5 key holiday marketing tips and shopping trends going into Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2021

November 08, 2021 | By: Matt Miller, Sr. Content and Editorial Manager

Set your alarms. Mark your calendars. The biggest shopping event of the year approaches. Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) 2021 is already gearing up to be a busy time for both brands and customers. Buying habits have evolved throughout 2020 and 2021. After a shift from in-person shopping to online in 2020, customers begin are making their way back into brick-and-mortar spaces. Industry experts are predicting a 7% increase in total holiday sales over last year, which is nearly double the retail industry’s annual historic growth.

With that in mind, brands and marketers need to be prepared for a different holiday shopping season. We reached out to Kevin Weiss, the Vice President of Client Success, Retail Media at Skai, an engine for businesses, to identify the biggest shopping and marketing trends going into Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2021.

1. Brands might consider connecting with customers throughout their entire shopping journeys

As the customer journey continues to evolve into a multichannel experience, it’s become increasingly important for brands to meet customers where they are with the right messaging at the right time. In 2020, this customer-centric approach was an integral way for brands to connect with customers in the lead up to, and during, BFCM.

Weiss said that in 2020, Skai saw success with brands who connected with customers during the discovery phase, the consideration phase, the actual point of purchase, and the product experience post-purchase.

“It’s not just going to boil down to pumping ads on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but really being top of mind in the lead-up phase, and reaching customers with different ad types across the suite of Amazon Ads. Pulling all the different levers is vital because of the diverse ways that shoppers actually shop,” Weiss said. “Finding ways to articulate the brand story in cohesive and compelling way throughout the journey was really the key because of how much of the shopping was done online.”

2020 saw high adoption of Sponsored Brands video ads during BFCM because of its flexibility in reaching customers across this journey, according to Weiss.

2. Shopping for furry friends and fuzzy slippers

While the events of last year halted many travel plans, customers shopping during BFCM focused on gifts to improve at-home life. Home products, apparel (specifically athleisure), self-care, home electronics, and sports and outdoor gear all saw a boost during holiday shopping in 2020, according to Weiss.
“There was a lot of self-gifting,” Weiss said. “Those types of purchases tends to skew more toward hobbies, fitness, consumer electronics, beauty, and health.”

Going into BFCM 2021, Skai saw some early trends emerge during Prime Day in June. Computers and consumer electronics saw the biggest lift during Prime Day verses a normal day. “I think without a doubt that’s going to be a relevant category for Black Friday/Cyber Monday,” Weiss said. “Hobbies and leisure were also indexing very high, pets too. I think a lot of folks have added pets to their families during the pandemic and they’re getting gifts for them because often times that’s who they’re spending the holidays with.”

Along with that, beauty and personal care, apparel—specifically at home like athleisure wear—should continue to be big during BFCM 2021. Among the top-selling products during Prime Day were Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips, Fire TV Stick 4K streaming device, Apple AirPods Pro, LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, Waterpik WP-660 Water Flosster, and the iRobot Roomba 692 robot vacuum. All of these products sales during Prime Day indicate strong customer interest in the categories Weiss said will be popular during holiday shopping.

3. Groceries during BFCM shopping? Yeah, it could be a big win

Groceries might not be the first item that comes to mind when you think about BFCM shopping, but according to Weiss, there’s a huge opportunity for consumer packaged goods (CPG) grocery brands as well. After all, the holidays are about special meals as well as giving special gifts. “CPG brands are trying to be a part of Black Friday/Cyber Monday in a way that we haven’t seen previously,” Weiss said. “Especially with the ease of shopping on Amazon and the proximity that consumers have for things like Subscribe & Save, Buy It Again, and grocery delivery, it's just such a great opportunity for grocery brands to capture a slice of the increased online traffic.”

4. Brands should plan for a balance between in-person and online shopping

In 2020, in-store shopping fell 55% on Thanksgiving and 37% on Black Friday compared to 2019, according to a report from The Washington Post. This drop was largely expected, as the pandemic affected foot traffic to stores in 2020. This year, as the pandemic continues to evolve, experts expect shoppers to shift to a hybrid of in-person and online shopping during BFCM. According to a recent report from Forbes, foot traffic and in-person visits to retail, restaurants, and entertainment locations have increased by 44% since the start of 2021.

With these ongoing shifts, it’s important for brands to focus on an omni-channel marketing strategy that considers both in-person and online shopping. “Discovery is happening online, but there’s no doubt that you need to make brick-and-mortar cohesive with your online presence,” Weiss said. “Consumers are going to shop and buy in many different locations both online and in-person.” With that in mind, Weiss suggested that brands utilize all types of ad types and channels to reach customers across this omni-channel journey. “I think in general, brands are trying to make it easier and faster for customers to buy online, and have a consistent experience regardless of where they want to buy,” Weiss said. As such, Weiss suggests that brands spread their campaign across Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, and Amazon DSP to help “build awareness across as many channels as possible.”

5. Start planning early. Be ready for anything.

Weiss suggested that brands start planning early. “Being able to re-forecast and re-plan more quickly does require deliberate effort and investment in technology,” Weiss said. “Last year was more virtual and this year is a variable. When you add supply chain challenges, it’s a lot to plan for.” Weiss said brands that want to be successful in these uncertain times need to embrace the possibility of change.

“You need to be ready to pivot very quickly for when customer behavior changes,” Weiss said. “Successful brands are hustling every day to plan as far out as they can and work backward from their goals so they have an idea of how they respond when they need to adapt.”

Interested in learning more about advertising for the holiday season? Visit our collection of online courses on using sponsored ads and Stores in your holiday marketing strategy.