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1. A man in a holiday sweater holding a credit card and using his smartphone.

2020 has already triggered unprecedented agility and innovation from retailers, but the year’s greatest test comes as the holidays approach. Even the most reliable shopping patterns have transformed as consumers keep safety and convenience top of mind. Their holiday plans won’t look the same, but they’re still searching for ways to spread cheer.

Now is the time for retailers to keep up the momentum, combining learnings from the last seven months with real-time data to win over shoppers. To learn more, explore “Five Essential Consumer Insights for the 2020 Holiday Season.” Here are a few of this year’s big shifts in consumer shopping habits to help you navigate the season with confidence.

Online shopping soars

Earlier this year, retailers saw holiday-level traffic hit their websites. Consumers quickly showed that they were willing to embrace technology to shop safely, with a definitive shift to e-commerce.

While it’s not news that e-commerce is here to stay, the categories consumers shop has expanded greatly in the last six months.

The growing amount of time people have spent at home has also meant more time online for work, school, and social activities. The research shows that online shopping is becoming a more fluid part of their internet time. Retail search activity is growing twice as quickly outside of traditional business hours.

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For the holidays, many people will be putting new twists on their traditions. Instead of traveling, sharing meals, and opening gifts together, consumers are more likely to celebrate at home, spreading cheer to their loved ones by sending gifts they buy online.

Holiday spikes in traffic are on the way, and the best way to prepare is by looking at the e-commerce solutions you rely on most. Will they be able to maintain fast load times and optimal performance when seasonal shopping surges? Technology is going to play a central role in every retailer’s success this season, and your web presence must give customers confidence that online shopping is simple, secure, and delightful.

More pickup is in store

Convenience has had a new meaning ever since health concerns changed shopping behavior. Consumers still want shopping to be fast and easy, but now they’re often looking for ways to minimize human contact. “Buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) options have become practically ubiquitous as a result. Retailers of all sizes offer BOPIS, and in return, consumers are using it for an ever-expanding list of categories.

There’s been a continued desire for contactless interactions with retailers, and it’s a habitual behavior that will likely continue through the holidays and beyond. The most important thing retailers can do to prepare is to make the transition between online shopping and in-person order pickup feel completely seamless, regardless of device or platform. When customers start an interaction online, they want to finish it online. They don’t necessarily want to call to let staff know they’ve arrived for pickup.

Personalization cuts through the competition

As consumers shop online more, they’re being marketed to more. With the submission of their contact information comes a wave of emails, targeted ads, and more—not just from your business, but from every retailer they shop. The holidays turn up the volume on promotional intensity, and it’s only a matter of time before consumers start tuning it out.

That’s why shoppers are drawn to experiences that feel personal. Whether they’re shopping for gifts or preparing their homes for the holidays, consumers are favoring brands that can make recommendations that are relevant to their historical buying patterns and seasonal needs.

The holidays are also a time when customers buy things they don’t usually buy. Retailers need to make sure that discoverability and convenience converge perfectly to help them find something new. The key to cutting through the noise of holiday promotions is to use real-time data and curation to simplify and personalize the gift-shopping experience.

Reach customers of every age

Broader trends show that each generation has adapted their shopping in different ways, challenging retailers to cater to a range of tech skills and preferences.

Baby boomers, for instance, make up the single largest group of shoppers, and many of them are putting aside their doubts about security to shop online for the first time. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Generation Z, whose members grew up with devices in-hand and crave online interactions that merge the social, the experiential, and the shoppable.

Understanding and tapping into the unique expectations of each generation is a crucial way to develop trust with the growing e-commerce audience. It’s a keystone in the effort to earn holiday sales now and gain long-term loyalty that keeps consumers coming back.

A supply chain as agile as demand

Each holiday season brings a new list of hot gifts that fly off the shelves, but after watching everything from toilet paper to puzzles go out of stock this spring, consumers are looking at gift shopping a little differently.

It used to be that you could shop around and come back to make a purchase later. Now there’s a mentality that once it’s gone, it’s gone. Shoppers are going to be more decisive so they get their items as soon as possible.

Some shoppers will kick-start their searches earlier than usual, motivated by the fear of missing out. They’re planning ahead to make sure they get exactly what they’re looking for, exactly on time. Others are trusting that fast and free shipping will give them the flexibility to buy gifts when they’re in stock—even at the last minute.

Together, these different approaches make it clear that having an agile supply chain can help retailers stay stocked during an extended and atypical shopping season.

More data, fewer surprises

Although 2020 has been unprecedented at the best of times, there are smart investments that can help any retailer find success. The next normal is taking shape right before our eyes, and each of these core retail areas will continue to be key in meeting customers’ expectations during the holidays and beyond.

With the right data and technology on your side, your business can keep navigating change with confidence. That’s why we’ve combined exclusive Bing search data with top industry insights to help you prepare for the season ahead.

To learn more, explore “Five Essential Consumer Insights for the 2020 Holiday Season.”

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