Archive for October, 2020

Five Illuminating Holiday Shopping Predictions for Retailers

Five Illuminating Holiday Shopping Predictions for Retailers

Black Friday traditionally begins the day following Thanksgiving and is considered the kickoff to the holiday shopping season. Neither is the case this year. It’s not breaking news that COVID-19 has dramatically altered life for most people, but how the pandemic will impact the holiday shopping season is still unfolding. By now everyone knows that stay-at-home mandates, in-store capacity restrictions, and fear of contagion have caused a spike in e-commerce. This alone creates a new factor for holiday shopping because retailers are no longer reacting to this reality; they have had time to adapt and modify their holiday marketing strategies. To help shed light on what to expect this season, Adobe Analytics analyzed over a trillion visits to 80 of the top 100 U.S. retail websites, along with sales of more than 100 million unique products. Based on findings from the 38-page report, Channel Key has outlined the five most illuminating data-driven predictions for the 2020 holiday shopping season.

1. Online Holiday Shopping Will Shatter Records in 2020

In 2019, online sales in the U.S. totaled $142.5 billion, a 13% increase from 2018. This year, the number will skyrocket. According to Adobe Analytics, the online holiday season is forecast to break all its past growth records to top $189 billion, a whopping 33% YoY spike. Other reports are corroborating this estimate, including an October projection by software company Salesforce that forecasts a 34% surge in e-commerce for the 2020 season. These figures suggest that nearly a third of all holiday sales this year will take place online. All this is great news for retail companies that have shifted their marketing strategies to e-commerce platforms.

2. Black Friday Will Be Black November

One of the key differences this year is that holiday shopping began more than a month ahead of schedule. This is primarily due to the timing of Amazon Prime Day, which was pushed back to October because of the pandemic. The highly anticipated event generated more than $10 billion in 48 hours and brought customers into an early holiday shopping spirit. Just days after Prime Day, Amazon continued this momentum with its Holiday Dash promotion, offering Black Friday-esque sales through November 19. Other major retailers have followed suit by not only launching holiday sales much earlier this year, but by shifting many of them online. For example, Walmart is dividing its traditional Black Friday sale into three events across November, two of which begin on Lowe’s is currently running Cyber Steals, an online-only promotion that offers one-day deals on selected items through December 2. Meanwhile, Target is taking a new approach by offering Black Friday Now deals throughout the entire month of November.

3. Curbside Pickup and BOPIS Will Soar

Many customers who prefer the traditional brick-and-mortar Black Friday experience will buy online but pick up their purchases curbside or in-store. According to Adobe Analytics, the buy online and pick-up in-store (BOPIS) option is expected to grow 40% YoY as customers seek to avoid large crowds and shipping costs. Adobe projects that 19% of shoppers will choose BOPIS this season, compared to only 4% in 2019. Additional evidence to support this is the sudden rise in curbside pickup and delivery services offered by grocery retailers. Amazon recently announced free, one-hour grocery pickup at Whole Foods for Prime members, Walmart announced a partnership with delivery service Instacart, and Target announced an expansion of pickup services nationwide. With more customers becoming comfortable and familiar with curbside grocery pickup, it’s safe to assume this shopping behavior will transfer to holiday purchases.

4. Black Friday and Cyber Monday Total Sales Will Spike 50%

While this season’s Black Friday event will be spread throughout November, actual Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are forecast to crush previous records. Despite an early start to the holiday shopping season, the tradition of visiting brick-and-mortar retailers in search of amazing deals is engrained into the shopping behavior of millions of U.S. consumers. This habit may prove a difficult one to break, and customers will likely be hungry for savings on Black Friday – even if they opt to find them online. In fact, the shopping momentum that occurs on Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday has become its own event known as Cyber Five, which is expected to skyrocket this year. Adobe predicts Black Friday 2020 to break last year’s record of $7.4 billion by 39% to reach $10.3 billion. As for Cyber Monday, which totaled $7.9 billion in 2019, online retailers can expect to rake in $12.7 billion in a single 24-hour period.

5. The Election Will Briefly Distract Holiday Shoppers

Another factor to consider this holiday shopping season is politics. With the U.S. presidential election on November 3, combined with a contentious and charged campaign season, the verdict is still out as to how shoppers will respond. Traditionally, elections have caused a distraction among shoppers. According to Adobe, the day following the 2016 presidential election saw a 14% decline in sales compared to a non-election year, while the day after the 2018 congressional midterms saw a 6% drop. Despite a probable short-term decline in consumer spending immediately following the election this year, online holiday spending is likely to resume its elevated 2020 path as retailers leverage the anticipation of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.


