Peak Shopping 2020: Experts Weigh in on a Prolonged Pandemic Peak Season

26 Feb, 2021
Written by CJ

Junction Live host and Global VP of Marketing at CJ Affiliate, Nicole Ron is joined by Jessica Spira from Ziff Media Group, Amar Shah from Affirm, and Mel Smith from Quidco. Together they break down learnings from 2020's unique peak shopping season, along with insight into consumer behaviours - which of those are temporary and which are actually here to stay?

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Junction Live taking thought leadership off the page and into the studio with some of the sharpest minds in affiliate marketing.

NICOLE RON: 00:15 | All right. Welcome to this episode of Junction Live. I'm your host, Nicole Ron, Global Vice President of Marketing, Product Marketing, and Business Systems here at CJ Affiliate. I'm a marketer at heart who gets to market performance marketing. And having worked in nearly every aspect of the business firsthand, I'm interested in all things digital and affiliate marketing. Due to the global pandemic, many of us are working outside of the office. So please forgive any surprise guest appearances that may occur from pets, children, partners, friends or roommates.

With our housekeeping things out of the way, let me go ahead and take a moment to introduce today's topic and speakers. Joining me, we have several publisher partners who are equally passionate about the space. We will be discussing learnings from 2020's unique peak shopping season, along with insight into consumer behaviors—which of those are temporary and which are actually here to stay.

These fine folks have audiences that span the globe. And I'm excited to have them share their unique insight into seasonal performance across many brands, markets, verticals, and promotional models. So with that, let's go ahead and meet our guests. We've got Jessica Spira, Vice President, Partner Management and Growth at Ziff Media Group dialing in from New York City. Jessica, can you go ahead and give our listeners a quick overview of your company, the markets that you reach and essentially what your users come to you for?

JESSICA SPIRA: 01:42 | Thanks for having me. Ziff Media Group aims to be the internet's purchase companion. We have a portfolio of digital media sites, ranging from our editorial review sites such as pcmag.com, Mashable, AskMen, as well as sites that focus on smarter shopping, such as three Black Friday sites, tech bargains, offers.com, Deals of America. And what we try to do is really cover the full customer journey for our readers. They come to us for an understanding of—maybe they've got a passion for streaming, what is connected culture look like? How do they live their lives in a new sort of digital way? Then what should they buy? How do they use the products that they buy? And then how do they make better and smarter shopping decisions? What are the best deals on a certain product? Where should they go to find that product? So we look at our portfolio of covering the full funnel experience and the full customer journey.

NICOLE RON: 02:56 | Awesome, thanks. Next up, we have Amar Shah, Senior Director of Consumer Business and Marketplace at Affirm and he's calling in from San Francisco. I think many of us—I know a few of us on the phone who actually used your service. But can you give a quick overview of your business model and which markets you reach?

AMAR SHAH: 03:16 | Yes, absolutely. Thanks for having me. I always love to hear when people have used Affirm and to hear what they've used it for. Affirm is a service that allows you to pay over time for the things that you love. So we can give you the chance to put your big purchase on monthly payments with no hidden fees and no compound interest to make it a safe alternative to using credit cards, which many people are looking to do these days. And there's two ways you can use Affirm. One is we are directly integrated at the point of sale as a checkout option for over 6,000 merchants in the US and most recently in Canada. And in addition to that, we also serve as a publisher. So you can come to the Affirm app and actually pay over time and shop, get great deals this is from, not only integrated partners, but you can create a virtual card that has an Affirm loan on it and shop anywhere you'd like with Affirm.

So, really excited to be here and talk about how we, as a publisher, have grown over the years. And all the trends that we've seen over this last year in the turbulent economic situation that we've seen, that really has affected buying behavior.

NICOLE RON: 04:26 | Great. Great to have you and super excited to dig into that. Last, but not least, we've got Mel Smith, who is Head of Partner Marketing at Quidco, joining us today from the London area. It's great to have you, so give us a quick overview of your business model as well.

MEL SMITH: 04:43 | Yeah. So, hi everyone. So, Quidco is a cashback site. So we're solely UK-based. We have members who register with us and then visit our site to then click through to merchants that we list on site. And we display cashback rates—basically the commission we earn for those advertisers. So we pass the commission we earn to the user as cashback basically. And we have a real loyal following, that's about 10.5M people who have registered with Quidco. And yeah, they're obviously very loyal to the Quidco brand and do most of their shopping in any areas. So we work across pretty much all the verticals, really—so be it retail, fashion, electronics, telecoms, finance, insurance, and travel historically—although that's been particularly hit over the last 12 months. But yeah, so we've been around 15 years. So we're quite well established in the space.

