Peak Season 2021 Preview: This is consumers’ status quo leading up to the biggest sales events of the year

Peak Season 2021 is rapidly approaching. All during Peak, AfterPay Insights is here to support you with in-depth insights into how consumers plan to shop. Our Peak Season series contains e-commerce forecasts for Halloween, Singles’ Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas as well as overall updates of e-commerce developments along the way. And we have now added British consumers to our research, meaning we are able to publish market specific prognoses for the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom from here on out.

This blog kicks off AfterPay Insights’ 'Peak Season 2021' series with a view of the current status quo of consumer attitudes that correlate with their purchase intentions and online shopping behavior as these could impact their Peak Season shopping intentions this year. These aspects are related to working from home as well as worries about health and finances. We also dive into what currently drives consumers to shop online and what holds them back. What can merchants consider to attract even more customers this peak season? And finally, we give you a preview of consumers’ shopping intentions for Halloween, Singles’ Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Which event is currently most popular among consumers? Read on to find out!

Consumers’ worries are currently stable and minimally impact their shopping behavior

Our survey results indicate that consumers’ levels of worry about their health are similar in the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom. This is relevant for e-commerce as we see that worries about health correlate with e-commerce growth: as consumers are more worried, they (are forced to) shift purchases from brick-and-mortar stores to online channels.

However, consumers’ worries about their health are currently stable at a level of 30-35% of consumers and minimally impact their online shopping behavior. We do want to note that it is likely that consumers’ worries about their health are influenced by daily pandemic statistics, measures taken by governments in response to increasing or decreasing infection numbers, and by subsequent media coverage of these events. As the current status quo changes, consumers’ worries will probably follow suit and potentially impact their Peak Season shopping.

An aspect that is correlated to consumers’ worries about their health, and a direct result of abovementioned broader societal developments, is the concept of working from home. We hypothesize that this way of working also contributes to changes in shopping patterns, although the percentage of consumers’ who work from home is currently becoming less and less. In the Netherlands, 26% of consumers currently work from home (from 40% in January ’21), in Germany 20% work from home (compared to 31% in January ’21), but in Norway the corresponding shift is less, from 32% in January ’21 to 30% in September ‘21. Should the share of consumers’ who work from home dramatically change, this could have an impact on consumers’ Peak Season shopping behavior.

When it comes to consumers’ worries about their financial situation, we see no significant changes over time, although we can ascertain that these worries are currently at a similar level (35-40%) als consumers’ worries about their health. These worries are currently unlikely to impact consumers’ Peak Season shopping more than other factors.

Convenience continues to be the main driver for shopping online

Just before Peak Season, the main attractive force for consumers to shop online is convenience, explicitly that the internet is ‘open for business’ 24/7 and that the selection of products is larger online. Better prices online and a more fun and engaging shopping experience are also key in attracting consumers to shop through online channels.

Opposite the attractive forces of online shopping are also the forces that more or less force consumers to shop online. According to Dutch, German, Norwegian and British consumers, most impactful in this regard are that they spend more time at home, they like to avoid physical encounters with others and that they have less access to physical stores due to where they live.

In all, ~80% of consumers indicate that 24/7 accessibility, product selection and availability, better prices and a fun, engaging shopping experience are they main reasons for shopping online. Merchants can play into this in their upcoming Peak Season campaigns to attract even more customers.

When looking at the drivers per country, we see earlier identified geographical shopping patterns shine through. In Norway, cheaper prices are a stronger attractive force than in the other countries, confirming one of our earlier findings that Norwegian shoppers have higher demands when it comes to merchants offering the lowest prices. And among consumers in the United Kingdom, the push to online as a result of being at home more is likely a result of British shoppers working from home more than Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers. For Dutch consumers, the push to online as a result of low access to physical stores is likely lowest due to its high population density.

Looking at the barriers for shopping online in September 2021, we see that the innate attraction to brick-and-mortar stores is a key hurdle for consumers (58-67%) to increase online purchases in all four countries, roughly split 50/50 over better prices/assortment/service in physical stores and the desire to support physical stores/visit physical stores to get out of home.

Sneak Peek: Black Friday continues to reign as King of Sales in 2021

32-41% of German, Norwegian and British consumers state they will purchase on Black Friday in 2021. The share of consumers who intend to shop on Black Friday in the Netherlands is lower at 26%. This may be attributed to the fact that a smaller share of Dutch consumers is aware of Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) than in Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, we can conclude that Black Friday will likely be the biggest sales event of Peak Season ’21 in all four countries in terms of purchase numbers – a similar prognosis to the one we made in 2020.

But how do consumers plan to distribute their purchases over online and offline channels before and during Peak? Which product categories are most popular during the specific sales events? We will aim to answer these and more questions about consumers’ shopping attitudes and behavior in the upcoming Peak Season 2021 forecast.

What is next?

Liked this sneak peek at consumers’ Peak Season shopping intentions? We have lots more coming, with first up an in-depth analysis of consumers’ shopping intentions over the coming months. Stay tuned!