Three Ways Retailers Can React to an Unprecedented Holiday Season

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that this holiday season will be unlike any other. And it will be high stakes, too – one in five retailers say their future is dependent on how well they do this quarter.

Major concerns include if, when and how consumers will shop. Deloitte predicts a 1% to 1.5% increase in total U.S. consumer spending from November through January, and a 35% increase in seasonal online sales. Not to mention more than 41% of consumers plan to purchase most of their items online due to COVID-19.

Amazon kicks off an early start to the holiday season this month with Prime Day. In order for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to truly maintain a solid ground, they will need to ensure not only that their physical stores are operating safely and efficiently, but also that the online shopping experience is seamless.

1. Online wish lists

Taking lessons from baby showers and weddings, retailers can look to online registries to manage shoppers’ holiday wish lists this year. Wish lists add another level of convenience for shoppers, as they can easily share the link to the gifts they want. From there, the items can be bought online or in store. For example, grandparents can buy their grandchild’s favorite toy and have it shipped to arrive in time to open under the tree on Christmas Day. Similarly, a relative can buy a dorm room essential as a present for a family member in college, and have it sent to the store closest to the student for them to pick up. 

No matter the shopper, their comfort level of being in stores or their distance from a loved one, online wish lists can ensure that consumers stay connected this holiday season, and this will drive loyalty as they remember which brands made a stressful time much easier.

2. In-store mobile capabilities

For shoppers who do choose to shop in stores, cutting down on time spent inside – from entrance to checkout – will be critical. As a result of COVID-19, shopping journeys are more likely to begin online, meaning there is limited browsing done in the physical store. Having already done their research, a shopper will want to quickly find the cast iron skillet or air fryer they’ve picked out.

The way to most effectively serve these in-store stoppers is to help them easily find the products they want. First, retailers should ensure that inventory displayed online is accurate at an individual store level – it can be a big disappointment if a shopper finds out that an item they were expecting is out of stock. Additionally, mobile apps with store maps and aisle locators can help shoppers independently navigate the store, limiting associate interactions. 

Once shoppers have their desired items in hand, a plethora of fast, safe and secure checkout options should await them. Whether paying on their mobile device, an associate’s tablet or using contactless payments at the register, any checkout method should be able to perform the same identical processes, from anywhere.

3. Curbside service

Half of consumers plan to use curbside or contactless pickup options this year. These services have gained popularity as a safe and convenient way for shoppers to get the products they need. However, there are a few factors at play in order for curbside services to run smoothly. First, as curbside blends digital and online activities, all processes and messaging should be uniform, from the mobile app to any resulting emails. Second, any interface needs to be user-friendly. Shoppers shouldn’t be confused when adding or removing items, nor when receiving instructions on when and how to pick up their purchases.

Luckily, for retailers who currently don’t have a curbside process in play, this technology is readily available, without requiring complete integration into all existing store systems, such as POS and merchandise management. There’s no excuse for not providing a fast and convenient curbside experience.

The holidays and beyond

While this holiday season will be unprecedented, there is no doubt consumer behaviors will carry on into 2021 and beyond. Over 80% of consumers who bought a new brand during quarantine said they would keep buying those products, so now is the chance for retailers to prove themselves as one that provides consumers convenience and the products they need. Are you prepared for the holidays and beyond?