NICOLE RON: 06:02 | Wonderful. Thank you so much. All right. Well, thank you all for joining me today. And I'm going to jump right in because we have a lot to cover, and I know that each of you are experts in your own right, and I want to give everybody as much time to talk about what they care about as we can.

So I'd like to start by discussing how the Q4 2020 shopping season started for each of you—with Prime Day kicking off the peak shopping season, there was there a lot of early speculation on what this would mean for the quarter's typical performance. I know questions came up on would Prime Day lead to stronger season overall? Or would it cannibalize the typical peaks that we see because of its close proximity to the Cyber 5 shopping days? At CJ, we saw Prime Day jumpstart the Q4 peak shopping season as evidenced by pretty massive YOY growth in Prime Day clicks and transactions. And the strong YOY trends continued throughout the peak shopping season leading the network to basically grow by 27% in the retail sector in November and December. Many of the product categories that we have actually exceeded 50% YOY growth.

So, that's the perspective of the network, but I'm really interested to hear from each of you—did you have concerns that the shopping season was starting too soon? And what other early shopping trends did you see this year? Jessica, let's start with you.

JESSICA SPIRA: 07:31 | Sure. So, I think when we think about the concerns that we had, I have a feeling that our concerns were really more focused around how we were going to forecast Q4. And how we were going to prep for Prime Day and holiday simultaneously, right? Because once Amazon announced that Prime Day was going to be mid-October, we quickly realized that Prime Day was going to just blend immediately into holiday. So I think for us with merchandising teams and production teams and product and sales, we all work cross-functionally, it was really more, "Okay, how are we going to manage this from a content output standpoint—merchandising, forecasting, how will that work?" right. So that was really, I think if there was a concern, that was the concern and I think we sort of took it in stride, right, I mean 2020 was just a ton of curveballs anyway. In terms of performance, we saw the same, or I think very similar things to the CJ network, right, the pull forward was real, right. So our Q4 was tremendous. We had a very strong lead-in into the traditional Cyber 5 period. And the other thing I think that we saw was that merchants who had an always on strategy were really successful. So that was really—when we look back, the merchants who were always on with us from Q3 or really the whole year, that led into very successful programs in Q4.

NICOLE RON: 09:24 | Very interesting. That's great to hear and really also interesting to hear that you saw similar performance trends to the network. All right. Mel, what about you? What did you see with Amazon Prime Day starting off the holiday shopping period?

MEL SMITH: 09:41 | Yeah. Perhaps slightly different experience in the UK. October had already been quite strong for us and actually Prime Day, I know Amar mentioned the likes of not just Amazon but Target and Walmart getting behind it in the States as well. We already pushed Prime Day quite hard on site, but we didn't really get any of the big sort of our big, traditional kind of merchants or competitors to Amazon that engaged with it, I think because they were already seeing quite good performance in October anyway. So yeah, we didn't see huge pick-up necessarily just on Prime Day, we were already seeing a strong October and that did continue through certainly the first two or three weeks of November where it was really strong. I think there was definitely a sense of people bringing their Christmas shopping ahead early. In the UK, we went into our second lockdown in November, so for the duration of November, we were pretty much in not as severe lockdown as we are now but in a pretty severe lockdown. I think people were getting nervous about—they wanted to do their Christmas shopping now, they were worried about supply, things getting delivered in time. So we definitely saw that and actually, Black Friday weekend was a little bit down on what we saw last year. And December was okay but again down on last year, but we'd seen such a strong October, November, and particularly for some of the bigger electronics retailers out here—really ever since the pandemic started—the demand had been in so high because of people being at home, people doing homeschooling. Myself, I bought a laptop and a printer, I had no intention of buying previous to that. So yeah, I think the demand was so consistent throughout the whole year, and actually, by the time it came to Black Friday, a lot of the stock had been running low with those retailers and as a result, the deals that were out there weren't quite as strong as they'd perhaps been in previous years. But I mean, we benefited from lots of the increased demand in the run-up to Black Friday, so I mean, it was still a good period for us. And actually, in the UK generally, I saw some stats from our network in the UK and they were saying fashion was actually kind of king over that period in terms of YOY growth. Probably fashion—although we've got plenty of fashion retailers on site, it's probably where the voucher code sites are doing particularly well. So yeah, a slightly different pattern over here, I think.

