The global shipping and supply chain is in major disarray. Shipping and supply disruptions are the result of COVID, increased demand for goods from Asian exporting countries like China and South Korea, recent weather-related delays, and a variety of shortages, from cargo ships and containers to warehouse workers.

A bottlenecked supply chain and delays in shipping mean that there are fewer electronics, toys, and gadgets in stock for gift-giving and that consumers, who are accustomed to two-day shipping, may have to wait much longer for goods.

The bottom line for consumers? Do your holiday shopping now.

What does this mean for marketers? Get a head start on your holiday messaging now. All of these factors make the case for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other holiday shopping events in October.

Leverage Consumer Data to Target Holiday Shoppers Early

Consumer shopping behavior is different during the holidays as compared to shopping other times of the year. Some consumers are focused on getting the best deals which may mean participating in standard holiday shopping events like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Other shoppers procrastinate in hopes of finding deeper discounts at the last minute.

To engage shoppers early to account for shipping delays, brands will need to leverage data-driven marketing tactics. Consumers may have a challenging time finding the items on their gift lists, so brands should focus on driving consumers to the stores and online now and manage expectations accordingly.

While this may sound straightforward, brands will need to be sophisticated in how they engage with shoppers or risk losing the opportunity altogether. Today’s consumers are savvy and expect brands to understand their preferences and send tailored, relevant recommendations. For example, brands that promote unavailable or delayed products will surely alienate consumers.

Brands will need to use a solid foundation of data and integrations across their supply chain in order to send messaging with this level of insight. At a minimum, retailers will need to get hyper-focused on first-party data collection and third-party enhancement to understand who their customers are and what will drive them to purchase. For instance, if brands know where a consumer is located, they can market products with tailored information such as local inventory or accurate shipping estimates.

One of the most valuable types of data brands often overlook is in-market behavioral data, or intent data. Savvy brands are using intent data to deliver a more personalized experience to prospects and customers based on their recent behavior. What physical stores have these consumers recently visited? What are they browsing for online? Are they engaged in dialogue on social channels about certain brands, product categories or specific products? Are they typically an early holiday season shopper or a procrastinator? Data has become so sophisticated that brands have the opportunity to engage consumers based on their past behavior such as Black Friday shopper segments, or early and last-minute Holiday shoppers coupled with their current activity.

Use Omnichannel Technology to Send Personalized Messaging

Last year during the height of COVID, consumers shopped online more than ever. However, as our economy settles into a new normal and as consumers are seeking out more in-person experiences, retailers can expect to see consumers shopping both online and in stores this holiday season, with just over half (62%) of American consumers stating they plan to use both channels.

As consumers go through the purchase journey, they will use different touchpoints along the way to research products and make purchase decisions. Email ranks highly for 35% of consumers as a favored way for brands to communicate instead of receiving direct mail. Social is also a popular way to learn about new products and brands, preferred by almost a fourth (24%) of consumers.

Whatever the channel mix, brands will need to have an integrated view of the consumer available on all platforms to consistently create personalized journeys for different types of consumers, coupled with insights such as product availability. Having the right marketing automation tool in place will ensure seamless messaging across customer segments and in different channels to promote products that will reach consumers in time for the holiday season.

The 2021 holiday season will be very different in contrast to 2020. The pressure is mounting to start shopping for the holidays early – and to prepare marketing strategies that meet consumers where they are. It’s time to start pushing events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday in October instead of November. It’s easier to start the holiday marketing push early than to push the holidays back because gifts are delayed.