Holidays - but not as we know them

This year's holiday sales might look different for retailers

14 Oct 2020

For many retailers, 2020 has been incredibly tough. Stores were closed for months during the level four lockdown, restrictions on numbers in-store are still in place, and many customers are still leery about shopping in-person thanks to the risk of COVID transmission.

As the end of the year approaches, many will be looking to the holiday season – traditionally the busiest time for retailers – as a bright spot in an otherwise trying time.

But retailers expecting to see throngs of customers rushing to shops in November and December may be disappointed. COVID-19 has changed our shopping habits, and until the virus is completely under control, that’s unlikely to change. In the US, nearly 75% of shoppers surveyed said they would do more holiday shopping online as a result of the pandemic – and numbers are likely to be similar in New Zealand. Many shoppers are also turning to smaller, locally-owned businesses in a bid to support the economy – and avoid long, COVID-related waits for packages from overseas.

That’s why, to make the most of the holiday season retail businesses need to adapt to a world of online sales, contactless delivery, click-and-collect – and innovative ways to sell.

Shopping trends this holiday season

This year, increased online shopping is a given for obvious reasons – but there are other emerging COVID-related trends to look out for.

Click-and-collect and more

Click-and-collect wasn’t created for COVID, but it might as well have been. It’s now standard to give customers options beyond ordinary courier delivery – particularly contactless methods like curbside pickup or click-and-collect lockers – as more people want to avoid busy stores and face-to-face interaction at the counter.

Sign up to shop

Crowded shops are not an option this year, so stores need to find a way to work around restrictions and risks without alienating customers. One possibility: getting customers to sign up for designated in-store shopping time.

Virtual retail reality

VR sounds futuristic, but it’s already being used by some retailers. Companies like Youcan create virtual retail spaces that let customers navigate around a store and click to view products. When customers can’t visit in-person, it could be the next best thing.

Shopping through social

More time at home means more time on social media. That rise in social traffic will likely mean more ads, deals and promotions in the lead-up to the holidays. As this type of marketing gets smarter, you can even run social-only deals, where users have to find a code or share a post before getting access.

Bigger, better deals

Sales and promotions have always helped to draw people in. This year, trying to make up for lost time, retailers will be motivated to offer bigger discounts and better deals. Expect to see major discounts and promotions, particularly online.

Getting ahead of the holiday rush

With the holiday rush fast approaching, it’s time to make sure your business is ready. It’s no longer enough to decorate your store and bring in more staff – you need to offer a curated customer experience, fantastic service throughout the process, more delivery options and great discounts.

Five steps to get started

Analyse and plan

You need to understand your current position before you can improve it. Looking at other businesses in your category can help you work out your position and set goals for the coming season. If your eCommerce site is looking tired or slow in comparison, start there.

Fine-tune the customer experience

Online sales will dominate this year, so make sure your customer experience is perfect before the season kicks off. Upgrade your website if needed, test and retest user experiences to find any weak points or frustrating elements, and make sure you’re ready for that influx of online shoppers.

Speed up your checkout process

A slow, frustrating checkout process can stall your online sales. Make sure yours is up to speed before the busy season.

Offer outstanding deals

After a tough year, it might feel hard to give up more potential income by offering big discounts – but they can be a serious drawcard, particularly when your customers are also struggling. Find a way to offer discounts or deals that will stand out from the crowd.

Use email and social marketing to connect

When customers aren’t visiting your stores, it can be hard to make personal connections and keep them coming back. That’s where tailored email and social media marketing come in. Before the Christmas season, take a look at your social and email strategies to make sure you’re building personalised communication and stand-out offers.

Plan, prepare and claim your share this holiday season

The holiday season starts with the one-two punch of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In 2019, in the US alone, $7.4 billion in online sales was made on Black Friday, and $9.4 billion on Cyber Monday. Although this year might look a bit different thanks to COVID-19, it’s still going to be a lucrative and busy time for retailers.

Make sure you get your piece of the holiday sales pie by being prepared. Sort out your UX, your online marketing and your pickup options, and you’ll be ready for a surge of eager online shoppers in November and December. After a year like no other, that’s something to look forward to.

Want to make sure your eCommerce website is up-to-speed? Talk to the Solutionists team now.

author:

Solutionists

date published:

14 Oct 2020