NICOLE RON: 12:30 | Got it. Thanks for sharing that. Amar, what about you? What did you see this holiday season with Amazon kicking off the season?

AMAR SHAH: 12:40 | Yeah. So I'd love to just reiterate some of the points today I thought were brought up that were really great around the fact that publishers really want to be responsive to the advertisers' needs and so I think the main concern that we really had was can we be nimble and prepared enough to meet the needs of an earlier season given that we spend months and months preparing for peak holiday, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, right? And so you want to have your teams, your inventory, your product, and technology all in place to be able to service that. So we really had to be nimble. It was a kind of surprising experience, not only to see Prime Day where it was but then if you recall, several retailers jumping on the bandwagon with Walmart and their Big Save event. Best Buy and Target also had big events that week, as with Apple. And so it really encouraged us to be nimble to their needs. And fortunately, we did not see that really detract as much as we thought it might from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So we still saw about 185% year-over-year growth on Black Friday alone. And so we're encouraged by the peak that we saw there. We did see, however, that we had some elevated performance as well even after Black Friday shopping through Christmas, pretty much. And we think a lot of this is due to the extended promotional nature that a lot of our advertisers had, starting from that period of that Amazon Prime week running those promotions much longer right up until Christmas as well.

NICOLE RON: 14:18 | That makes sense. We saw a similar trend in the network too and I think it was really fascinating. My team was keeping an eye on a lot of the trends that we were publishing weekly to keep everybody up to date on what was happening within the network and all of our verticals and sectors that we support. And there's usually a drop-off as we near Christmas, Christmas Eve, and then following Christmas, and I think to the point that you just made, similarly we saw across the board, purchase behavior stayed really strong post the typical cut-offs.

And I'm really interested to hear from each of you, what were observations in terms of consumer behavior this year? That of course could be one of them—I'm super interested to hear theories or working ideas that you have on why shopping behavior may have stayed strong post the typical cut-offs, in addition to what did you see was resonating with shoppers? I know, Mel—you also mentioned lockdowns. Many of us were entering lockdowns right as our typical shopping behaviors start to happen. And in-store is often a big driver for this and this year it was almost 100% digital for many markets.

So talk to me about general consumer trends. What were you seeing? What do you think the psychology was behind why people were making certain shopping decisions and ultimately, what did they like that was different this year? How about Mel? Do you want to start me off?

MEL SMITH: 15:45 | Yeah. Sure. So yeah, slight thing we've noticed really, again, ever since the pandemic started and people in the UK have been largely working from home ever since March where they can and something we've certainly noticed is the time of day people are shopping, so it's much more consistent shopping over the course of the day, whereas in the past we kind of see those obvious spikes just before the work day starts, then at lunchtime, and particularly in the evenings, as well. And it's that’s just made it much more spread out evenly over the course of the day and that's kind of assisted some of our better performing categories have been lots of home & DIY and sports, takeaways, electronics, and health & beauty—all the stuff that you'd expect, I think. The fads have kind of been consistent really ever since March and even through peak as well. Yeah, there are a couple of the key trends, I'd say.

NICOLE RON: 16:50 | And I think—keep me honest—but I think click and collect was another thing that has been popular this year. Is that true? Talk to me a little bit about that?

MEL SMITH: 17:00 | Yeah, yeah—definitely, yeah, click and collect for sure. Even when some of the advice from government has been to the people to obviously not go out unless it's completely necessary at times, but still, click and collect has been an option that people have been allowed to go out and click and collect items from stores and things. And actually, there's only been one major retailer in the UK, that we're aware of, who's stopped doing click and collect, so I guess for reasons of safety and that has been John Lewis—that's as pretty high profile as it gets over here. But apart from that though, that trend very much continues. It's almost an excuse to—people are looking for excuses to actually get out of the house [laughter] at times, so. And, yeah, obviously one of the benefits of the new normal is that you're never too far away from the store where you can click and collect. Yeah, we're definitely saying that, and then there's a good number of merchants in the UK who are well set up for click and collect. And I guess that's been a way for them to keep trading at a level forward.

