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Here at Sway Group, we’ve been working with clients to get a jump on their holiday outreach with some forecasting and campaign planning. While the ever-changing coronavirus situation certainly makes predicting business and consumer trends a challenge, this is when retailers should start thinking about their holiday plans — and this year, brands should prepare for what is likely to be an unusual shopping season.

Influencer Marketing predictions for 2020 holiday

While we all wish we had a crystal ball that could tell us exactly how things will unfold over the next few months, we can offer some best-practice suggestions for companies who are thinking of working with influencers this holiday season.

5 predictions for successful influencer marketing during the 2020 holiday season

Think traditional, local, DIY

Holidays are likely to be more traditional and nostalgic in nature this year, with less travel due to ongoing pandemic restrictions and more focus on the home. Expect to see trends towards DIY gifting and crafting, along with an increased consumer interest in traditional holiday activities like baking, decorating, and charitable giving.

Many consumers will be interested in supporting small, local, independent and Black-owned businesses this holiday season. Mass-market retailers should continue to prioritize curbside pickup, delivery, and other no-contact options for shoppers, along with alternatives to in-person Black Friday shopping (Walmart has already announced they will be closed on Thanksgiving, which is a break from tradition).

Campaign ideas:

  • Arts & Crafts Store: Influencers showcase ideas and inspiration for crafting homemade holiday cards, positioning craft store online card making classes as an easy, fun (socially distanced!) way to create heartfelt holiday greetings that stand out from the crowd.
  • Food Brand: Influencers discuss their favorite holiday food memories from their own childhoods, with an emphasis on unique and regional dishes. Compelling images and shareable recipes that incorporate brand spices/ingredients accompanies authentic commentary on brand benefits and values.

Social media channels to target

While it remains to be seen whether consumers will come out to malls or stores as much as previous years, it’s a safe bet to assume people will be looking online for holiday inspiration. Pinterest will be more popular than ever for searching and saving everything from recipes to gift ideas, and content trends can be leveraged to capture in-the-moment consumer interest. TikTok has grown beyond Gen Z (and in fact earned the record of being the most downloaded app in the world during the first quarter of 2020) and now offers Tik Tok for Business, which provides targeted advertising features. Instagram’s expanded in-app Checkout feature offers scrolling consumers a seamless, one-click shopping experience, and the newly-launched Instagram Shop provides a place to browse products from favorite brands and creators. Twitter will be a hotbed of political talk pre and post-election; sponsored posts are likely to get lost in the noise without amplification.

Campaign ideas:

  • Home & Garden Brand: Influencers share eye-catching, pinnable visual tutorials for making a holiday container featuring “thriller, filler and spiller” garden store elements, strategically tagged on Pinterest for topical and evergreen search.
  • Fashion Brand: Instagram influencers highlight brand selections with holiday-themed moodboard images designed to capture audience attention. Engagement can be boosted with a giveaway: followers are asked to comment and tag a friend for a chance to win an outfit.

Curated, authentic content is key

Gift guides will be huge this year, and there will be plenty of focus on highly curated lists aimed at specific audiences, along with lists that feature local and Black-owned businesses. Aspirational imagery and content will always serve consumer escapism needs, but audiences will demand more authenticity in influencer campaigns — privileged, tone-deaf messaging will fall flat (or worse, provoke outrage).

Campaign ideas:

  • E-Commerce Website. Lifestyle influencers share a list of their favorite gifting ideas for this holiday season, highlighting a brand-sponsored “quarantine self care gift set” featuring luxury handmade items from independent crafters.
  • Black-Owned Skincare Brand. Black beauty influencers share a guide to their top picks for businesses that create beauty products with dark skin tones in mind, with the overall content centered around how every great holiday look starts with (brand-sponsored) great skin.

Prioritize diversity

Influencers and brands alike will be looking to improve diversity in campaigns, with fear of consumer backlash eventually giving way to a real desire to better portray the range of human differences. Today’s consumers are drawn to brands who show they care about connecting with consumers with authentic, nontraditional representation.

Campaign ideas: 

  • Retail Corporation: A mix of influencers that represent different characteristics (ethnicities, genders, body sizes, etc), post a series of images showing their customized holiday styles and accessories, with commentary on how the retail brand stands for inclusivity.
  • Active Lifestyle Brand. A diverse selection of body-positive influencers share stories of struggling to find quality athletic apparel in their size (within the context of keeping up with workouts during the holidays), while promoting the sponsored brand benefits and showing different clothing styles being worn.

Our final prediction is that the most important strategy of all will be to STAY NIMBLE. With nearly every market impacted by COVID-19 and shifting interests and priorities, the most successful brands will be the ones who quickly adapt to the latest consumer needs. Above all, this holiday season, consumers will be drawn to brands who can truly serve the current cultural moment — whatever that may be.

(This article was originally published on Forbes and has since been updated.)