consumer Perspective on 2021 Holidays.”


What We Learned

In light of the global supply chain crisis, we know our community needs all the information it can get about consumers expectations this season and how retailers are managing them. Between our panel discussion, live audience polls and the latest research from Coresight and GiftNow, we received many gifts of insider knowledge about holiday in this one hour. The big ones are:

  • Gifting is growing and online shopping is here to stay, Covid or not.
  • Promotions aren’t in the drivers seat for retailers or consumers anymore—shipping costs matter most now.
  • Brands are focused on transparency and experimentation now more than ever, especially in light of the supply chain crisis.
  • The holiday shopping season is going to be longer than ever before, with consumers still looking for deals, but also focused on experience. Plan accordingly!


  • Alvaro De La Rocha, Chief Marketing Officer at Bespoke Post
  • Warwick Blunt, VP, Commerce at Food52
  • Steven Winnick, Senior Analyst at Coresight Research, Inc.
  • John Grech, Head of Retail Partnerships at GiftNow (Loop Commerce)

Keep reading for the webinar’s key insights or watch the recording below.


The Current State of Holiday Shopping Trends 2021

GiftNow kicked off the hour with lots of promising fun facts from their recent consumer and retailer research report, done in partnership with Coresight Research, Inc. We gleaned three big themes:

1. Gifting is growing in all directions. From the $653B amassed from gifting in 2020, research shows this part of retail will hit $816B in 2024. Why?

  • There’s been a rise in consumer optimism with many feeling what Coresight referenced as “The Wealth Effect”—strong stock and housing markets are coloring consumers’ outlook more so than any worries over supply chain. Almost half expect to spend over $500 throughout the season and many expect to shop for a longer span of time in 2021 as compared to previous years.
  • Plus, the (online) gifting habits started during Covid are hardening and carrying over into future holiday seasons. Shoppers are still shopping mostly online and they’re thinking about shipping costs most this year. 1 out of every 4 dollars is expected to be spent online—7 out of 10 shoppers are purchasing 40% of their gifts online.

2. Retailers are shifting more and more focus to gifting. Ninety percent of retailers are planning on investing in gifting capability improvements. With consumers willing to try new gifting and online shopping innovations, retailers are looking at this season as an opportunity to really experiment. In response to consumer expectations and attention to shipping costs, retailers are heavily focusing on their own convenience offerings and fine tuning their personalized, visual experiences, versus the historical focus promotions.

3. Consumers’ main concerns are ever-changing, so promote accordingly. This year, the top drivers for consumer consideration are delivery speed, price of delivery and return policies. Coresight recommends that if you’re going to be promotional and you’re a mass retailer, focus on delivery versus product. If you’re bespoke, discounts will still resonate more, as customers will always be shopping for deals this time of year. In the end, it’s always about understanding your customer and what their alternatives are.


Despite the good news in gifting trends overall, this season’s supply chain issues have required retailers to spread themselves pretty thin, juggling high demand, less supply and the competitive call for innovation. And compared to last year, fulfillment and shipping are taking even higher bill than expected. 

As we learned in this webinar’s flash poll, a third of the retail and ecommerce marketer audience reports they are extending fulfillment timelines, and 17% report both decreasing the number of SKUs offered and beefing up their replacement product stash. And, in stark contrast to Coresight and GiftNow’s research, retailers in our audience are still leaning on promotions this year, with almost a third reporting they will be slightly more promotional, and 20% being much more promotional. 


How Brands Are Handling This Holiday

Incorporating Transparency + Experimentation

Generally, research shows retailers are evaluating their entire experiences, including before someone buys a gift and how you talk to them after they’ve bought. The brands on our panel agree—they all noted that one lasting benefit of Covid is the newfound willingness to let their own internal guards down around testing and making moves faster. In the massive pivot to online shopping and contactless receipt of goods, brands didn’t have time to be afraid of getting things wrong—everyone needed to be quicker in standing up new initiatives. We had plenty of opportunity to pivot quickly and learn from that last holiday season. Now, we can get started earlier and level up our game again.

Now our industry knows that as long as you’re transparent with consumers, there’s a lot of forgiveness with experimentation. And transparency and experimentation are certainly two guiding lights for Bespoke Post and Food52 this season. 

Bespoke Post has plenty in the works around this, including: (1) making holiday collections available earlier than usual at the end of October so their customers don’t have to worry about supply chain delays, (2) adding a “Save For Later” option to mimic the wishlist capability and (3) providing a real life holiday shopping concierge that any subscriber can access.

Food52 is following suit, also having both a concierge and their holiday navigation and products available earlier to address supply chain issues, and pull up some of those sales. Other larger retailers are understanding that they may have some leverage with consumers who are concerned about stock and delivery times—Walmart and Best Buy are pushing subscriptions like Amazon Prime to offer exclusive access to deals.


Supply Chain Offense

When it comes to the supply chain crisis, brands are ready, playing more offense than defense. Food52 knows there are going to be surprises, so they’re proactively partnering with vendors and makers to sweeten the deal with consumers to close the deal, despite probable delays. Bespoke Post is also upping inventory, adding even more domestic suppliers to cover their spread.


The Privacy-First Holiday Effect

The privacy-first changes affecting retailers have played a bigger part in their strategies, including holiday, than any previous year. Bespoke responded by focusing on growing their club membership and working with new non-performance based channels like TV and influencers who promote or auction their holiday products. Food52 is experimenting with print mail, sending their first ever “dream gift catalogue” with only 18 food product and experience items ranging in cost, plus their traditional printed gift guide that’s organized by personas.


At CommerceNext, we love the holiday season. The greatest gift for us would be knowing that the content and holiday shopping trends we’re providing put your marketing minds at ease so you can be confident in your holiday programming.