NICOLE RON: 18:29 | Makes sense. What about you, Jessica? What are you seeing?

JESSICA SPIRA: 18:35 | In terms of trends for holiday, a couple things that we saw and we were prepared for—so we did a survey of our users on shopping behavior, and we noticed that 35% of those surveyed said that they were going to start shopping for 2020 holiday as early as August and September. So we knew that the shopping season was going to start early, and we think some of what was driving that was sort of concerns around the post office, concerns around shipping delays, "Will my gifts get there on time?", "I might not be able to travel because of the lockdown." So that's one aspect that we saw. So we knew the pull forward was going to exist. I don't think we realized how tremendous it would be. And to your other point about the extension of shopping, we also saw that really towards the end of December—I want to say December 21st—we were still seeing a lot of shopping activity, generating commissions as well as engagements on our site. So clicks on the sort of shopping sections were really strong, really through the end of the year. We would usually see a drop off around last shipping day, and we didn't, actually. And I think what was driving some of that, towards the end of the season, were digital gifts, streaming services—if movies were dropping, people were subscribing to streaming services, other kinds of subscriptions too, whether it's boxes, food, newspaper, digital gifts, those all performed well towards the end of the season. In terms of holiday, where we saw a lot of growth this year was connected fitness, electric scooters, Dyson products, espresso machines, robot vacuums, obviously gaming consoles with the releases of the Xbox X and the PS5, and really strong growth for us in home and garden.

NICOLE RON: 21:10 | Makes sense, yeah. We saw a really strong growth in all of those categories as well, I think as people were still in the at-home mindset. A lot of gifting revolved around that too, so it's great to hear those trends and thank you for sharing that.

Amar, talk to me about what you saw. And I'm also curious—another question for you in the same vein is how did purchase behavior differ from what you've seen maybe pre-pandemic versus post-pandemic during holiday?

AMAR SHAH: 21:44 | I think the trends that we saw during the holiday seem to mimic the trends that we've seen throughout COVID actually, and it didn't change too much then. But we have seen some different behaviors in previous years. So one thing that probably is not a surprise here that our sporting goods, home and furniture, and actually even auto parts all saw—were all categories that saw 200% to 300% YOY growth. Some really phenomenal results there, but ultimately very consistent with what we've seen throughout COVID as people are investing in those types of categories—in general—while they're in shelter in place, or kind of homebound a little bit more than before—or just focused on necessities. And that's where the kind of the auto parts piece of it comes in. And we do see those trends quite a bit when people are in situations of economic uncertainty. So that's not too surprising there. Probably similar to others—we see apparel and beauty grew a lot for us, but not relative—not as much relative to others. We actually saw—kind of funny on the lower end of the growth spectrum—only 100% YOY growth in those two categories.

But I think travel was actually an interesting one that we were trying to keep an eye on and really understand, because that's actually traditionally a really big category for us as you could probably imagine with big ticket travel items—people wanting to pay for that over time. In this case, it was actually our kind of lowest growth category at 12% YOY growth for Q4. And travel obviously doesn't necessarily spike in this quarter, but it was interesting to see what was driving that trend. And what we found is when digging in is that most interestingly, the growth that we found here in travel YOY wasn't actually driven by a growth in the number of consumers spending in this category. It was actually a modest amount of growth in users spending in travel, but mostly driven by the number of bookings that those users had made in that time period, which we thought was fascinating, and maybe signal of a way in which people are really thinking differently about their spend pattern and their budgeting. And so overall, it was interesting to see that category shift as well. And so we thought—it used to be about 7% of all Q4 spend, and this year, it was only about 2.5%. So we'll keep an eye on travel. And I'm really excited to see what continues to happen there during that—during this pandemic.

NICOLE RON: 24:22 | Yeah, and I love that you brought that up, because one of the questions that I've had in my back pocket for this is what others are seeing with travel as well. I mean, I think we all know that it took a pretty big hit this year in terms of revenue, just largely because folks can't travel and then as things started to become a little bit more known in nature and people ventured outside of their homes, we’re looking a lot more at staycations either in the city that they're already in or exploring nearby cities in what was a safe way. But then as we entered holiday—and I think we saw an uptick in the amount of travel that was being booked and either planning ahead for what might happen in the future or even more of that staycation or local travel as well.

