The global pandemic has pushed consumers to spend almost entirely online. A survey of US consumers by McKinsey & Company gives a detailed breakdown of the shift to digital shopping channels throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, the survey showed a 15 to 30% growth in US consumers who made purchases online across a broad range of product categories.
Mastercard also found that online sales increased by a whopping 54% in February 2021, compared to the same month last year. Even though most global consumers were forced to shift to online shopping due to national lockdowns, it is believed that the eCommerce boom we’ve all experienced in the last year is here to stay.
As the eCommerce space continues to become busier, and as shopping behavior continues to shift, standing out from the competition is getting increasingly harder – especially in the second half of the year. So to help you prepare for success, we’ll discuss:
- The state of reviews and what we expect in the second half of the year
- Consumer behavior and buying habits from the last two holiday seasons
- Industries and categories you can expect to see trend in the next few months
- Successful strategies you can put in place for the the last few months of 2021
Without further ado, let’s dive into it!
The importance of online reviews in the second half of the year
To understand the role of online reviews in the last two quarters of the year, it’s best to start with an overview of the state of reviews as a whole.
Service reviews left on Trustpilot.com between January 1st 2019 and December 31st 2019. Here, we can observe a significant increase in service reviews from October onwards.
Here, we can see that over 2.7 million global service and product reviews were left in December 2019, up from 2.4 million in October and November 2019. In January 2020, over 2.5 million reviews were left, a 200,000 review drop from December 2019, due to the end of the busiest shopping season of the year.
Overall, in 2019, we saw a 47% growth in reviews from January to December.
Product reviews left on Trustpilot.com between January 1st 2019 and December 31st 2019. Here, we can observe a significant increase in service reviews from July onwards.
In 2020, things weren’t too different. Over 4.5 million global service and product reviews were left in December, up from 3.7 million in November, and 3.4 in October, and 58% more reviews were left in December 2020 than in January 2020.
4 million reviews were collected on Trustpilot.com in January 2021, a 500,000 drop compared to the previous month, demonstrating once again that the second half of the year continuously gets more reviews than the first half.
Service reviews left on Trustpilot.com between January 1st 2020 and December 31st 2020. Here, we can observe a significant increase in service reviews from October onwards.
Product reviews left on Trustpilot.com between January 1st 2020 and December 31st 2020. Here, we can observe a significant increase in service reviews from October onwards.
So what does this tell us? Well, we saw a whopping 58% growth in reviews from the end of 2019 to the end of 2020. If the past two years are any indication, the festive months clearly have a positive impact on how many reviews are left on Trustpilot.com, which suggests that shoppers rely even more heavily on third-party reviews to make sure their holiday shopping goes as smoothly as possible.
During the months of November and December – with holidays and events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday – consumers tend to descend upon retailers to spend significant amounts. With such a major opportunity, it’s safe to say that competition increases dramatically at that time of year.
Retailers who commit to their consumers are bound to see better results. It’s during that time that reputation, reviews, and expectations matter most, which is why it’s in your business’s best interest to collect and showcase third-party reviews from September onwards.
We’ve observed that consumers leave more reviews in the second half of the year. But what types of businesses are they looking to read and write about?
In the next section, we’ll look into the categories that received the most profile views and the most reviews on our platform during the last two holiday seasons.
Consumer shopping behavior and buying patterns from the last two holiday seasons
We also took a deep dive into our global review data to identify the categories that received the most profile views and the most reviews on Trustpilot.com during the last two holiday seasons.
With our findings, we’ll forecast which industries we can expect to see do well in 2021, and which categories could be the most popular for gifting this holiday season.
The most researched categories of the 2019 and 2020 holiday season
When looking at the five most popular categories in October, November and December of 2019 and 2020, it is interesting to see that the top five industries were the same year after year.
In the final quarter of 2019 and 2020, the categories with the most profile views on Trustpilot.com were shopping and fashion, electronics and technology, money and insurance, home and garden, and entertainment, in that order.
