• Media Consumption & Trends

What Brands and Retailers Need To Know About The 2021 U.S. Holiday Shopping Season [New Report]

Matt Kaplan
Matt Kaplan
Content Strategist
6 min read
Posted on September 10, 2021
What Brands and Retailers Need To Know About The 2021 U.S. Holiday Shopping Season [New Report]

The U.S. holiday shopping season in 2021 will be unlike any other in recent memory. So what can the retail industry do in order to see success this holiday season? 

To help brands and retailers in the United States navigate what’s likely to be an unusual winter holiday season, we have created a new playbook, 2021 Holiday Shopping: What Brands and Retailers Need to Know.  

Here, we outline what businesses and marketers should expect between November and December this year, and how they can best position themselves and their media plans for success during this always critical period of the year.  

Grab your complimentary copy of our retail holiday shopping playbook


Here’s what is included in our holiday guide: 

  • How consumers are planning to shop, and what this means for a wide range of brands and retailers. 
  • Why Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday sales events and even Thanksgiving Day plans will be more important than ever this year. 
  • How to reach holiday shoppers, and why mobile will be key to engaging with consumers. 
  • Insights on the advertising and marketing messaging that’s most likely to resonate with consumers this year. 
  • Key shopping and retail insights you definitely need to know, including around expected retail sales growth and in-store sales. 
  • Information on what a successful holiday shopping campaign will look like in 2021. 
  • Top takeaways for both retailers and brands this holiday season. 
  • How to get started on a winning advertising and marketing campaign that’s sure to yield results. 


“The 2021 holidays will stand in stark contrast with the 2020 season. Certain behaviors will look like the mirror image of last year, while others will carry forward—and even strengthen—in the post-pandemic economy. Figuring out what those behaviors are and planning accordingly can put retailers ahead of the curve.” – Andrew Lipsman, eMarketer Principal Analyst, Insider Intelligence 

Sneek Peak Of Our Holiday Shopping Playbook 

For a preliminary look at this new guide, enjoy this preview! 

Understanding Consumer Sentiment 

Is America ready to go back to its old shopping routines? All signs point to yes. 

In fact, when we polled over 2,300 adults across the U.S. in August 2021, 66% said they were already shopping in person. Similarly, 61% of shoppers said they were already browsing for retail purchases in person by that point. 

While the overall picture for in-person shopping looks rosy, it's critical to note that the recovery, the path back to normalcy, will look different across sectors. While some categories are in the midst of a full reset back to pre-pandemic norms (such as big box retailers), others have a long road ahead of them (especially luxury brands and retailers). 

Some habits that were established during the pandemic are here to stay. Consider the role of curbside pickup and BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store). All signs point to consumers continuing to enjoy the convenience of these kinds of options. Post pandemic, 59% say they will continue using curbside pickup options. 

Many consumers will continue to shop online even as in-person shopping becomes more and more possible. Over half of Americans increased in-app ordering during the pandemic, with 84% expecting to sustain this level of usage post-pandemic.  

Close to half of all Americans were shopping online in May 2021, with 52% saying they will continue to use e-commerce at the same rate throughout the rest of the year. And among younger Americans, 59% of those between 18 and 35 are continuing to shop online. 

So what does this all mean for retailers planning their 2021 holiday shopping season plans? 

  1. Consumers will want to shop in stores. Most shoppers are already making in-person purchases, and that will continue to be the case during the last months of the year. 
  2. E-commerce and curbside pickup will be popular with many consumers, especially those looking to avoid the rush, get a good deal or make purchases last minute. 
  3. It seems likely that many consumers will be ready to spend big money on their first post-pandemic holiday, but that's far from guaranteed should many Americans find themselves unemployed or underemployed by the second half of the year. 

Key Insights You Need To Know 

  • 37% of Americans say the learn about retailer app availability through mobile ads. 
  • 56% of ALL consumers intended to use BOPIS after Covid. 
  • 39% of adults in the U.S. are likely or highly likely to use a retail mobile app in the future. 
  • As of May, 74% of Americans said they were already making retail purchases in person at brick-and-mortar stores – including 80% of Americans over 55 and 83% of suburban shoppers. 
  • 49% use third-party platforms to make retail purchases right now – up to 53% for men, 59% for Americans between 18 and 34, and 50% of people living in urban centers. 

Like what you’re reading so far? There’s a whole lot more where that came from! Be sure to get your complimentary copy of InMobi’s new playbook, 2021 Holiday Shopping: What Brands and Retailers Need to Know, for even more great insights. 


How Will 2021 Holiday Retail Sales Differ From 2020 Holiday Shopping Trends? 

In the lead-up to the 2020 holiday shopping season, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicted that total retail sales would be between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion.  

And what actually happened? Total retail holiday sales in the U.S. were greater than $1 trillion, eMarketer reported. To say that last year consumers shopped more than expected would be an understatement! 

So what does that mean for this year? Should retailers and brands expect major year over year growth in 2021? According to eMarketer, holiday retail sales are expected to rise by an additional 2.7% in 2021, with e-commerce sales predicted to increase by over 11% this winter season. 

With so much on the line and yet so much in flux, it’s critical for brands and retailers to get things right this holiday shopping season. We at InMobi are here to help. Our new playbook, 2021 Holiday Shopping: What Brands and Retailers Need to Know, will ensure you are well prepared and ready to weather any storm during this always crucial part of the year. 


Kickstart Your 2021 Holiday Shopping With InMobi 

Interested in kicking off your holiday shopping season on the right foot? Reach out to InMobi! Get in touch with our mobile experts by sending us a note at efficientbuying@inmobi.com

As the leading experts in mobile, InMobi can help you execute a successful advertising and marketing campaign this holiday season that reaches consumers at scale through their most-used device. 

What do you think the 2021 holiday shopping season will look like, and what will brands and retailers need to do in order to see success this year? Let us know your thoughts on the topic on social media! You can reach out to us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook or Instagram

About the Author    

Matthew Kaplan has over a decade of digital marketing experience, working to support the content goals of the world’s biggest B2B and B2C brands. He is a passionate app user and evangelist, working to support diverse marketing campaigns across devices. 

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