Tips & Tricks to Have All Your Shopping Complete Before Turkey Day
The early bird gets the worm. We hear it every holiday season – and we have no counter-argument to this tried and true piece of advice. It’s always ideal for checking off as many boxes on one’s gift list as possible before Santa departs from the North Pole. Frankly, this mindset has never rung more accurately than in 2021.
In years past, the day after Thanksgiving (more commonly known as Black Friday) was when eager bargain hunters attempted to knock out their shopping in a couple of chaotic hours. If one proved to be unlucky on the biggest shopping day in the world or if a hectic schedule did not permit one to plan, there was always last-minute shopping – something that’s become something of an art form itself. There was always the option to brave the madness of malls and retail locations on Christmas Eve. There was also the option of completing those last online purchases just in time to guarantee on-time holiday delivery.
Within the use of the past tense lies our message: For the 2021 holiday season, it’s not about the early bird gets the first worm or the best worm – it’s about getting any worm at all.
Eighteen months since the first days of at-home quarantine, the COVID-19 pandemic is still a reality. As a result, several factors could present difficulties even for the most seasoned and savvy shopper. To help make sense of the upcoming gift-giving season, we’ve gathered a handful of best practices that will ensure a successful and stress-free shopping experience.
Before we jump in, here’s a snapshot:
- Holiday Social Calendar
- Consumer Holiday Trends
- Inventory & Shipping Delays
- Comparison Shopping
- Deal Season
- Final Thoughts
Culture & The Consumer
When it comes to the holidays in the United States, it’s not just about Christmas.
Whether it’s unthawing the turkey or counting down to the New Year, the last few weeks of any given year are pretty eventful. As a result, it’s proven difficult to schedule time for shopping around work, family celebrations, and social events. Starting in November, there are at least 11 major upcoming holidays:
- All Saints Day: November 1
- Diwali: November 4
- Thanksgiving: November 25
- Black Friday: November 26
- Hanukkah: November 28-December 6
- Cyber Monday: November 29
- Las Posadas: December 16-24
- Christmas Eve: December 24
- Christmas: December 25
- Kwanzaa: December 26-January 1, 2022
- New Years’ Eve – December 31
One can see how quickly that Google Calendar fills up.
In a purely practical sense, getting the shopping done early means spending more time with friends and family. Thankfully, many modern conveniences, along with a bit of planning and initiative, make the perfect holiday season within anyone’s reach.
But, in case this alone isn’t enough reason to want to beat both the online and storefront holiday crowds, consider our next point.
It’s All in the (Consumer) Data
Speaking of modern conveniences, let’s talk about consumer shopping trends in a COVID-19 world.
In a world full of surprises, the majority would agree that 2020 threw everyone a curveball. The internet helped to rethink daily routines and social interactions during an era when they seemed impossible. And, consumer data shows that shoppers are sticking to those “pandemic habits” via a hybrid experience, like curbside pickup, touchless payments, and same-day delivery.
Furthermore, consider these additional points:
- According to AdWeek, All hail eCommerce, especially mobile and social shopping. “We expect to see more digital acceleration with another extended, eCommerce-driven holiday shopping season in 2021.”
- Brick and mortar retailers still drive holiday excitement and purchases, especially since most couldn’t enjoy in-person activities for weeks, if not months on end. Not only did in-store sales increase following a lift on COVID restrictions, but Criteo also reports that “in addition to being influential in the discovery phase, stores are critical at the end of the path to purchase when consumers are ready to buy.”
- As you might have guessed, Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be earlier this year. The sales will extend beyond the traditional “one-day” frenzy. According to Radial, “more businesses will jump on the early deals bandwagon, and customers will get their shopping done earlier to beat the crowds and shipping delays common to the holiday season.”
It’s here that we would like to note that while shipping delays and bottlenecks are common, 2021 is on a whole other level.
Shipping Delays & Inventory Shortages
If you believe that talking about pushing holiday shopping in October is a bit overdramatic, the following should put that to rest. The supply chain struggle is very real across all industries including apparel, grocery, and in-demand electronics.
Remember those “difficulties” we mentioned earlier? To get an idea of what one may be in store for as the temperature drops and those boxes of holiday decor get dust off, one needs to look no further than Southern California’s busiest ports.
As reported by CBS LA, “…there could be as many as half a million shipping containers on cargo ships off the ports of LA and Long Beach, waiting to be offloaded…A number of factors are blamed for the bottleneck – the surge of the Delta variant throughout the world, lack of access to vaccines in some countries, a shortage of shipping containers, and another of truck drivers.”
Shipping deadlines from USPS, FedEx, and UPS are typical, with cutoff dates for most domestic shipping options starting in early December. But keep in mind – that’s assuming that gifts are already in hand. The biggest concern isn’t whether gifts will make it to their final destination on time; it’s whether products will make it onto store shelves at all.
Bottlenecked ports mean unstocked shelves across all industries. If there’s a product one wants, take the checkout bull by the horns. Acting fast on in-stock inventory will be the best way to avoid a holiday crisis.
Avoid “The Hard Sell…”
When it comes to our biggest shopping turn-offs, the “hard sell” is definitely in the top three.
A sales pitch of this type can take many forms. Typically, shoppers are exposed to this tactic through an overzealous sales associate, a flash sale, or a promotion where inventory is minimal. Each method is intended to create the same effect – create a time crunch that forces the customer to make a quick decision. It’s one reason why the returns run high following Christmas Day – it’s a little thing called shoppers remorse.
Getting an early start is a critical first step for those who wish to score the best holiday deals. When you have plenty of time and no pressure, you can get all the gifts you want and maximize your spending. From expedited shipping to loyalty rewards to credit card points, starting early assures many benefits.
…And Shipping Costs
These days, who wants to pay for shipping costs?
Retail Me Not, a popular money-saving website and mobile app recently revealed the top priorities of savvy shoppers for the 2021 holiday shopping season. One stood out in particular: free shipping.
As stated on their official blog, “free shipping beats out price and loyalty programs when it comes to how consumers decide where to shop.” Furthermore, a poll conducted by Retail Me Not revealed that 46% of shoppers would give their business to a retailer that offers free shipping. It seems that the public has made their holiday demands and deal breakers crystal clear with a figure like that.
Just a few years ago, a scene of holiday décor and Christmas songs before kids went trick-or-treating would have seemed strange. However, the pandemic has made taking some initiative during the holidays more common; it’s essential.
As one considers online shopping or in-store shopping, there are both advantages and disadvantages. However, remember that retailers big and small are on board to help make this holiday season a stress-free venture by offering a variety of safe and quick ways to shop. The power rests in the hands of the consumer with just one simple step: shop early.