Industries with the most profile views in Q4 2019
This comes as no surprise as some of the top holiday buys often include:
- Clothing and accessories
- Phones, headphones, sound systems and TVs
- Homeware items such as festive decorations, and tableware for entertaining
- Games, films and music for guests and family entertainment
However, it is interesting to see that money and insurance was the third most popular category in the last two holiday seasons. This could be due to consumers looking into better alternatives to manage their money while planning their holiday season shopping budget. It could also be due to consumers looking for better money and insurance providers for the new year.
Industries with the most profile views in Q4 2020
When comparing the total amount of business profile views between the last quarter of 2019 vs. 2020, we can see that the volume of traffic received in 2020 was, however, much higher than in the same period of the previous year.
This was anticipated, due to the shift in shopping patterns during the global pandemic and the lift in service and product reviews left on Trustpilot.com during the same period (as observed in the first section of this article).
Overall, looking at our consumer data, we should expect to see a continued growth in the amount of profile views in the second half of 2021.
Based on the last two years, we can forecast to see the same five categories this festive season, in the same order as the previous holiday seasons.
The most reviewed categories of the 2019 and 2020 holiday season
When we compare the categories with the most reviews in the last quarters of 2019 and 2020, they’re pretty similar for the most part.
Shopping and fashion, home and garden, and electronics and technology all make sense as top gifting, and therefore top reviewed, categories.
Service reviews by industry Q4 2019
The business services category is where we see a change. It’s the only category that changes rankings from 2019 to 2020, from the third most reviewed category in 2019 to the top reviewed category in 2020.
Service reviews by industry Q4 2020
Business services include shipping and logistics. This explains both why it’s so high up with the other gifting categories and why it saw such a huge jump in reviews in 2020.
Because most of us were forced to do our pandemic holiday shopping online, the world was relying on shipping and logistics companies a lot more than during regular holiday seasons. This category also includes office supplies – something that many of us were shopping for throughout the pandemic – as we looked to make our work from home setups more comfortable and productive.
Although we can’t be sure where business services will fall for the last quarter of 2021 – with new COVID-19 variants it’s impossible to know how many of us will be back in or out of lockdown through the next few months – it’s safe to say that the other top categories will likely remain the same.
If your industry falls into shopping and fashion, home and garden, business services, or electronics and technology you should plan on receiving a large amount of reviews towards the end of the year. We highly recommend monitoring your customer reviews during high volume times, as this can help you fix issues as you go and improve customer satisfaction.
But whether your business falls into these categories or not, you’ll need to focus on delivering great customer experiences and customer service to succeed this holiday season.
7 Strategies to help your business be prepared for success in the second half of 2021
Let’s get into the good stuff. What are the concrete ways that consumer trends are going to affect your brand in the second half of 2021? And how can you best prepare so that you can see great ROI and happier customers?
We’ve rounded up our seven biggest predictions on how brands can best position themselves for success as 2021 comes to an end.
1. A holistic approach to mobile users can only help you succeed
Each year, the amount of eCommerce sales completed on mobile devices increases. By some projections, this year’s eCommerce sales could make up for 72% of this year’s sales. As long as you provide an excellent mobile experience, your brand will be in place to benefit from this trend.
But a mobile-first world isn’t just limited to how your site looks on a mobile device – although that’s extremely important as well. SMS open rates are as high as 98% compared to just 20% of emails.
Why not let your customers opt-in for text message updates on their orders and shipping instead of just email? This is an excellent way to communicate more effectively with your customers while they wait for their order.
2. The pandemic surge in online shopping is here to stay
Although many customers will do more brick-and-mortar shopping this year than they did last year, online shopping will still be where a lot of the holiday purchases take place.
One study found that 38% of consumers still intend to do more of their shopping online, while visiting retailers that provide excellent in-store experiences. For brands that have brick-and-mortar stores, this means focusing on improving your in-store experience as much as possible.
Brands that sell both online and in-store are likely in the best position to succeed this holiday season.
3. Free shipping is a great way to stand out from the competition
More and more consumers expect free shipping.
66% of US consumers expect it on every purchase they make online and a whopping 80% expect it when ordering above a certain amount.
If you’re able to offer free shipping, this is one of the best things you can do to stay competitive at this time of year – especially to keep up with eCommerce giants such as Amazon and Walmart.
