Holiday Retail Trends Shaped by the Pandemic

Q&A with Carly Johnson, VP, Director of Strategy, NA, Momentum Worldwide

As COVID has changed the way people discover, shop and buy, how can brands/retailers better represent themselves this holiday season? 

It has only become easier and easier to discover and buy the things we need, want or didn’t even know we needed or wanted. This is inherently creating greater competition by putting brands and retailers on a more even playing field to capture shoppers in more meaningful ways. This holiday season it will be crucial for brands to consider the evolving definition of value and how shopper expectations have grown beyond discounts and deals. They need to remain as personalized as possible and focus on differentiating themselves against their competition in more ways than just price.


Adobe found that over half of digital Christmas revenue in 2020 came from smartphones and with that said, ecommerce sales will undoubtably soar this holiday season – given this shift, how will marketing budgets shift? 

We’re certainly seeing this shift happen in our business. Last year digital grew tremendously, but so did the holiday season, and that’s something we are already seeing this year. COVID fatigue, supply chain challenges and low inventory levels are extending not just the holiday shopping season but the celebration season as well. Brands are responding by scaling their budgets across all channels, both digital and in-store, for extended periods of time. This extension of the season is now allowing for even greater differentiation across occasions and tapping into more moments that have meaning for shoppers.


What are some ways in which brands can bring the in-store experience online and the digital experience to stores?

One of the largest impacts COVID had on shopping behavior was blending the realities of in-store and online shopping. Pre-COVID, we were already looking at the evolution of the shopping journey and the fact that it’s no longer a simple, linear path, but the pandemic catapulted us into this new world where shoppers now expect the benefits of both. Here at Momentum, we look at this as creating a Connected Commerce Experience where we reach shoppers throughout their entire commerce journey and advise brands on where they can best engage with shoppers, whether that’s in-store, online or both simultaneously.

From a digital to in-store perspective, we need to continue moving in the direction that makes shopping faster, easier and more comprehensive. This includes things like contactless check-out, BOPIS and the use of mobile to manage inventory availability and eliminate out-of-stock situations.

During the pandemic we saw that nearly 70% of people cited the thing they missed the most about shopping was being able to physically engage with products in-store and the experience they get shopping with others. The future of shopping online needs to acknowledge this desire for physical engagement and find ways to replicate it in the digital environment.


Consumers are purchasing on social now more than ever. With that said, how can brands revamp their social channels to help with in-app purchases? 

I see this in two different ways, with the first about hygiene. A lot of mainstream brands are still slow to adopt social shopping or haven’t taken advantage of it at all. The way that shoppers engage with their social channels has evolved beyond simple, passive engagement and that demands action among brands.

The second is about striking the balance between authenticity and relevancy. The beauty of social is the endless opportunity to be inspired and discover. That said, there’s a fine line between creating authentic content that compels someone to buy and creating another ad that’s easily scrolled past or clicked through. Today’s shoppers are socially savvy and will only become more critical of the ways that brands are trying to engage with them. Brands should focus on narrowing in on a contextually relevant message and tailoring it to the right people so that personalization continues to be the North Star.


Carly leads the strategy team for a number of Momentum's Shopper Marketing clients. Throughout her eight-year tenure with Momentum, she has built a reputation for developing thoughtful, insight-based strategies for brands like P&G, Coca-Cola, Chobani, Energizer, Bacardi, Constellation brands, Walmart and Samsung.