By all accounts, the 2020 holiday shopping season will set numerous records. The Adobe Analytics report is just the latest research to shine a bright light on an otherwise gloomy year. There is another important factor, however, that can’t be measured by data. It’s too abstract, yet just as real as any statistic or metric. It’s the common thread that runs through the veins of every American – a genuine feeling of hope that has helped carry us as a country through profound setbacks and challenges time and time again. Americans are resilient people, divided on many fronts, but all currently struggling in one way or another through the same pandemic that has transformed life as we know it. If there’s one thing to celebrate this holiday season, it’s that we’ve made it through a very difficult year. This alone is a victory. As the holidays approach, Channel Key predicts this underlying optimism will be the driving force of a shopping season that benefits both customers and retailers; not because we want to shower our family and friends with gifts, but rather, because we want to close out 2020 on a celebratory high note. That is, after all, the best way to ring in a new year.

About Channel Key

Channel Key is a full-service channel management marketplace consulting agency that has helped generate $250M in Amazon sales for retail brands around the world. Complete 360-degree services include marketplace strategies, content development, marketing and advertising, catalog management, marketplace and fulfillment setup, ongoing consulting, and much more. To learn about how Channel Key can help increase sales for your business, contact us today for a free consultation.


The Race to Capture Online Grocery Sales Heats Up

The Race to Capture Online Grocery Sales Heats Up

The name Piggly Wiggly might not mean much to shoppers today, but anyone who’s visited a grocery store in the past 100 years has experienced its impact. The first Piggly Wiggly opened in 1916 and revolutionized grocery shopping by introducing the self-serve supermarket. Previously, customers handed their shopping lists to a clerk who would then fetch the items. The Piggly Wiggly model reduced lines, cut prices, and quickly became the new normal.

Fast forward to 2020 and another revolution is taking place. COVID-19 has changed the way many people shop, and that includes groceries. Data from Inmar Intelligence shows that nearly eight out of ten consumers have purchased groceries online during the pandemic, a 19% boost from 2019. Mercatus reports that online grocery sales in the U.S. increased from $1.2 billion in August 2019 to $7.2 billion in June 2020. With this surge in supermarket e-commerce, retailers are competing to capture online grocery sales – and the race is heating up.

Grocery Retailers are Adapting to the Rise in E-Commerce

As you might expect, the largest online retailer in the world is charging full speed ahead. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Amazon expanded pick-up options at Whole Foods to more than 150 locations. In September, the retail giant opened Amazon Fresh to the public, its first high-tech grocery store designed to offer a seamless shopping experience with Alexa features, smart shopping carts, and clerk-less checkout aisles. Then, in October, Amazon announced free, one-hour grocery pickup at all Whole Foods locations in the U.S. for Prime members who place orders totaling $35 or more.

Walmart is not taking these advancements in stride. As the largest grocery retailer in the U.S., Walmart had been trailing Amazon in online grocery sales until this year. According to TABS Analytics’ 8th Annual Food and Beverage Consumables Study, Walmart surpassed Amazon in its total share of online grocery transactions with 30% (compared to Amazon’s 27%). Continuing this momentum, the retail giant announced in August that it had partnered with Instacart to offer same-day delivery in sample markets across California and in Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, Target and Kroger are also ramping up efforts. Accounting for about 11% of online grocery sales, Target announced in August it was expanding pickup services nationwide. Kroger is focusing on the shoppable recipe experience by implementing smart food platforms and artificial intelligence technology that converts recipes into shopping lists.

Online Grocery Shopping Will Grow Beyond the Pandemic

By all accounts, the growth in online grocery shopping is not a temporary change caused by a pandemic, but rather, an inevitable one accelerated by it. A new study by Incisiv and Mercatus investigated online grocery shopping behavior and concluded that people will continue to purchase groceries online even after the pandemic ends. The 46-page report, entitled eGrocery’s New Reality: The Pandemic’s Lasting Impact on U.S. Grocery Shopper Behavior, projects that online purchases will account for 21.5% of total grocery sales by 2025 – an estimated $250 billion market. Additional highlights of the study include the following key findings:

