Consumer marketing leaders have a tall order every holiday season: to drive 30% of their firm’s annual sales. This year, their task also includes making up for sales lost due to COVID-19 shutdowns and shut-ins, while limiting in-person crowds.

I, along with my colleagues Jay Pattisall, Julie Ask, Jim Nail, Tina Moffett, Sucharita Mulpuru, and Laura Ramos, expect alternatives to the in-store hustle this holiday season that will:

  • Keep people safely distanced. Merchants will use virtual events and digital communications as substitutes for the long lines and early bird rush more typical of Black Friday. Some will also showroom or do private shopping sessions as a premium offering for their most loyal customers.
  • Offer options they can enjoy from home. Gifts of Netflix subscriptions, at-home fitness classes, or a “date night in a box” will replace goods like movie tickets, trips, or massages that are hard to shop for or consume because of pandemic restrictions. Even brands not in the subscription business will offer holiday packages this year.
  • Accommodate limited cash on hand. We expect retailers to support several deferred payment options to allow shoppers to pay off holiday gifts over time. Product bundles and gently used or refurbished items will be more prevalent from merchants and manufacturers.
  • Be sensitive to the emotional timbre of current circumstances. Ads will include nostalgia, hyper-relevance, or denial as brands try to help customers remember better times, solve for present challenges, or just escape from reality for a bit. We also expect that well-contextualized direct messages (text, push, or email) will address the unique situations different customers face.

Read the complete research here to learn what you can do to help your company have a healthy holiday season — in every way.