4 min.
What will holiday shopping look like this year?
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What will holiday shopping look like this year?

Business Strategy Paid Media & SEM E-commerce

The health situation has had a major impact on consumers’ buying habits. Endless line-ups outside stores and social distancing have forced people to look towards online shopping and home delivery. As we demonstrated in a study published this spring, electronic commerce in Quebec has grown by 118% since the pandemic began in March. The question that’s now on all our minds is: what will happen over the holidays, the biggest shopping season of the year?

The holiday period alone can sometimes represent up to 65% of Quebec retailers’ annual revenue. How can these businesses adapt to the changing user journey and keep sales levels as high as in previous years?

Concretely, in-store sales will still exist, however the proportion of revenue they drive will very likely diminish in favour of online sales. Before making a trip to a store users will get into the habit of doing more research, to minimize the number of places they have to visit. Users will pay particular attention to price and most of all, to where products are available. We’ll see shoppers coming into stores better informed about products, as well as reduced shopping times.

Current Canadian consumer behaviour by the numbers:

  • 77% of consumers plan to consolidate their shopping to make fewer trips.
  • 65% of consumers are spending less time in stores than usual.
  • 58% of consumers search for products or promotions online before going to a store.
  • 59% of Canadian consumers plan to confirm their purchases online before going to stores.
  • 34% of consumers go online to find the best products and see whether they’re available in stores.
  • 33% of Canadian consumers indicate that social distancing makes in-store shopping more difficult.
  • 20% of consumers look for any possible way of picking up their purchases without going into a store.
  • 18% consider how busy it is before going into a store.
  • 31% of Canadian consumers plan to buy more gift cards than last year.
    (Source: Google Commissioned Ipsos Covid-19 tracker, June 25-28 & Google Holiday Insights October 2020)


User behaviour is evolving rapidly in unpredictable ways

To adapt your marketing strategy to this change in consumer behaviour, there are a few things you’ll need to consider.

Delivery times

If you’ve ordered anything online over the past few months, you’ve probably suffered through long delivery times. According to the Journal de Montréal, nearly 40% of Canada Post deliveries arrived late over the past several months. This data is worrying in the current situation and will definitely have an impact on holiday shopping, where savvy shoppers will make sure to make their purchases well in advance.

Delivery times are even more impacted when products are coming from outside Canada. Given these challenges, major parcel delivery companies such as Canada Post, FedEx, Intelcom, UPS and Purolator recently announced that they would be suspending their delivery guarantees.

“Canada Post’s on-time delivery guarantee has been suspended until further notice. Private companies FedEx, UPS and Purolator have done the same for all or some of their services.”

Source: Protégez-vous

Shopping local

New border security rules, delivery delays and a collective awareness of the importance of supporting local business are inciting more Quebecers to buy local. Quebec retailers who are able to successfully list their available inventory in real time will undoubtedly be one step ahead of the competition.


Limited inventory

Have you tried to buy anything new in recent months? If so, you may have noticed that you weren’t able to find the colour or size you wanted. That’s to be expected, since the supply chain for retail stores has also been impacted by the pandemic. Consumers are now aware of this new reality and will likely do their shopping in advance this year to ensure they are able to find the products they’re looking for.

We are already starting to see trends emerge when it comes to early holiday shopping. As indicated in the graph below, searches related to holiday shopping are up 190% over last year.

Search volume index for “Idées cadeaux”


BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store)

Shoppers are looking to avoid going into stores by any means possible. This has led to the recent emergence of the BOPIS model, a hybrid that blends online and in-store shopping. This way of shopping allows consumers to avoid the fees and time delays associated with delivery.

If you’re a retailer, we strongly recommend that you offer in-store pickup if you want to remain competitive. And of course it goes without saying that this should be communicated on your website and through your media initiatives.

If you’re interested in learning more about how stores have adapted to the new consumer reality, read the story of Walmart, whose stores are currently being redesigned with the pandemic in mind.



The conclusion of all this? Be ready earlier this year, and think about analyzing your users’ behaviour. We are living in a new reality, and it’s here to stay.

To make sure your media campaigns are ready to go, download our holiday checklist.

If you have questions specific to your industry, don’t wait, contact us now.