4 Trends that Shaped the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

2020 Holiday Shopping Season

The 2020 holiday shopping season is here in a very different way and brands need to adjust their standard way of advertising. It’s no longer about the lowest rate for impressions (i.e. guaranteed CPMs or GRPs through preferred advertising deals). Platforms are evolving to focus on ROAS and conversion-based buying models, which is why brands are seeking out pay-for-performance models to limit risk by only paying for the action a consumer takes.

In the past nine months, consumers have naturally made a dramatic move to online shopping as many of their favourite brick-and-mortar shops have closed or reduced hours due to COVID-19. Here are a few takeaways that will elevate your advertising efforts and help you deliver on performance goals.


Trend: Consumers are overwhelmingly backing small and medium-sized businesses, showing their support in an unprecedented way. 

Third-party sellers—almost all of which are small and medium-sized businesses—surpassed $3.5 billion in sales on Amazon’s Prime Days (across 19 countries), a nearly 60% year-over-year increase, growing even more than Amazon’s retail business. 

Consider: Supporting local businesses through your marketing message.

Look for opportunities to add value to entrepreneurs who may be struggling through COVID-related challenges. We’ve seen many advertisers do this successfully, most notably when Ocean Spray saw a viral video on TikTok featuring their product and capitalized on it by giving the creator a shiny new truck full of branded products. 

Opportunities such as this one are few and far between, but savvy advertisers can still capitalize on trends that are relevant to brands and target audiences. The latter is the most essential component to advertising in today’s market—whether or not the holiday season is upon us. Brands need to be sending the right message, to the right people, at the right time.


Trend: Consumers are starting to shop earlier, creating a less concentrated period of online purchasing. 

Fifty-four percent of consumers said they would start holiday shopping earlier this year. Consumers are also likely to increase their online shopping behaviour year over year, especially during Cyber 5 weekend. In fact, the majority of online shopping is heavily weighted earlier than you may think: 24% in October vs 28% in November. 

2020 Holiday Shopping Season

This increased demand has brands battling a number of issues among retailers, including accommodating delivery deadlines. Smart brands are spreading out their offers and advertising efforts to address the issue, with Walmart introducing ‘Black Friday Deals for Days’ in three phases, which started on Nov 4th.

Consider: Assessing your marketing dollars carefully to limit waste and maximize opportunities.

Biddable media over the holiday season comes with higher costs and a longer shopping season that has forced retailers to be clever this year. With an earlier start, advertising dollars need to be purposeful and limit waste by quickly cutting out poor performers. 

While we can’t dictate the pricing model on biddable media platforms such as Facebook, we can assess opportunities by keeping a pulse on our addressable audience. Brands need to stay top-of-mind amongst their target audience while not paying exorbitant costs because the competition is too high. CPMs in Q4 historically rise but the ROAS can be very rewarding. If you notice your CPMs are rising, look at how your message is being received by the audience. Leverage A/B testing to ensure your message is relevant to your audience.


Trend: Consumers are spending more time online—streaming, shopping, gaming—and advertisers are flooding the market with messaging making it increasingly difficult to break through the clutter.

Gen Z is demanding more from advertisers in return for their loyalty. Snapchat recently released data in partnership with Kantar that emphasized the importance for brands to build a relationship with them. Gen Z’s annual purchasing power is estimated to be as high as $323 billion in the US, with researchers estimating this can grow by more than 4X when accounting for Gen Z’s influence over others in their household. Gen Z are more likely to look at brands as a mode of self-expression and look to their friends and family to tell them about new brands. Gen Z is also a demographic that demands more from their brands in order to win their loyalty, and as advertisers, it’s easy to see how complex their media habits are. Breaking through to connect with Gen Z is imperative for eCommerce brands.

Consider: Breakthrough the clutter during the final weeks of holiday shopping by focusing on the long-tail with hyper-personalized ads.

AdParlor has been investing in automation and personalization of content, understanding the pressure on advertisers and the best practices to win in the algorithm favor audience receptivity of your message. 

Hill’s Pet Foods was looking to break through the clutter during their largest single-day pet adoption event across the country. To do so, they leveraged Creative Blueprints with AdParlor to generate customized carousel ad units, unique to each of the 45 participating animal shelters. Using Creative Blueprints with AdParlor’s strategic media buying, Hill’s Pet Nutrition was able to help find homes for over 90,000 of our furry friends! 


Trend: Consumers still love a good sale!

It’s important to provide value to consumers. Whether you’re dealing with dollar amounts or entertainment value, consumers are inundated with so much content throughout the day that an advertiser needs to break through the noise. 

Prime members around the world saved over $1.4 billion during Amazon’s epic sales event, securing deep discounts and getting a jumpstart on their holiday shopping. In fact, most shoppers focused on Prime Day Deals as opposed to holiday deals launched by other major retailers during Prime week, with 44% of shoppers reported spending more this year than on last year’s Prime Day in July.

2020 Holiday Shopping Season

Consider: Extend the end of holiday shopping in December by keeping product offers fresh and relevant within the platform.

Pay close attention to your brand’s search trends and tailor your offers to your customers, with a hyper-personalized focus on creative. If you’re advertising on TikTok, then you’ll need a more organic, user-generated feel to your ad creative. Taking advantage of dynamic creative will help prolong the use of your ads—as well as solve for Facebook’s latest update—limiting ad volume across accounts.

If you are interested in taking your performance to the next level, let’s chat. We’re here to help!