The 2021 holiday season marks NetElixir’s 13th Annual Holiday Forecast. A cornerstone of our forecast is our e-commerce holiday calendar, which classifies the anticipated online sales volume of crucial days throughout the holiday season. Marketers can use this calendar to know when customers are more likely to be active online so they can more effectively schedule their most attractive holiday promotions and maintain their budget.
Download your calendar now at https://www.netelixir.com/holidaykit/.
Methodology Behind Our Calendar Forecast
Since 2013, NetElixir has been releasing our E-Commerce Holiday Calendar to forecast the day-by-day online sales volume to help marketers create an effective holiday strategy. We aggregate and analyze weekly data of website visits, website sales, channel-wise investments, and CPC data across different retail industries within our dataset. We track this data throughout the year, segregating based on device, and compare it to the previous years’ week-wise key metrics. Using our proprietary customer analytics technology, LXRInsights, to track and analyze the real-time weekly data.
Our forecasting model offers a significant weight (15%) to back-to-school data to predict holiday sales. The model also places 20% weightage on the prior-year holiday trends and emphasizes inflection points, if any. For this year, we have factored in the impact of the pandemic on the 2020 holiday season and the significant increase in e-commerce sales, search, and activity that the pandemic influenced.
Forecasting the 2021 holiday season has proved more difficult than prior years, as this is set to be one of the most uncertain and challenging years. Overall, NetElixir is approaching the holidays with cautious optimism and a humble acknowledgment of multiple macro and micro factors that are in play and of the new factors that may emerge between now and the holidays.
All told, NetElixir predicts a 6-7% Y/Y growth in e-commerce sales for the 2021 holiday season.
2021 Holiday Season Forecast and Trends
A strong Q1, with 34% Y/Y growth, lead many to predict a strong Q2. However, throughout Q2, people chose to spend their money more on experiences and travel rather than products. This led to a slow Q2, with only about 5% Y/Y growth in online sales. The 2021 back-to-school season was also slow, growing only about 7% Y/Y. As such, NetElixir is projecting a slower than usual growth in e-commerce sales this holiday season.
We anticipate a surge in Q4 sales for the holiday season, as consumers want to spread holiday cheer and connect with one another during the festive season. We also anticipate that about 25% of the new-to-online shoppers gained last year will continue to shop online throughout the holiday season this year. That comes out to about 1.8MM additional customers still engaging online (25% of the 7.4 MM shoppers who turned to online shopping last year as a result of the pandemic).
Last year saw week-long Black Friday sales that NetElixir forecasts are here to stay for the time being. These sales will be broken down into specific categories or products, depending on inventory availability and to keep customers returning to a site every day. Within NetElixir’s dataset, the week-long Black Friday deal drove up sales substantially.
In 2020, the last shipping days were slated for December 8th and 9th; this year, we’ve marked the last shipping days at around December 13th and 14th, which gives brands an extra four to six days to drive online sales compared to last year. We saw online sales drop substantially after December 12th, 2020, so we expect to see the same result a few days after the last shipping cutoff day this year, as well.
A Breakdown of NetElixir’s 2021 E-Commerce Holiday Calendar
For a year like 2021, our day-wise sale predictions are a bit more conservative.
For the week of November 14th, we predict strong teaser promotions leading into Black Friday and the rest of Cyber 5. These teaser promotions and previews will induce early shopping behavior and get people to create their Black Friday must-have lists.
Again, during Cyber 5, we anticipate week-long Black Friday deals that highlight a specific product or category each day. We believe the trend of deep discounting will continue throughout the entire week and that brands will get creative with their specific promotions to keep customers engaged.
The first two weeks of December will be highly competitive; however, there will be ample opportunities to capture consumer demand so a strong marketing strategy — as well as a backup plan to stay agile — will be necessary. Some large retailers may test creative promotional strategies this week or run special mini-holiday deals of their own. Smaller businesses will need to remain nimble and be ready with their gameplans to seize any opportunities they can.
The week of December 12th, a day or two before the last shipping day, will most likely see a surge in BOPIS commerce. Many retailers will begin lowering their ad spend this week to better ensure online orders arrive in time for Christmas morning. However, this could be a time for smaller brands to leverage their BOPIS options or brick-and-mortar offerings, so be sure to leverage every advantage your store has and leverage the greater online activity inspired by big brand deals.
The week leading up to Christmas will continue to see a surge in BOPIS orders, as well as last-minute mobile purchases. However, inventory issues are likely to persist this week, so be sure to keep your website updated with what you have in stock.
Finally, deep discounts on post-holiday inventory will influence the “Me-Buy” week following Christmas and leading into New Year’s. Consider changing your promotional language to highlight your sales and cater to your high-value customers’ self interest.
Looking Toward the Future
While the forecast seems a bit pessimistic, we need to remember that 2020 saw unprecedented growth. Last year, we project a 30% Y/Y increase and saw an actual increase of 33% for the 2020 holiday season. A 6% growth on top of what we saw last year is still a good indicator that consumers are turning more and more toward e-commerce options and are becoming more comfortable searching and shopping online.
Please note that our calendar does not anticipate a second Amazon Prime Day. After the muted performance of their July 2021 event, Amazon may opt to host another Prime Day during the same time as last year’s Prime Day. As of yet, a second Prime Day is pure speculation.
Download your 2021 e-commerce holiday calendar and peruse NetElixir’s other holiday resources and solutions at https://www.netelixir.com/holidaykit/.