When the severity of the global pandemic took hold in March, consumers stocked up on the essentials. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer and disinfectants flew off the virtual shelves as people prepared to shelter in place. Makeshift home offices and classrooms added more chaos during a time of uncertainty. Events were postponed and celebrations were no longer top of mind.
Party City, a retail chain with an unparalleled selection of unique items for celebrations, had to pivot. They were quick to find what customers needed and they delivered. People still sought ways to find joy in a challenging time, and Party City innovated and adapted to help families safely and conveniently handle social distancing fatigue and boredom.
Early Pandemic Shift: Keeping Kids Busy
Vish Bharadwaj, VP of Ecommerce and Marketplaces for Party City, shares how they worked to meet customer needs. “We looked at the data. We took our time and unpacked what customers were searching for once they had their pandemic essentials covered.”
Parents were faced with a new situation: attempting to conduct Zoom meetings while keeping their homebound children occupied, providing some sense of normalcy and security. Parents sought out art and craft activity kits, dress-up and role play costumes, birthday party supplies for smaller gatherings, and more.
“I think the beauty of Party City is that we have a lot of breadth in our categories. It helps us be a little bit more nimble and agile in times like this. We embraced the opportunity and started to give those categories a little bit of push on Amazon with exposure on our storefront, content and campaign optimization. We also leveraged our dominant costume presence because they were showing higher purchase intent with dress-up activities at home. We made those pivots to the categories where the customer trends were and focused on the organic demand for these items. We took full advantage of the Amazon ecosystem and unlocked opportunities based on the trends.”
Keeping Celebrations Alive
Party City was also at the forefront of drive-by birthday parades, yard signage and balloon displays for graduation, anniversaries and other celebrations. “We found that customers were looking for unique ways to celebrate during this pandemic, meaning they wanted to throw a unique party, a personalized party, and we offered product customization on our website.”
“Party City’s promise has always been to help people create joy by making it easy to create unforgettable memories. Birthdays, anniversaries, milestones, occasions, seasons– you know we have numerous seasons every single month. We offer customers a reason to celebrate every week.”
New Seasonal Shopping Trends
Just like back-to-school shopping, the Halloween shopping season has shortened and shifted to the last few weeks before the big day. Previous years held normal trick-or-treating, Halloween parties, office dress-up days and even comic book conventions, so customers purchased costumes from summer through October.
With large gatherings cancelled and uncertainty about local city, county and state plans for additional lockdowns, customers have waited until the final weeks for costume shopping. Instead of steady seasonal purchases, the pandemic year has prompted a spike near the end of the Halloween shopping season.
As parents seek to provide some comfort and joy this Halloween, the demand for last-minute holiday decorations has increased. “The beauty of the Halloween season is that it’s the one thing for the kids that parents have to do right and get the kids excited about the season. It’s nice to see that, and obviously it needs to be done in a safe way.” Animatronics, skeletons, Halloween decor and lawn decorations share seasonal delight with the neighborhood and allow for plenty of social distancing.
Advice to Brands During and Post Pandemic
The pandemic accelerated a trend towards ecommerce that was steadily gaining ground in the months and years before the lockdown.
“Brands, retailers, smaller companies, startups, digitally native brands and companies– doesn’t matter– there’s a paradigm shift that’s taken place in the consumer landscape which demonstrates how important digital ecommerce is, and how important digital capabilities and transformation are. The brands and retailers that were ready in the digital space really capitalized on it as other brands and retailers scurried to capitalize on it.”
“Don’t ignore the opportunity or the impact of marketplaces. There’s a huge opportunity with the top three marketplaces in the United States: Amazon, Walmart, and eBay. All brands and all retailers have a fantastic opportunity now more than ever to embrace marketplaces as an extension of their digital channel, and marketplaces could end up becoming their biggest digital driver.”
Partnering with VASO Group
For businesses large and small, having a marketplace partner who supports your business is especially important during the wide scale shift to ecommerce.
“We’ve been partners with Vaso Group since our beginning on Amazon. It goes to show the level of commitment, the level of investment, the breadth and the depth of support that Vaso Group has been providing Party City.”
“I can go to sleep every night knowing that the Vaso team is working behind the scenes on campaign optimization, other Amazon advertising levers, content, and storefront expansion. Vaso Group is prepared for any event and all occasions, and I’m reassured that Vaso Group is working hard behind the scenes across all of the Amazon levers.”
“Vaso Group is a great partner, absolutely committed and invested in Party City’s digital expansion on the Amazon marketplace.”
Talk to your account manager for help with a pandemic pivot or contact us to discuss how we can help you expand your digital footprint on marketplaces.