Cyber Week is Canceled Blog Series: Savvy Consumers Will Shop Early In Anticipation Of Product Shortages

It’s officially Q4 and the season finale of 2020 is here. In our first installment of our Cyber Week is Canceled series, we discussed how we should now think of the shopping season as Cyber Quarter since consumers will begin shopping much earlier. The National Retail Federation has even launched a “New Holiday Traditions” campaign to educate consumers on why they should shop early and safely. In part 2 of our series, we’re focusing on how COVID-19 supply chain issues will impact holiday shopping, changes in consumer shopping habits over the past 6 months, and what media buyers can do to capture attention during this unusual time.

1. Supply chain issues: Panic at the box store
Gift shopping is already stressful enough with making sure everyone on your holiday list is covered, battling traffic, and the toll on your wallet.  Consumers may have flashbacks to the beginning of the pandemic when shortages for basic household items like toilet paper, baking products, and cleaning supplies occurred; shopping earlier will help alleviate unnecessary anxiety. In 2019, 39% of consumers began their shopping before November, that number will significantly increase in 2020. While we won’t get to March levels of panic and shortages, there’s really no way of knowing how things will unfold in the next few months.

2. Always on shopping approach
The effects of COVID-19 have changed the way consumers operate and make decisions, evolving the fundamental consumer journey. To help combat inventory shortages and order delays, consumers have shifted into an always-on shopping approach. Subscription services from meal boxes to streaming services have seen an increase as users opt-in for ease. As people continue to work and go to school remotely, they have adjusted to more meals spent at home, and strive for more comfort through on-going home improvement projects. Consumer habits have changed dramatically with shoppers preferring streamlined grocery lists and even meal preparation has changed to match their new pandemic lifestyle, accelerating newer shopping technologies like online and curbside grocery pickup. CPG brands also have focused more on their ecommerce business to keep up with consumer trends.

3. Retailers scramble towards the unknown
Retailers are feeling the pressure since Q4 is the major revenue generator for many. To meet the increased e-commerce demand and loss of in-store traffic, retailers face some difficult decisions about inventory and staffing. Manufacturing delays of coveted holiday gifts like the new Xbox Series X and considerations for store and warehouse staffing are top of mind. It’s really hard to tell how in-store traffic will be but creating a seamless and safe customer experience will be a key defensive strategy.


Start early. If there’s one consistent piece of advice that we have it is to start early. Concerns for logistical delays and extra time on their hands will have consumers getting ready sooner. Many retailers have said that they want to release holiday deals as early as October to limit crowds and avoid fuel surcharges on shipping.
See: COVID-19 Holiday Guide

Stay in front of your customers. Do not rely solely on social media feeds to find your customers. As consumers continuously search for information, find them on the open web. Especially since some may get social media fatigue during election season but will continue to seek information elsewhere.
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We’ll discuss how macro conditions will affect consumer personal behaviors like celebrations and gift-giving in our next Cyber Week is Canceled series.
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