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The When, Where & How of Christmas Shopping 2021

The When, Where & How of Christmas Shopping 2021


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After yet another unusual year, most of us are looking forward to a Christmas that’s at least closer to ‘normal’ than last year. But for e-commerce retailers, what will that look like? Here’s a quick rundown of the ‘when’, ‘where’, and ‘how’ of Christmas shopping in 2021.

When Will Consumers Start Christmas Shopping? ⏰

It’s a trick question 😈 They’ve already started.

We’ve got some eager beavers on our hands. According to Marks & Spencer, nearly half of all shoppers are expecting to have finished their Christmas shopping by the end of November.

This may be down to a combination of factors. One is the extra excitement for Christmas to return to its old glory after the dark times of Covid 19. Another is fears over supply chain issues following the UK’s exit from the EU and as a delayed result of the global pandemic. Either way, consumers are demanding Christmas, and they’re demanding it earlier than ever before.

woman stands under an umbrella in the rain, holding an marks and spencer shopping bag
M&S have shared their crimbo shopping wisdom.

One thing is for sure, most are planning for this year to be much bigger and better than last year’s restricted festivities.

Where Are People Christmas Shopping? 🛍

Footfall in physical shops still hasn’t recovered to pre-pandemic levels, falling 13.7% compared to 2019.

At the same time, and perhaps obviously, the digital shopping world is expanding fast. Adweek suggests that the roles of stores and digital are reversing. Consumers are turning to online shopping as a means to window shop, while in-store visits are becoming more intent-based and transactional. In other words, a quick in and out job, no browsing necessary. This effect is hastened by the rising popularity of services like ‘in-store pick up’ options at e-commerce checkout. When it comes to high street interactions, the name of the game is convenience.

The high street is dying out even quicker thanks to the Covid 19 pandemic.

In contrast, online shopping is developing into a much more personalisable, immersive, and entertaining all-around experience. Think virtual try-on features, how-to videos, C-com messaging systems, social media shopping tabs, influencer and user-generated content integrated into product pages. Grand View Research estimate that social commerce represented 11% of global retail e-commerce revenue in 2020, generating $474 billion.

Personalised recommendations and curated inspiration are becoming more and more central to the online shopping experience, highlighting the value of targeted ads to digital marketing strategies now more than ever.

The short version of the story remains:  

48% of consumers in the UK plan to shop exclusively online in the run-up to Christmas 2021. A survey of more than 1,000 consumers by recommendation platform Outbrain revealed that only 6% of consumers plan to shop exclusively in-store

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How Can Your Brand Prepare? 🛒

Step by step, here’s what you should be prioritising to ensure the festive rush runs smoothly for your e-commerce business.

Connect Across the Funnel

Connect with both new and existing customers across multiple platform touchpoints, from Google ads to Facebook and Instagram, to email marketing lists. It’s best to do this well ahead of time.

Lead generation campaigns can also be beneficial for connecting with potential consumers who’ll be the most receptive to seasonal promotions and products ahead of time.

Stock Control

With shipping delays and container shortages worldwide following the global pandemic and increased demand, stock is a genuine challenge for all retailers this year.

By now, your inventory should be stocked up with your most popular items for the gifting period. Work with what you have and don’t make promises you can’t fulfil. Stay in close contact with suppliers to avoid long waits while items are “out-of-stock”, or “coming soon”, which can cause customer frustration.

Customer Experience

Make sure your website is optimised to provide the best possible shopping experience. We’re talking speed and convenience. The path from first impression to purchase should be seamless, providing as few reasons to abandon a purchase as possible.

According to bigcommerce, 70% of consumers said page speed affects their decision to buy from an online retailer. Have your web developers test your site speeds ahead of time to avoid any hiccups during the festive period.

High volume traffic periods mean more customer queries to deal with. While you can’t please everyone, having hassle-free, easily accessible customer service on-hand is a great way to minimise major bumps in the road.


Once a consumer has left your site without purchasing, don’t assume they’re a lost cause. This is where remarketing comes in. If they’re signed up to your email list, hit them with a browse or cart abandonment email to their inbox, making sure they don’t forget about you. These can even be incentivised with discounts or shipping offers for that extra push to purchase.

Alternatively, hit a warm audience with retargeting ads on paid social channels. These can be dynamic, pulling through the exact product(s) the consumer has left behind for extra personalised impact.
Christmas 2021 is set to be the most competitive to date for the e-commerce market. Rise to the challenge and establish a brand identity and trusting consumer relationships that help you stand out from the crowd. The way to do this is with a winning digital marketing strategy. That’s where DMT come in. Explore the rest of the site to find out about our services in PPC, paid social and email marketing, and drop us a line via our ‘get in touch’ page 👋