I'm curious what the rest of you saw—Mel or Jessica, if you have any thoughts on travel that you want to add to this in terms of the trends that you all are seeing as well.

JESSICA SPIRA: 25:23 | I can jump into a small degree. Offers.com does have travel brands that we partner with. And so I think what we're seeing, which is nice is that in Q4—some green shoots, right? Some programs opening back up, some consumer interest. It seems looking at the data and looking at the partners, that it's really more vacation travel as opposed to business travel necessarily. So I think that that would be a trend, potentially this year whereas you people are still working virtually, conferences aren't necessarily being planned. I think there's less business travel, but people have been cooped up and hopefully we get vaccines in arms and people feel a little more comfortable doing some vacation travel. And by that I mean—some destinations and cruise seem to be coming back.

NICOLE RON: 26:29 | Yep. Mel, anything to add on this front?

MEL SMITH: 26:33 | Yeah, I mean, in the UK there's definitely a sense of sort of a pent-up demand for travel. Sort of seen it whenever restrictions have been loosened a little bit over here—then, yeah, we've seen bookings definitely pick up. And we were actually, coming into around the middle of December time, we were getting quite excited and geared up for it potentially quite a big January with good news about the vaccine starting to come through and what with January being such a peak period for booking travel. We were getting quite excited about it. And then, unfortunately, early January we went into another lockdown. So that kind of killed things a little bit. But, yeah, there's certainly a sense of pent up demand. But it will be staycations, which is what we saw in the summer. The bookings that have been made were a lot of staycationing going on. And so, yeah, there's a demand there and I suppose that's where it might be that we don't see as much as that traffic being done through affiliates. When you travel abroad, you tend to go through some of the big online travel agents or you're buying packages from well-known firms. If you staycation—certainly in the UK—there's a lot of kind of independent UK cottage-type sites and etc., so I think it's a bit more disparate when people do a staycation. So we were able to see a good level of bookings come through us for staycations, but yeah. It is a bit more disparate, I think, in terms of how many of those sites people are booking on are actually through affiliate programs.

NICOLE RON: 28:36 | Got it. Well, thank you all for sharing your thoughts on that. I know travel is definitely something a lot of folks are keeping an eye on and have some hope that maybe next year, travel will start to return. And I think we saw hints of that in Q4. So I appreciate your thoughts on that.

I'm going to shift gears a little bit. You know, one of the things that I felt was really interesting this year in the trends that we saw leading up to Prime Day into Cyber 5  and kinda beyond was affiliate tended to drive demand and see its peaks a few days before the rest of digital commerce. We compared our network trend data on the daily growth patterns across certain verticals as well as categories and sectors and compared that to something that Comscore released and saw that that peak shopping behavior pattern occurring a few days before was pretty prolific. And I'd love to just pick your brains a bit on what do you think that means? Or, in general, what do you think it means of where affiliate should sit in the mix? As well as when we talk about, you know, the performance-based nature of the business and some of the volatility and budgets and investment that we've seen within marketing in general. What do you think the role should be and what takeaways should brands have on how they take some of these pandemic learnings and apply it towards marketing moving forward? Let's start with Jessica.

JESSICA SPIRA: 30:10 | You know, from a publisher perspective, our job is to serve our readers first and foremost, right? So we want to make sure that what we are creating from a content perspective—whether that is curation of coupons or writing reviews—serves the reader. By serving the reader, we're going to end up creating demand for these products. So I think that that really ties itself very closely to affiliate marketing and performance marketing. And we do this year-round. So it's not for us just a Prime Day strategy or a holiday strategy. We want to be doing this all the time. That's what we strive to do throughout our program and that's where I think the role is of a publisher in performance marketing.

AMAR SHAH: 31:04 | That is spot-on. That is really the role that we serve. I think Affirm has an interesting kind of vantage point here because we often have two relationships with our merchant partners: One is where we're integrated with them—so we're actually very aware of all of the effort that they're taking to optimize their on-site experience of their website, and in addition to that, we're also a publisher for them. And what has been really interesting in kind of having that vantage point with our close merchant relationships here with our advertising partners, is that then we can see and complement their strategies in those two ways. And I think what that has given us more kind of insight into is actually understanding the role that publishers play in the consumer journey and—if we can really partner with advertisers while they invest a ton in their own sites and optimize their own marketing mix—understanding the importance of where customers are doing a lot of their research, where they're doing a lot of their price comparison and even just learning and discovering about products that they want to buy is a really important and critical part of that user journey and I think signals why advertisers should invest more in it.

