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COVID-19 and the 2020 Online Holiday Shopping Season

What will COVID-19 mean to the online holiday shopping season? We compiled data to help eTailers see how it has and will continue to impact retail.

Kelly McNulty
Kelly McNulty

Aug 10, 2020

Many companies have closed, possibly permanently, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And a staggering number of people have lost jobs. Retail has been particularly hard hit. Recovery worldwide is predicted to be slow. And what will happen next is a moving target as far as its impact and consumer reactions.

Is there any brightness in the gloom? For eTailers, yes. As early as May, surveys showed that shoppers were buying more online, including items they hadn’t bought online before. In August, Market Watch reported that, while US “Retail sales haven’t returned all the way to pre-crisis levels… they are surprisingly close ….”1 And in late July, the New York Times reported signs of hope for the European economy.2

With the pandemic and its impacts in mind, we took a look at what the 2020 online holiday shopping season might have in store for online retailers.

COVID-19 Pushed Shoppers Online Early in Pandemic

We first took a look at the pandemic’s impact on consumers’ shopping habits in general.

Adobe in its Adobe Digital Economy Index in June 2020, found that from April to May 2020, eCommerce shopping was greater than for the entire 2019 holiday shopping season from November to December.3

That finding is reflected in some eye-opening stats from Statista in May. It asked consumers in Germany, the UK, and the US if they’d purchased items online instead of offline due to COVID-19. All percentages were positive. That means consumers in all three countries were buying more items online instead of off.4

  • Percentages were highest in the US where 27% of consumers purchased hygiene items and 27% purchased clothing online instead of off.
  • In Germany, 13% purchased hygiene items and 25% purchased clothing online instead of off.
  • And in the UK, 21% purchased hygiene items and 24% purchased clothing online instead of off.

And eMarketer in its “Global eCommerce 2020: Ecommerce Decelerates Amid Global Retail Contraction but Remains a Bright Spot” report, predicts only a slight decline in its former forecast for global eCommerce growth in 2020 — down to 16.5% from 18.4%.5 Comparatively, it backed its forecast for retail growth overall back 10%.

Online Holiday Shopping Season Predictions for 2020

The shift to online shopping isn’t predicted to stop. That holds promise for online retailers this holiday season as do findings from other surveys.

Salesforce predicts that because of COVID as much as 30% of global retail sales will be done online this holiday.6

Another Statista survey shows that 49% of US consumers are more interested in shopping online this holiday.7

Similarly, in July, Radial found that 66% of shoppers plan to spend more of their holiday dollars online in 2020.8 Radial also found that shoppers don’t plan on spending less this year than in 2019.8

And, in keeping with the trend for consumers to buy items online instead of off, a Voxware survey found that 62% of shoppers intend to buy more stocking stuffer-type items and last-minute gifts online in 2020.9

More than Consumer Behaviors Is Changing

Other changes are afoot too. Changes that will impact 2020 holiday shopping.

Black Friday is typically a US brick-and-mortar event, but it’s also increasingly common in Europe. It looks to go away — at least for this year in the US. US retailers Target, Macy’s, Foot Locker, JCPenney, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Best Buy have all announced that they’ll close stores on Black Friday. It has yet to be seen if European retailers will follow. But there’s no indication that online retailers will close on Black Friday.

Additionally, Amazon didn’t hold Prime day in the US in July as usual. Speculation is that Prime Day for the US will happen in October. Amazon hasn’t announced an official day. If the company does hold it in October, it might signal an early start to the holiday shopping season with consumers vying for deals earlier than ever.

Salesforce thinks that an October Prime Day could shift 10% of holiday sales away from Cyber Monday to Prime Day.6

Potential Opportunity Means Potential Challenges

Despite the huge opportunity for eTailers as shoppers shift more of their money online, there are potential challenges too.

Savvy brick-and-mortar and omnichannel retailers that are prepared to move their focus online will mean added competition for pure eCommerce shops. Those retailers had to prepare or perish starting in March when COVID-19 hit. Many had to rapidly adapt to online channels and new ways of doing business — giving them a headstart online for the holidays.

Shipping challenges could also prove problematic. Salesforce predicts that parcel providers could exceed capacity as the holidays approach and jeopardize gifts arriving on time.6

A second wave of the virus and new lockdowns may affect supply chains as well. You can find tips for protecting your supply chain and your business in “How Will Coronavirus Affect Your Global Supply Chain?

What Can You Do as an eTailer this Online Holiday Shopping Season?

In the end, this holiday season will belong to prepared, agile eTailers. Those who are ready to pivot and outsmart competitors as well as shipping and supply chain issues.

It will also belong to eTailers who plan ahead and get in front of consumers to maintain market share.

In its “2020 Retail Guide: Drive Sales and Reach More Customers with Google,” Google’s number 1 recommendation to eTailers is to remain visible this holiday season.10 eTailers can do that with the right mix of search, shopping, and display marketing.

Experts also agree that preparing early is critical. Finch and Google want to help you prepare and invite you to a virtual conference, on navigating the opportunities and challenges of COVID-19 this holiday. Join us and learn tips and tricks for getting ahead this holiday.

How to Navigate the Opportunities and Challenges of COVID-19 This Holiday

Join Finch and Google for “Navigating the eComm Holiday Season During COVID-19: A Virtual Conference with Finch and Google” to learn how to work through the challenges and opportunities COVID-19 brings to the 2020 holiday shopping season.


1 The U.S. economy took another body blow from Covid-19 in July. But just how bad was it?, MarketWatch, August 8, 2020,

2 Despite Historic Plunge, Europe’s Economy Flashes Signs of Recovery, New York Times, July 31, 2020,

3 Adobe Digital Economy Index, Adobe, June 2020,

4 Have you deliberately purchased any of these products or services online instead of offline because of the COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic? (as of May 31, 2020), Statista, May 31, 2020,

5 Global Ecommerce 2020 Report, eMarketer, June 22, 2020,

6 How COVID-19 Will Shape the 2020 Holiday Season: 5 Predictions on the Future of Retail, Salesforce, July 30, 2020,

7 Compared to last year, how interested are you in shopping for the holidays in the following ways?, Statistica, June 23, 2020,

8 “Retailers Get Ready: Survey Shows COVID-19 Impact Hasn’t Disrupted Consumer Holiday Shopping Plans” MarTech Series, July 8, 2020,

9 “Voxware Survey Finds COVID-19’s Impact on Consumer Holiday Shopping Behaviors Will Strain Distribution Operations,” Businesswire, June 25, 2020,

10 2020 Retail Guide: Drive Sales and Reach More Customers with Google, Google, July 20, 2020,

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