Cross-Channel Integrated Planning

Ovative Trends and Performance Update: September 2021 

With back-to-school shopping behind us and holiday right around the corner, marketers must assess current shopping trends to get ready for what is ahead. Read on for Ovative’s take on how to prepare for the upcoming season among wavering consumer confidence and changing consumer behavior. 

September Macro Trends  

  • Consumer confidence decreased for the third consecutive month, hitting a seven-month low.¹ Consumers still have an overall cautious outlook of the economy, due to uncertainty caused by the evolving delta variant.   
  • Retail sales in the US jumped unexpectedly across most categories, shifting toward goods as demands for services like travel and leisure are curbed by the delta variant. Spending at bars and restaurants slowed, influencing a 2.1% increase in grocery store receipts. Overall retail purchases rose 0.7% in August, driven in part by back-to-school (BTS) and child tax credits, and spending on clothing increased 27% YoY. ² 
  • Consumers were ready for a refresh and embraced BTS shopping. Top five search terms during this time included mainly apparel and BTS items, and general apparel saw a 12% increase in search and traffic numbers, signaling increased demand.³ 

What Trends Did We Observe Across Ovative Clients Last Month? 

  • Retail sales were up across the US, but our clients experienced some softness throughout Labor Day and back-to-school, potentially related to consumer confidence being in flux and unforeseen impacts of COVID-19 still remaining top of mind for consumers. 
  • Pent-up demand seen in the market over this core shopping period leading up to holiday indicates the market is still volatile and clients should be working on contingency plans for holiday at this unforeseen time. 

What Trends Did We Observe on Google and Facebook Last Month? 

  • Clients have continued to increase investment hoping to build awareness headed into holiday and secure sales earlier.  
  • Competition remains hot in the marketplace as we approach holiday, leaving costs elevated YoY.  
  • Wavering consumer confidence could be impacting overall conversion rates as some consumers may be reserving cash or waiting to see employment status to begin holiday shopping.  

Ovative Cross Client Insights Data, September 2021 

How Can You Turn These Insights Into Action?  

Preparing for atypical holiday performance and setting expectations early on will be helpful as marketers navigate holiday. Because consumers may still be unsure about the economy headed into holiday shopping, unforeseen shopping behavior to typical seasons, like decreased spending, could occur. 

Thoughtful strategies to make the most of limited inventory for retailers and declining demand within the service industry will be core to success this season. Shifted demand towards goods over services suggests consumer spending is still volatile across industries, and this shift continues to heighten supply chain shortages felt by retailers and further impact inflation. 

Creating easy, safe, seamless experiences both online and in-store for shoppers will be paramount to securing holiday sales​. Americans were ready for the return to school with pent-up demand from last year, but it is still to be seen if similar demand will carry over into holiday trendsKids returning to school, delta variant evolvements, and potential continued pent-up demand all are factors into how holiday will shake out.  

Marketers should consider building in flexibility to holiday plans to be agile to evolving market conditions due to inventory issues and inflation impacts, while implementing strategic media plans to help with delays and shipping cutoffs. 

Ovative is a digital-first media and measurement firm seeking to transform the measure of marketing success. At Ovative, we help brands move the needle. We are curious. We value your brand. We want to see you succeed. Connect with us to learn more! 


1 | MarketWatch, Consumer confidence sinks to 6-month low on delta anxiety and high inflation, August 2021 

2 | New York Times, Retail sales rose in August, highlighting an inconsistency of consumer spending, September 2021   

3 | Bloomreach, Traffic and Sales Soar into the New School Year, September 2021  

4 | Ovative Group, Cross Client Insights Data, September 2021  

Lindsay Karner

Senior Analyst, Consulting

About the Author

Lindsay is a Senior Analyst on the Consulting team at Ovative, where she partners with clients across industries to unlock enterprise growth.

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