Picture the scene - 3pm on Christmas Eve, a panicked scramble of shoppers clearing the shelves of must-have Christmas toys and gadgets. While this tradition might resonate with many of us, as with many things in 2020, Christmas shopping this year looks set to be very different.

While e-commerce already accounted for a fifth of total retail by the end of 2019, when the global pandemic hit at the beginning of this year, we were forced to pivot to online retail in a major way, with the category seeing 10 years of growth in just three months of lockdown. With consumer fears around COVID still high, and many enjoying the convenience and choice available online, it seems unlikely shoppers will return to the high street in their droves before Christmas.

Research published last week reveals nearly half of shoppers will be increasing the frequency with which they shop online, and retailers are taking notice. Having seen record sales across its wider business throughout lockdown, Amazon recently unveiled plans to expand its Amazon Fresh grocery service, while M&S will be hoping that a long-planned partnership with Ocado will boost its flagging revenue.

But it's not just our turkeys and Christmas puddings that we're likely to be buying online this year. Even once the bricks and mortar stores had reopened in July, non-food sales through e-commerce still showed 41% growth.

The stakes are higher than ever as we approach retail's Golden Quarter, and retailers will need to be agile to adapt to the new normal and survive the Christmas season. From purpose-centred initiatives, to social media retail, affiliate marketing, and carefully selected influencers, the steps retailers take now will be crucial in capitalising on this surge in online shoppers and ensuring the long-term health of their businesses.

Want to learn more?

Download Direct and with PurposeHotwire's UK retail trends report, to learn more about the steps brands need to adopt to survive the Christmas season and how communications campaigns can support in this high-stakes world.