  1. COVID has not just increased adoption of online shopping, it has fundamentally changed how consumers shop. With safety concerns being top of mind, slightly more than 50% of respondents have changed the way they shop. Almost 1/3 of shoppers have opted for another destination (mostly to other brick-and-mortar retailers), 40% have reduced their frequency, and 46% have changed their preferred fulfillment method with more than half of respondents preferring curbside pickup over delivery.
  1. Adoption of online grocery shopping has exploded, but shoppers have remained far more loyal to their brick-and-mortar grocers than to any online-only alternatives.  While 87% of shoppers are satisfied with their preferred brick-and-mortar retailer and intend to remain loyal, they experiment with different online retail options. Overall online grocery shopping adoption has grown to 43% in 2020 (vs. 24% in 2018), but online shopping at a preferred retailer is constant at 26%.
  1. Shoppers are satisfied with online purchase options but demand more customization and personalization. Only 58% of shoppers are satisfied with the online shopping capabilities offered by their preferred brick-and-mortar retailer. They express high satisfaction with payment and fulfillment options, but would like more functionality added to online promotions and advanced product searches.


Shopping is much more than a transaction between a buyer and a seller. It’s an experience; one that can and should always be improved in a way that benefits both parties. In 1916, a man named Clarence Saunders dreamed up a new experience for grocery shoppers. He provided customers with the power to browse, compare items, and build their “shopping basket” – a brand new term back then, but one that remains a core principle of the shopping experience today.

In 2020, grocery shopping baskets are shifting online. It’s up to retailers to adapt with new features that support changing shopping behaviors, just as supermarkets did decades ago with innovations like prepackaged products, display cases, and sale items. Smart technology paves the way for retailers to revolutionize the grocery shopping experience, and customers can look forward to features that incorporate exciting tools like artificial intelligence and augmented reality. This year has seen a lot of change in how people bring food into their homes, but there’s more to come – much more. It’s quite possible that 2021 will be the most influential year in the history of grocery shopping since the first Piggly Wiggly opened in Memphis all those years ago.

About Channel Key

Channel Key is a full-service channel management marketplace consulting agency that has helped generate $250M in Amazon sales for retail brands around the world. Complete 360-degree services include marketplace strategies, content development, marketing and advertising, catalog management, marketplace and fulfillment setup, ongoing consulting, and much more. To learn about how Channel Key can help increase sales for your business, contact us today for a free consultation.


Walmart vs. Amazon: This Is Who Will Win

Walmart Vs. Amazon: This Is Who Will Win

Walmart is at war. For 30 years, they have ruled as king of all retailers. Along the way came an online bookstore called Amazon. From a humble garage in Seattle, Amazon quickly grew and expanded into other market territories. They proved to be a formidable force, launching innovation after innovation. Then it happened. In 2019, Amazon surpassed Walmart and took the crown as the world’s largest and most valuable retailer. In terms of revenue, Walmart still outranks Amazon, but the brick-and-mortar juggernaut has launched an all-out war to reclaim its title by finally charging into the digital battlefield with its own platform: Walmart Marketplace.

Describing itself as the world’s largest omnichannel retailer, Walmart’s online platform opened back in 2009 for select retailers. In 2016, they expanded by inviting more 3rd party sellers, but their version of Amazon really didn’t take off until this year. According to Marketplace Pulse data, more than 25,000 sellers have joined Walmart Marketplace in 2020, bringing the total to around 60,000. This is merely a fraction of Amazon’s army of 2.5 million active sellers, but the recent growth spike along with Walmart’s well-established base of more than 265 million customers give it the potential to become a strong competitor. Below Channel Key highlights Walmart’s e-commerce battle strategy, and more importantly, how brands can take advantage of this rivalry to reach additional customers.

Amazon is the leading ecommerce platform, nearly 8 times larger than Walmart.

Walmart Marketplace Overview

Walmart Marketplace is like Amazon in many ways. Sellers undergo an approval process, onboard their listings, choose a fulfillment option, utilize marketplace marketing and advertising programs, and get paid. Within this basic structure, however, there are several key differences. First, qualifying to become a Walmart Marketplace seller can be challenging. While Amazon allows just about anyone to open a digital storefront, Walmart is careful about the brands they choose to sell under its name. To be approved, sellers need to demonstrate a history of e-commerce experience on other platforms, reputable customer service, a compelling product assortment, and competitive pricing. In the early days, Walmart Marketplace was an invitation-only platform. Today any brand can apply, but to earn approval is much more difficult.

Walmart Marketplace offers several fulfillment options. Like Amazon’s Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) program, sellers can opt to self-fulfill orders (upon qualification) through its Seller Center platform. Walmart Marketplace FBM sellers can display the “Free Two-Day Delivery” label on their approved listings, which is a core component to the retailer’s strategy against Amazon. Thanks to the latter, one-day and two-day shipping are now factored into the customer’s purchasing decision.