4. Shoppers still expect free and painless returns
Shopping online – where customers can’t try on or see the product in real life – means that some amount of returns are going to be inevitable.
Similar to free shipping, today’s consumers expect to be able to easily send returns, without any cost to them.
We recommend trying your best to offer this to your customers. Why? Well, because if a customer receives a product that they aren’t totally satisfied with, and need to jump through a lot of hoops to return it, they’re more likely to be dissatisfied with your customer service levels.
This could mean never shopping with you again, writing a negative review, or telling their friends and family not to buy from your brand in the future.
5. Less uncertainty means higher spending
Last year, many families were unsure of the future of the pandemic, layoffs, and more. As a result, this affected how they chose to shop for gifts, and how much they were willing to spend during the festive season.
With economies starting to bounce back and less uncertainty around the future, this isn’t as likely to be the case this year.
This means more opportunities for your brand to win business, if you provide an excellent experience and product or service for your customers.
6. Let your customers shop how they want and offer curbside pickup
As more and more consumers have gotten used to the convenience of ‘Click and Collect’ or ‘BOPIS’ – buy online pickup in-store – and curbside pickup, this will continue to be a great way for brick-and-mortar retailers to let their customers choose what kind of in-store experience they’d like to have.
If you’re not already offering this, it’s worth looking into now before the holiday rush starts. If you are offering this, look into different ways you can improve your pickup experience for shorter waiting times and a better experience for your customers.
Even small improvements can translate into large increases in customer satisfaction.
7. Supply chain delays mean an earlier start to the holiday shopping for some, and increased need for clear communication
Supply chain delays have been a big part of 2021 and they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. This means that many consumers will try and get their holiday shopping out of the way earlier than usual, to avoid delayed deliveries.
However, this could also present a potential problem for brands out there, as some customers might not think ahead and still expect their gifts on time – even if they order at the last minute.
The best way to minimize fallout with these customers is to be extremely transparent about shipping expectations. Be clear about when the last day to order – if you want to receive your gifts in time –- is, and try to keep customers in the loop as much as possible throughout the shipping process.
Customers are often understanding about waiting times, as long as you’ve communicated this beforehand. If you overpromise and underperform – leaving customers unexpectedly empty-handed on Christmas day – you’re likely to get more negative reviews, and never see those customers again.
Consumers will be looking for ease of use this holiday season
If the last two holiday seasons have shown us anything, it is that reviews and online shopping are continuing to grow year on year, partly because of the shopping behavior shift we all witnessed in 2020 and 2021 due to the global pandemic, but also because of the need for ease of use and convenience (avoiding crowded shops, home delivery, easy return policies, more product or service choice…). And although many customers could opt for brick-and-mortar shopping this year, online shopping will still be where a lot of the holiday purchases take place.
Business services, shopping and fashion, electronics and technology, money and insurance, home and garden, and entertainment were the most researched and reviewed types of businesses on Trustpilot.com during the last two festive seasons. Whether your business is part of these industries or not, your success in the last quarter of the year will be strongly influenced by some of the strategic choices you make.
And with a lot of people willing to spend higher amounts this year, our top tip to be prepared for the busiest time of the year is to continue to provide great experiences to everyone.
- Continue to offer ease of use: think free shipping and free returns, as shipping or return costs are some of the top reasons for cart abandonment, especially at this time of year.
- Omni-channel experiences are key. Offering a seamless experience from shop to mobile or desktop is more likely to convert shoppers as today’s consumers like to navigate through different channels before making a purchase. In fact, marketers using three or more channels in any one campaign earned a 287% higher purchase rate than those using a single-channel campaign.
- Communicate clearly and set expectations before purchase. This is especially important during the last quarter of the year, when consumers are in a rush, or looking to get their orders before a set date. Set expectations straight away. This can be done through your website, social media or via email marketing too.
It’s become apparent that today more than ever, consumers need to be able to trust in the brands they shop with. Finding ways to implement our seven strategic tips will give your brand the best chance to succeed this holiday season, alongside a strong review strategy.
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