A year like no other: Holiday planning in 2020

5 minute read

No matter how you look at it, this holiday season will be one for the record books. In the first six months of 2020 alone, we’ve already seen it all. The exponential growth of e-commerce. Strained supply chains. Changing consumer preferences. With uncertainty on the horizon, retailers around the world are doing their best to adapt and reassess the way they do business.

Q3 and Q4 will be critical for your business. You’ll want to take advantage of every possible opportunity for growth that you can. You’ll need a killer holiday strategy to make the most of this compressed sales period. Rest assured that with the right partners, a little insight and a plan, you can grab the attention – and dollars – of Canadian consumers this holiday season.

Canada Post wants your business to thrive. That’s why we recently commissioned a comprehensive consumer survey to help you with your decision-making as you plan your holiday strategy. What do consumers expect from retailers? Will shopping habits formed in the first half of 2020 carry into the second half? How can you minimize challenges and maximize opportunities? Our survey tackles all these questions and more.

Consumer spending: What to expect this holiday season

Belts are tighter in 2020. It’s inevitable that some consumers will cut back on the holiday cheer. We asked Canadian consumers to compare their projected holiday spending this year to 2019. Here’s what they had to say:

  • 32 per cent plan to spend less
  • 7 per cent plan to spend more
  • 61 per cent plan to spend the same

Despite changes in how they shop, customer expectations remain high. They expect a great online shopping experience, reliable deliveries, flexible returns policies, a variety of pickup options and a range of promotions.

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From dabblers to devotees

Since the pandemic began, tens of thousands of Canadians have become active online shoppers. Many of them plan to shop online this holiday season, too. In fact, 48 per cent of Canadian consumers plan to purchase most or everything that they buy online this year. That means more competition for shrinking e-commerce dollars and a little more pressure on retailers to provide a seamless omni-channel experience.

Where do consumers expect to buy most or everything this holiday season?

The pandemic has changed how and where Canadian consumers will be shopping in the weeks ahead:

This anticipated change in spending behaviour will likely pose fulfillment challenges for the entire industry. What can you do to minimize stress on your e-commerce operations – for you and your partners?

Make a plan – early

This is not a year to procrastinate. Start your promotions earlier than in previous peak seasons. We’re talking weeks before Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

If retailers start their holiday promotions earlier, 32 per cent of shoppers are willing to start shopping in October and another 22 per cent will get going in early November.

Our survey respondents were loud and clear on this point. They recognize the challenges that COVID-19 places on fulfillment and delivery times and want to ensure they get what they need for the holidays. If retailers start holiday promotions earlier, 32 per cent of shoppers are willing to start shopping in October and another 22 per cent will get going in early November.

Strategically plan and time your promotions so you can meet the increase in demand, while maximizing your share of the holiday spend. Reach out to your partners and include them in your holiday planning. Work closely together to align your expectations. Everyone wins when you space out your promotions and start them early. Shoppers can take advantage of the deals they crave while enjoying the peace-of-mind of knowing that their purchases will arrive on time for the big day.

Keep customers motivated

Canadians’ love affair with offers and discounts will continue this holiday season:

Grab and hold their attention with a mix of offers to engage and motivate them. The offers can be product-specific, site-wide, free shipping offers – or a mix. Reassess the length of your promotions to clear out inventory and optimize sales.

Set clear expectations

It’s critical to be transparent and manage consumer expectations upfront.

Information is key to customer satisfaction. 70 per cent of customers are willing to wait longer for online purchases if they’re given an accurate delivery time frame upfront.

In our survey, 70 per cent of respondents stated that they will wait longer for online purchases if they’re given an accurate delivery time frame upfront. Use your e-commerce site and marketing channels to clearly communicate promotions, shipping deadlines and any potential delays during the holiday season. Update your website’s FAQs and help section to address any issues that may negatively impact their experience.

Keep things clear throughout the customer journey – even after purchase. Provide regular updates during the fulfillment and delivery process to ensure your customers are always in-the-know regarding where their shipment is and when they can expect it.

Don’t ignore returns

You don’t need an industry-leading returns policy to attract consumers. You do need to make the one you have simple, clear and easy-to-find. Anything less can be damaging to your bottom line.

Canadian cart abandonment rates speak volumes about the importance of returns. We researched the motivations behind why Canadian shoppers abandon carts, and found that:

In short, more than half of online shoppers abandoned carts because of returns-related concerns.

Last holiday season, 62 per cent of online shoppers paid more attention to returns policies. We can assume that returns will be even more important in 2020 while many consumers are reluctant to shop in-store.

A good returns policy can incentivize customer action. Prominently display your policy on your site. If it has been impacted by COVID-19, let shoppers know.

Early-bird shoppers may be concerned about returns after the holidays. Reassure them by extending your entire returns window – from October to January or even February.

Deliver on customer experience

To consumers, the delivery process is considered an extension of your brand promise:

  • 63 per cent agree that the delivery experience has a significant impact on where they choose to shop online
  • 43 per cent will choose a retailer based on an acceptable expected delivery

This underscores the importance of getting your delivery partner involved early in the holiday planning process.

Prep your e-commerce operations

Tighten up your e-commerce operations early to ensure you’re ready to support the increased demand coming your way.

Stock up on products

With online spending on track to increase, ensure that you have the inventory – especially of your bestselling products.

According to our survey, one in three respondents said that product availability online didn’t meet their expectations.

Optimize your fulfillment strategy

Ensure your fulfillment strategy is integrated across all channels to meet delivery expectations – regardless of the POS. Online shoppers expect the estimated delivery window to include the time it takes you to process their order. When asked about how satisfied they were with the time spent by retailers to process orders, 57 per cent of surveyed shoppers said it met their expectations, with 28 per cent noting a need for improvement.

Ensure you have the right technology

Consider working with technology partners like ShopifyMagento and ShipStation that have leading-edge e-commerce platforms and software that make it easier to integrate your retail and online stores.

Every e-commerce brand knows that fraud is a constant risk, so we tackled that subject in more detail here.

Rely on your partners

We are all stronger together. Work closely with your partners to plan a winning holiday strategy. With a little preparation, you can make the most of the upcoming season and take advantage of opportunities that will help your business thrive long after the decorations are back in their boxes.

Ready to make the most of the holidays?

A Canada Post representative can provide you with insights on every aspect of your e-commerce strategy. Request a consultation today.

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