How Grocers can Overcome the Uncertainty and Flourish During Upcoming 2021 Holiday Shopping Season

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As the 2021 holiday shopping season quickly approaches, many retailers throughout the industry continue to face unparalleled levels of uncertainty and disruption. Instability concerning the COVID-19 virus and any further lockdowns and tightening of social restrictions associated with its spread, combined with the unreliability of the current global supply chain, have retailers operating in every vertical and category scrambling to understand the complexities of a shifting and changing landscape. For grocers, given the essential nature of the product and services that they provide, these stresses and pressures are accentuated. According to Dan Surtees, Vice President of Strategy & Business Development at XCCommerce, without a clear understanding of the channels their customers plan to shop on, their performance during the most lucrative and critical period on the retail calendar is being threatened.

“One of the biggest questions for grocers as we move closer toward the holiday shopping season is where will customers want to shop and are they going to feel comfortable shopping in brick-and-mortar stores,” he says. “And, part of the challenge for many of the grocers in figuring this out is the fact that for every location the behaviour associated with those unique customer-bases are likely to be a little different. Every region has been impacted differently by the pandemic, and perspectives in each of those areas is different as well. So, many grocers are starting to put together their marketing and promotional strategies without the ability to accurately predict where the different markets will be buying.”

Multiple promotions strategies

The explosion of online grocery, including the availability of options that include home delivery, curbside pickup and buy-online-pickup-in-store, represented a boon for the many grocers that offered the services during the pandemic. However, it’s currently unknown whether the behaviour will be sustained through the upcoming holiday season. This presents challenges to grocers and their marketing teams tasked with developing strategies with the objective of driving customer loyalty, growing basket sizes, and delivering revenue this holiday season. To support their marketing efforts and prepare their stores and operations with the ability to satisfy the holiday meal, party and celebration needs of the consumer, Surtees suggests the development of multiple strategies.

“Building multiple strategies provides grocers and other retailers with the agility that’s required to move and shift as the market, economics and other factors change,” he explains. “A plan needs to be developed for in-store promotions. But, with the rapid changes that have been impacted and influenced by the pandemic, including lockdowns and increased social restrictions, that plan may not work within certain regions. So, simultaneous marketing plans need to be implemented for online delivery and curbside pickup that can be swapped in and out at the click of a button depending on particular market conditions. To do this, it requires agility within the organization as well as in the systems it uses.”

Sophisticated solutions

This agility can be facilitated by the implementation of a sophisticated promotion and offer management platform, enabling consistent execution of complex, overlapping offers across channels, devices, banners, locations and loyalty status, something that XCCommerce has been providing for retailers for more than 20 years. Equipping themselves with an automated solution allows retailers to manage, execute and analyze all of their complex promotional offerings, across all sales channels, helping them to compete in the extremely competitive and fast-paced retail environment. In that agility, explains Surtees, is the flexibility and ease of use inherent in the management of their promotions from a single platform.

“Perhaps the greatest benefit to businesses that utilize and leverage a sophisticated promotion execution and management solution is the fact that it helps them unify all promotions and execution for their brands across all channels,” he asserts. “So, if they need to make a change to their promotions, they make it in one system. It’s particularly beneficial to grocers that operate multiple banners and stores across cities, regions, and countries. Using a unified promotions solution allows them to tweak and change their digital offers, personalizing them for each digital channel and each individual store. And, it also provides them with the ability to more easily hone their strategies and target offers within certain geographical boundaries. What’s happening in one part of the country is not necessarily what’s happening in other parts of the country. The same can be said about the differences between urban and rural locations. A unified solution enables grocers and other retailers with the flexibility to create unique offers and promotions for each market and submarket that they serve, right down to single stores, whilst also enabling them to react quickly to ever changing market conditions.”

Driving customer loyalty

Surtees goes on to explain that the flexibility that’s inherent within promotions management solutions like those offered by XCCommerce also supports the creation of unique strategies and personalized promotions that can be targeted to individual customers. Based on a grocer’s level of understanding concerning the purchasing and browsing behaviours of their customers, they can make targeted offers to them through the digital channels where they are engaging. It’s a solution that can be used as an incredibly powerful and effective tool in driving customer loyalty, irrespective of the landscape or geographical location of the customer. According to Surtees, it’s exactly the kind of tool that could potentially help grocers incent consumers during the important upcoming 2021 holiday shopping season.

“Driving customer loyalty is obviously top-of-mind for any retailer throughout the industry, particularly within grocery. It just depends on the type of tactics and solutions that are being deployed to bring customers into the store or visit the website and increase their basket size and overall spend. With the holiday shopping season approaching, it’s going to be crucial that grocers both incent and reward their customers to shop with them. The challenge today is that many grocers and other retailers currently manage their promotions and engagement through disparate systems, rendering the experience for customers fragmented and inconsistent across channels. Equipping marketing teams with a unified platform to manage and execute all of their offers and promotions across stores and all digital channels provides an ease of control for them. This ultimately helps support the continued development of their organizations’ omnichannel efforts and the experience they offer.”

To learn more about XCCommerce and how they are delivering retail promotional excellence for the industry’s leading brands during this holiday shopping season, visit

Article Author

Sean Tarry
Sean Tarry
Sean Tarry is an experienced writer who leverages his unique storytelling abilities to bring retail industry news and analysis to life. With 25 years of learning, including over a decade as Editor-In-Chief of Canadian Retailer magazine, he’s equipped with a deep understanding of the unique world of retail and the issues, trends, and innovators that continue to influence its evolution and shape its landscape.

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