• Richard Forbes

Holiday Shopping in a Pandemic

Big sales, big crowds, and big profits — the holiday season is all about big business. Many retailers require Fourth Quarter to boost sales and reach annual goals. But like the rest of 2020, holiday shopping will be anything but typical. Fueled by changes in consumers’ behaviors, preferences, and economic situations, the holidays are expected to be a stark difference to years past. To be successful, retailers need to adjust to offer the best service customers, which includes bulking up online communications and advertisements. Here are three ways holiday shopping will change due to the pandemic.

Early Shopping

In most years, the unofficial beginning of holiday shopping is Black Friday; however, holiday sales have begun as early as October this year. Instead of waiting for crowded stores and low inventory in December, shopping early allows shoppers to remain socially distant and offers better planning for gifting. Large, last-minute shopping crowds can be frustrating, time-consuming, and expensive for retailers that are encouraging COVID-compliant conditions within stores. Spreading holiday shopping over a long period of time also helps some already strained wallets. With the pandemic causing a spike in unemployment, expensive gifts or rushed gifts can break the bank. Amazon Prime Day, which is typically in July, was moved to October this year, spurring other retailers to run similar sales.

However, the extra-long holiday shopping season also runs the risk of burnout among shoppers and brands. Therefore, brands should be prepared to reinvigorate consumers with new deals and communications late into the holiday season and afterward. Some examples seen in previous years are related to New Year’s Day. As seen in the image below, H&M partnered with Style Hard, a Canadian Youtuber, to assemble outfits for the beginning of 2020. Get consumers excited about spending again, especially after the largest spending season of the year!

Online Sales

Rather than in-store doorbusters and long lines, the 2020 shopping season will be predominantly online. Much of the nation still has COVID-19 restrictions in place that limit the number of people allowed to gather; the typical shopping season would certainly be a violation of this.

To meet the high online demand, retailers are building their digital capabilities with improved mobile apps and website experiences. Brands with strong digital presences —like intuitive browsing, simple payment options, chatbots, and personalized recommendation — will likely come out on top. With the predicted largest online shopping volume ever, stores also need to overcome digital limitations, like site crashes or misdirections. Optimizing online methods of sales will be crucial to maintaining a successful holiday shopping season this year.

Shipping Delays

The growth of online consumerism throughout the pandemic has added an additional strain on the logistics of delivery systems. After months of this trend, consumers have come to expect delivery delays, but they could worsen over the next month. Some delivery services have prepared for this influx of work by hiring thousands more drivers, but the strain on the fragile system could still impact consumers, especially as some delivery services increase their fees.

To alleviate some delays, retailers are emphasizing buy online, in-store pick-up and curbside pickup options. To avoid frustration, communicators will need to be clear about all options and the fact that deliveries may be later than expected.

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