In 2019, Thanksgiving Day ecommerce sales reached $4.13 billion. This year, eMarketer expects the figure to hit $6.21 billion as a growing list of retailers including Walmart, Target and Best Buy announce Thanksgiving Day store closures.

EMarketer’s latest report explores holiday marketing trends through interviews with executives from Banana Republic, Norwegian Cruise Line and more about their holiday shopping learnings and how they’ve adapted to consumers’ evolving digital behavior.

Even with the ability to shop in-store this year, retail ecommerce sales are projected to grow and comprise 18.9 percent of total holiday retail sales – an increase from 17.5 percent last year–according to eMarketer’s data. 

Retailers offered online promotions earlier than usual last year in order to maximize holiday sales, and the digital push will likely set off an earlier holiday season again. Amazon, for example, postponed Prime Day to October, causing other retailers to introduce promotions at the same time, thereby expanding the traditional holiday shopping period.

According to Banana Republic’s vice president and head of stores, Jen Mullen, last year Banana Republic focused on its online presence and ensured customers could shop for every family member in a single online session. This year, the retailer is focused on utilizing online services to get the customer back to in-person shopping. Mullen tells eMarketer that 2021 will see more one-day deals and more excitement generated around weekend activities to entice people to visit brick-and-mortar locations.

Guitar Center’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Jeannine D’Addario, said the music retailer is meeting market demands this holiday season by offering “more than just the instrument” to individuals who are purchasing an instrument for the first time. The retailer engages in meaningful dialogue with customers across its social channels with the understanding that the musical journey is about sharing, talking about it, gaining insights and learning from others, according to D’Addario.

The National Retail Federation originally estimated that total consumer retail spending in 2021 would reach $4.33 trillion, a 6.5 percent growth. In light of increased consumer spending, NRF raised their estimate to between 10.5 percent and 13.5 percent YoY growth. According to Ali Haeri, MNTN’s vice president of marketing, this heightened expectation comes with greater competition. He said that advertisers must add connected TV – with a focus on direct-response performance – to refine their strategies, differentiate themselves from the competition and deliver strong ad performance. 

Haeri’s suggestion to invest in CTV comes as 49 percent of streaming television viewers prefer a low-cost ad-supported mode and as Apple’s iOS 14.5 update reduces the effectiveness of audience targeting and measurement.

During its 16 months in port, Norwegian Cruise Line launched a holiday campaign called “Break Free” to address consumers’ desire to “break free” from the pandemic. Isis Ruiz, the company’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said Norwegian will be leaning into that approach even more in Q4 2021 with a big Black Friday campaign as people start socializing and planning vacations.

In addition, Norwegian’s 2021 holiday campaign will focus on activities travelers can look forward to, including reunions, planned vacations or the planning of future vacations. Online streaming and visuals via social media will be two core elements of the cruise line’s holiday campaign, according to Ruiz. 

eMarketer spoke with the Boston Red Sox chief marketing officer Adam Grossman to learn how the team engages with fans during the holiday season and the offseason. Given that the World Series ends as the holiday season begins, Grossman notes that the Sox must tailor their holiday messaging to capitalize on the celebration depending on whether they’ve won or lost. 

Keeping fans engaged during the offseason is another story – content creation is at a minimum as they focus on “Gift of Sox,” a campaign that involves thanking fans, granting wishes and having fun with the community. During the pandemic, the post-season also saw cookie-making lessons for families. In addition to its focus on service, the Sox team highly prioritizes digital marketing and personalizing the experience for each fan. The Christmas at Fenway event, for example, is the first time tickets go on sale for the following season, giving the Sox an opportunity to offer loyal fans choice seats and games.