Walmart seems to acknowledge the new standards set by Amazon. In February of 2020, they introduced Walmart Fulfillment Services (WFS). Akin to Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) option, WFS sellers store their inventory at Walmart fulfillment centers. When a customer places an order on, WFS picks, packs, and ships the item(s) on the seller’s behalf. WFS also handles all customer support and returns for these orders. The WFS end-to-end fulfillment experience comes with access to Walmart omnichannel capabilities such as its Free & Easy Returns program. Participating items display the Free Two-Day Delivery and Fulfilled by Walmart tags for increased product visibility and improved conversion. Like FBA, the WFS cost structure includes a fixed monthly storage fee and a fulfillment price that is based on the item weight.

Unlike Amazon, Walmart Marketplace has partnered with a 3rd party fulfillment service to provide sellers with another option. Sellers can choose to fulfill orders through Deliverr, an e-commerce logistics service that integrates directly with Walmart Marketplace and provides pre-approved access to Free Two-Day Delivery.

Unique Benefits of Selling on Walmart Marketplace

The primary selling point of joining Walmart Marketplace is gaining access to their loyal customers. In addition to 11,500 brick-and-mortar stores frequented by 265 million customers each year, more than 100 million people visit each month (according to their data). This is about half of Amazon’s monthly search traffic. To compensate for this disadvantage, Walmart emphasizes other key distinctions that may be attractive to sellers:

  • LESS COMPETITION With far less seller competition than Amazon, it can be easier to stand out, gain brand exposure, build trust and authority, gain new leads, and convert sales on Walmart Marketplace.
  • NO INVENTORY LIMITATIONS Unlike Amazon FBA, there are no SKU minimums or maximums with WFS, so you can list your entire catalog of eligible items on Walmart Marketplace or manage limited inventory with a fixed threshold setting.
  • SIMPLE FEE STRUCTURE Walmart Marketplace provides a simpler fee structure than Amazon. The platform simply deducts a referral fee once a sale occurs (no setup, subscription, or monthly fees).
  • EFFICIENT RETURNS AND CUSTOMER SERVICE Nine out of ten Americans live within 15 minutes of a Walmart store, which makes returns and customer service easy by leveraging by the retail giant’s existing capabilities in its brick-and-mortar network.


Walmart Marketplace has been around for more than a decade, but in reality it is still in its infancy. From a seller’s point-of-view, this provides both advantages and disadvantages when comparing it to Amazon. With only around 60,000 current sellers, it’s much easier to generate traffic to your listings than a platform with 2.5 million competitors. On the other hand, its marketing and advertising capabilities are quite limited. Amazon has a much larger collection of consumer shopping data that it has used with the help of advanced technology to develop an increasingly expansive arsenal of tools to target customers.

Still, Walmart is no entry-level soldier in the ranks of retail. They are the former king; a retail behemoth with six decades of momentum, hungry and determined to take back the throne by shifting their forces to the e-commerce battlefield. Walmart may be the current underdog, but anything can happen. Regardless of the outcome, the true victor in this epic rivalry will be neither Walmart nor Amazon. It will be the brands who profit from the ongoing challenge to create the most modern, effective, and powerful way to reach an audience; and the customers who save time and money with easier, more streamlined methods of shopping.

About Channel Key

Channel Key is a full-service channel management marketplace consulting agency that has helped generate $250M in Amazon sales for retail brands around the world. Complete 360-degree services include marketplace strategies, content development, marketing and advertising, catalog management, marketplace and fulfillment setup, ongoing consulting, and much more. To learn about how Channel Key can help increase sales for your business, contact us today for a free consultation.


Amazon Prime Day 2020 Will Change Holiday Shopping (Possibly Forever)

Amazon Prime Day 2020 Will Change Holiday Shopping (Possibly Forever)

The time has come. After months of delays and speculation, the most anticipated online shopping event of the year is finally upon us. Amazon Prime Day 2020 is set for October 13 and 14. Since its launch in 2015 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Amazon, Prime Day has continued to set records. Despite a pandemic – or perhaps because of it – this trend is expected to continue. A new report by eMarketer estimates that this year’s Prime Day will generate nearly $10 billion in sales worldwide, a 43% jump from 2019. This is even better news for Amazon sellers in the U.S., who are expected to rake in $6.17 billion in revenue over a 48-hour period.

While these figures shed a light of optimism over an otherwise gloomy year, the true significance of Prime Day 2020 might not be measured by data from the actual event, but rather, by the shopping momentum it creates moving forward. Below Channel Key has outlined the key factors that make Prime Day 2020 different from the ones before it, and more importantly, how it may redefine the holiday shopping season as we know it.