And I think, given the pandemic and again, economic uncertainty or just general uncertainty that it's caused, has really changed the way that people buy. And it means that they're doing more research, they're more picky and choosy about where they're going to spend their money and what they're going to be spending it on and even how they may pay for it as we see as well. And I think that is something that advertisers really should pay attention to and understand where they can catch those consumers by really doubling down on working with publishers that can do that effectively.

NICOLE RON: 32:58 | Yeah, I think that's exactly right. Mel, anything to add?

MEL SMITH: 33:03 | Yeah, I mean, in the UK—I'm sure it's true in the US as well—but affiliates and Quidco does have those have really savvy and switched on users. And we're trying to use it as much of an opportunity to get our advertisers to take a fresh look at us as a channel in particular and users to really get back to offering super cashback rates or offers that perhaps they haven't been doing for a while, maybe they've got stuck into a bit of a rut in terms of the kind of propositions they were putting in front of our users. So we've kind of used it as a bit of an opportunity to get merchants to try something a little bit different, go a bit more ambitious—maybe for a shorter time, but do something a little bit more impactful to excite our users.

And also, we've started looking sort of beyond sort of the traditional merchants in the UK, a lot of whom, particularly in retail, have been struggling for a while and COVID has accelerated that to a large degree. But we've got 4,000 merchants on site. So there's plenty of others that are sort of further down the list, who are a lot more agile, a bit more nimble, can offer something a little bit more interesting, exciting. And I think our users are kind of open to looking beyond that, because they are a bit more savvy and switched on with the way they interact online. So, yeah, we're certainly seeing that we can shift some of the attitude both of our merchants and members there. So we're hoping that continues.

JESSICA SPIRA: 34:59 | I'd like to sort of add onto what Amar and Mel were saying, just about where merchants and affiliates fits within the marketing mix and the marketing budget, because, especially at ZMG what we are seeing—which was especially apparent during the pandemic, or during 2020—but, leading up to it also was our brand partners really taking a step back and saying, let's look at a full-funnel, holistic approach to marketing in general. And so that is music to our ears at ZMG because that's how we position ourselves, right? Sort of a top to bottom-funnel, 360 approach to commerce and performance marketing. And so, when we think holistically about that and we can bundle opportunities for our brand partners—so have a display component, maybe even a licensing component, and lower funnel commerce tactics, what we get is a great program. And those are some of our more successful campaigns. And I think what it does, is it helps elevate performance marketing within these particular brand’s marketing departments. And I think, elevates the business. And what publishers can gain from this, frankly. And it helps the advertisers, right? So, they're spending money. They are executing marketing campaigns. And they're getting the results and the ROI that makes sense for them.

NICOLE RON: 36:43 | Yep. And I think that's why a lot of folks turn to affiliate when things got tight. We saw the return of search happen pretty dramatically in affiliate, where search budgets were cut entirely but migrated then into affiliate because there was a performance-based aspect to it. And I think trends like that continue to happen. And it's exciting to hear your thoughts on this as well as how the brands are thinking it on their side as how this changes channel investment and what affiliate would be used for. In addition to the value that all of you are bringing to your audiences to help create demand, or drive engagement, or educate ahead of primary events in a way that brands just can't do for themselves. So thank you, I appreciate all your comments on that. I think they're super insightful and everybody brought really different angles to something that I think is a really important topic as we head into this year, and also into recovery from the pandemic.

I have time for one last question, and this one I'd like to ask each of you to respond to—and it's a bit more personal and fun in nature. I'll ask the question and then go ahead and give my own personal response, so you have a moment to think about it. What habits have you picked up that are forever changed, even when we exit the pandemic? So, did you try something new this year that worked really well for you that you're going to keep holding onto even as we exit and enter into recovery? So, for me, I know with the stay at home orders, I very quickly shifted to in home grocery delivery service. I have a one and a half-year-old at home, and so getting out of the house is quite a challenge. And this time savings I have of being able to basically purchase groceries and have them delivered whenever I want I think is something that I'll probably always hang onto and save my day time—instead of going into the grocery store for an hour or hour and a half each week. Actually just having it delivered so that my time is actually freed up to do other things. So, that's my side of things, but I'm really interested to hear from each of you. Maybe we start with Amar. What did you pick up this go around?

