COVID-19 and Holiday 2020: Tips for Success

Many retailers are understandably worried about Holiday 2020 in the wake of COVID-19. As the economy worsens, are consumers going to cut back on spending? Will a second wave of the virus continue to halt in-person gatherings and therefore, holiday gift purchasing? Should holiday marketing budgets shift to account for this new environment? In the last few months, Something Digital has been fielding these questions from clients who struggle to plan for an uncertain future. As a strategic-minded agency, we always look toward the data to help us make informed decisions.

A July 2020 report from Gladly and Future Commerce found,

“While uncertainty around in-person Holiday celebrations persists, gift-giving may be more important this year than ever before: 12% of consumers say they’ve already started shopping for this year’s holiday season.”

During an August Virtual Commerce Lab that Something Digital hosted, ShipStation, Klaviyo, and Signify all predicted that this holiday season will be the highest grossing revenue period to date for most retailers.

When it comes to marketing spend, Salesforce notes,

“It’s probably no surprise that marketing budgets are shrinking in some capacity. However, digital spend will increase with a focus on performance media and marketing. Awareness media will still be important to fill the funnel, but efficiency, measurement, and attribution will be necessary as marketing spend gets further scrutiny.”

So, what does this mean for online retailers? Read on for our tips on how to approach Holiday 2020.

Plan for BFCM to Hit Early

Salesforce makes two interesting points in the aforementioned blog post:

  1. A later Amazon Prime Day (likely in October) will push consumers to begin their holiday shopping sooner.
  2. Due to restraints on delivery, gifts must be purchased earlier this year to safely ensure an on-time holiday arrival.


Waiting to push promos and amp up marketing initiatives until the week of Thanksgiving is definitely a mistake. In the past few years, we’ve watched the BFCM period balloon from Black Friday to Cyber Monday (four days) to a full month in some cases. In an SD blog post from 2019, Phillip Jackson pointed out that “Black Friday deals now extend throughout the entire month of November.” With an earlier Amazon Prime Day, delivery delays, and more virtual gift giving this year, it seems inevitable that holiday strategy needs to stretch over a much longer period. Ask yourself this: would you rather incentivize shoppers early or follow the same plan as last year and deal with the inevitable returns that come flooding in when gifts aren’t received on time?

Other options that retailers might consider are buy online pick up in store (if applicable) and local delivery.

Re-Evaluate Your Digital Marketing Plan

If you work with a digital agency, now is a great time to start strategizing with them on holiday 2020. What worked in the past might not work in the future; being agile and testing as much as possible is going to be extremely important this year. These are my top recommendations when it comes to digital marketing:

  • Segment your audience as much as possible – by demographic, location, status (new or returning), and device.
  • Regularly test your creative (make sure you have more assets than usual) and optimize based on results.
  • Ensure that view-through conversions are tracking and that ad platforms are using the right attribution model. If you’re still relying on last-click, now is a good time to switch to a data or position-driven model.
  • Think carefully about language. It’s safe to say that in-person holiday gatherings will be few and far between this year (especially for families who don’t live in the same city). Future Commerce and Gladly state, “Now is the time to remind consumers about the love language of gift-giving as a way to connect from afar.” Don’t harp on the depressing aspects of COVID but do remind consumers about the changes the virus has spurned this year.
  • If possible, consider spending money on personalization tools. Landing pages, banners with tailored promos, and customized upsells/cross-sells all help improve traffic return on ad spend (ROAS) for all channels, including digital marketing.


If your agency isn’t already talking to you about Holiday 2020, now is a good time to give them a strong nudge.

Optimize Your Conversion Rate

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a great way to ensure that your website is ready for an onslaught of holiday traffic. Instead of running this initiative during the holidays, it makes sense to start now. CRO is the process of improving conversion rate by implementing strategic changes through data analysis, testing, and iteration. This is how it works:

  1. Analyze data to determine barriers to conversion
  2. Create a hypothesis based on data analysis
  3. Propose and run tests to prove hypotheses right or wrong
  4. Evaluate results and determine test success
  5. Implement permanent solutions for winning tests and use collected data to continue optimizations
  6. Measure ROI of each experiment


If someone told you that changing a button color or swapping out some language would have a marked improvement on conversion rate, why wouldn’t you do it? CRO allows retailers to make small changes over time that have a proven, measurable impact. Instead of wasting time on site changes that may or may not work, let data guide the way and help favorably position you for Holiday 2020 success.

If you have questions about Holiday 2020 strategy, don’t hesitate to contact us. Although it seems early, there are only 100 days to Thanksgiving, and we want to help you make the most of them.

Lindsay Pugh

Lindsay is a voracious reader who also enjoys making and watching films. She’s currently on a never-ending quest to discover the best burrito in the city.