Amazon Prime Day Kicks Off Holiday Shopping

Under normal circumstances, Black Friday is considered the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Of course, 2020 has been anything but normal. COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into everyday life, including consumer shopping habits. More on this in a bit. First, it’s important to understand how the timing of this year’s Prime Day will yield a different shopping trajectory than past years – namely, the holiday season.

Previously, Prime Day has always taken place in mid-summer. This was no accident. July has traditionally been one of the most sluggish shopping months of the year, making it the perfect time for a mega sale that is guaranteed to boost much-needed activity for retailers. This year Prime Day is in mid-October, which will effectively jumpstart the holiday shopping season more than a month ahead of schedule. On October 5th, Amazon released its annual gift guide, a holiday-themed storefront featuring a wide selection of curated gifts. The launch comes several weeks earlier than its 2019 release and, not coincidentally, is just in time for Prime Day.

Data is already supporting an early start to holiday shopping. In its annual holiday sales forecast, global consulting firm AlixPartners included October in its definition of the holiday-shopping season for the first time. The report argues that the “official” November-December definition is “meaningless” this year – and perhaps forever – due to COVID-19’s dramatic effects on shopping behaviors.

Meanwhile, a National Retail Federation survey in September found that 46% of consumers plan to start their holiday shopping in October, while a Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights survey found that more than 68% will have begun their holiday shopping by November.

Online Shopping Is at an All-Time High
Another important factor that impacts the significance of this year’s Prime Day is the rise in online shopping. Social distancing, stay-at-home mandates, in-store capacity restrictions, and fear of contagion have forced many people to shift their shopping routines to online platforms like Amazon. This surge in e-commerce, combined with the timing of Prime Day, could be the perfect catalyst for a record-breaking online holiday shopping season.

While analysts vary on exactly how much online holiday sales will grow this year, virtually all agree that the rise will be considerable. According to a Glassbox Digital/Google survey, 70% of consumers plan to do most of their holiday shopping online this year. Deloitte forecasts that e-commerce sales will grow by 25% to 35% YoY this holiday season, compared to 14.7% in 2019. Most recently, an October Salesforce report estimates online sales to hit all-time highs over the next three months with the following holiday shopping forecasts:

  • Online sales will reach $5.1 trillion globally and $730 billion in U.S.
  • Online sales will grow 34% YoY (up 12% YoY from 2019)
  • Online sales will account for 30% of total retail sales in the U.S.

The Amazon Prime Day Halo Effect

Prime Day 2020 technically will last only 48 hours, but its effects likely will span the entire holiday shopping season. As with past years’ events, businesses often enjoy a halo effect after Prime Day is over. According to Adobe Digital Insights, large retailers experienced up to 50% increases in sales in the days following past Prime Day events. This year, the Prime Day halo effect will coincide with the largest shopping season of the year, which could mean even bigger business for online retailers leading up to the holidays.

Above all, Prime Day will provide key insights into consumer shopping interests and habits that brands can use to maximize the halo effect throughout the holiday shopping season. Channel Key advises businesses that participate in Prime Day promotions to pay close attention to campaign performance metrics; not only sales figures and marketing costs, but what worked and what didn’t. For example, your promotions may increase organic searches and sales for certain non-promoted products, which might be amplified with Black Friday or Cyber Monday campaigns. Your Prime Day promotions data will also help you understand what type of campaigns, ad formats, keywords, and other targeting parameters resonated most with shoppers. All this important data will give you valuable insight that you can use to better harness the purchasing power of Prime Day throughout November and December.


Prime Day 2020 is unlike any of the ones that came before it. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, it’s set in October instead of July, consumers are shopping differently, and the holidays are right around the corner. These are major factors that, together, could make this year’s Prime Day one of the most influential events in the brief history of online shopping. At the very least, digital sales over the two-day event will most likely break records. Beyond that, Prime Day could set in motion a new pattern of holiday shopping that starts well before the traditional Black Friday kickoff. One thing is certain: online shopping is at an all-time high and platforms like Amazon will continue to play an important role in the way businesses reach consumers. For brands with strong digital marketplace strategies, the holiday shopping season will truly be the most wonderful time of the year.

About Channel Key

Channel Key is a full-service channel management marketplace consulting agency that has helped generate $250M in Amazon sales for retail brands around the world. Complete 360-degree services include marketplace strategies, content development, marketing and advertising, catalog management, marketplace and fulfillment setup, ongoing consulting, and much more. To learn about how Channel Key can help increase sales for your business, contact us today for a free consultation.


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