AMAR SHAH: 39:02 | Oh, man. Quite a few things. I think the two things that I hope really stick are one, my wife and I have been cooking a lot more and just I'm finding a lot more fun and joy in it than we did before. And before, I think it was a little bit more utilitarian, and now that we actually have to do it a lot more, we've been having fun with it. Learning more recipes and just experimenting. So, that's been really fun, I think. And the second thing is we've just been taking every chance we can to get outside a little bit more. And whether that's even just going to hang out in a park or going for a hike. I hope that we just continue to be outdoors as much as possible.

NICOLE RON: 39:43 | Awesome. I've brought the outdoors in and gotten on the plant bandwagon. So, it's quite jungle-y in here these days. [laughter] All right. What about you, Mel?

MEL SMITH: 39:54 | Yes, certainly on the groceries front, we always did the online ordering, but we still end up going into the grocery store almost on a daily basis just to get odds and bits and bobs. That's really an English phrase. So, the amount of time that you waste doing that when you're not doing a proper shop online. So, we've gotten certainly more organized on that. And the main thing to me is family time. So, our office is based in London. I've not been to the office since March time, and it's a bit of a commute. So, it would take me a good almost couple of hours door-to-door which maybe in the US isn't such a big deal. But over here, that's pretty exceptional. I've got two young sons, so to have more time at home is great. Even before the pandemic, I used to do probably one day a week from home, but I'm really hopeful once we're all out of this that that whole idea of being in an office Monday to Friday, nine to five—there's a shift in that. And hopefully, we find the right balance. So, certainly—I think we've seen it in our organization and speaking to other people as well—it does seem that remote working is working well, actually. People are getting as much work done as they normally would if not more, but they're fitting it more around their lifestyles. So, yeah, I just hope when we come out of all of this, we don't just revert back to unnecessarily traveling to one location. There are environmental benefits to that as well of course, as well as mental health and all the rest of it. So, yeah. That's my one main hope for all of this.

NICOLE RON: 41:48 | Yeah, I think that's great. And I know a lot of companies are already reimagining what return to "office" may or may not look like. So, agreed. I think balance has been really wonderful. All right, Jessica. I know you got the Peloton, but anything else that you want to share?

JESSICA SPIRA: 42:05 | I will say, Nicole, along with you, I was years ago, an early adopter of online grocery in New York, and then stopped. And now, I'm back on it, and I don't think that's going to shift dramatically for me. I think I like the convenience of that. I also had memberships at the boutique fitness studios like Spin, and now that I have my Peloton, I don't see myself going back. It's just too convenient. And then the other thing that was not mentioned was I typically was a big fan of movies. And I actually really liked—there is some thrill in the experience of going to a movie theater. Or I should say there used to be. Movie theaters are not open in New York City. I am very content with streaming. I like that these theatrical releases are being dropped on the platforms. I can sit in my pajamas, pause, have the food I want, not stick to the floor. So, I have a feeling I am not going to have those movie theater experiences the same way that I was pre-pandemic.

NICOLE RON: 43:22 | Yeah, I think that—

JESSICA SPIRA: 43:23 | I miss Broadway though. Nothing can replace that for me.

NICOLE RON: 43:25 | Oh, yeah, no. I'm definitely going back to theater. That's a go-to, for sure. But I think we're in a— I think when we all talk about recovery, it's a new normal. I know that's a new cliché phrase, but I think all of us have adapted. And I think society has adapted and innovated, and a lot of this is going to stick. And it will be really interesting to see how we move forward.

So, that's what we have for time today. I super appreciate each of you joining and sharing your learnings and own experiences. This concludes this episode of Junction Live and thanks again to all of our fantastic guests. You guys are marketing rock stars. And if any of our listeners are interested in additional holiday strategies, I encourage you to check out our Holiday Lookback and Peak Shopping Performance which is live now on junction.cj.com, as well as our 2021 Holiday Intelligence report which will be coming out this summer. So, until next time.


If you enjoyed this episode and are curious to know more about this topic and many others, check us out at junction.cj.com or find CJ Affiliate on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram.

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