Retail and ecommerce stores alike must gear up for the holiday season. All the planning and logistics that go into preparing for shoppers is well worth it, for it proves to be one of the most lucrative times of year. According to the National Retail Federation, in 2019 “A record 189.6 million U.S. consumers shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year, an increase of 14 percent over last year’s 165.8 million.”
However, due to the current state of the world with COVID-19, there has been a lot of conversation around how shopping will be impacted this year, and if it would attract the same levels of crowds and consumers that it has in years past. The answer, although not definitive yet, seems to be yes, but not in the traditional ways as before. Businesses are having to think of new ways to attract customers, advertise, and provide sales. Here are some of the key ways in which COVID-19 will impact holiday shopping.
One thing that can be guaranteed this year is that the holiday shopping season will not have as many packed stores as before. This can be due to both the legal restrictions being implemented, such as the NY State Reopening Guidelines, which states that “The workforce and customer presence must be limited to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy.” In addition, many people may feel less comfortable being around large groups of people, and will elect to plan their shopping trips in order to avoid peak times
Many popular brands and stores are offering their sales for extended periods of time, in addition to earlier and later dates in order to best accommodate all shoppers due to COVID-19. For instance, two large retailers, Home Depot and Sam’s Club, are extending their sales; Home Depot for roughly two months, and Sam’s Club is creating two periods of sales time, each lasting for nine days instead of one. This both prevents the large quantities of more enthusiastic customers from potentially compromising anyone’s safety, and also provides a longer window of opportunity for customers who are trying to space out their holiday shopping.
Prioritized Online Shopping
Online shopping has been growing in popularity for a while now, and COVID-19 has only increased the number of people who will now partake in ecommerce. Although many individuals believe it only appeals to a younger audience, consumers of all ages are finding online shopping more convenient, especially given the current circumstances. According to a survey conducted, “36% of respondents shop online weekly, up from 28% pre-COVID-19, according to a July survey of 5,000 consumers in North American and Europe”
In order to accommodate the increase in online shopping, ensure that all available items are listed clearly and are easily accessible on your website. In addition, consider expanding your fulfillment solutions and shipping and delivery options, as many people will not physically be coming into the store. Many businesses are offering a combination of in-store and curbside pickup, same-day delivery, and more. Floship is located close to your manufacturer or wholesaler, offering the fulfillment and shipping services needed to get parcels to for instance the US in 1-2 days through Express Shipping. You no longer need to wait for bulk orders to be stuck on the ocean through Floship’s direct to consumer approach.
With this increase in online shopping and transaction, it’s important to determine if you have the proper equipment and software in place in order to handle the growing demand. Privacy is becoming increasingly important, especially with the exchange of sensitive financial information during online transactions, and many businesses are investing in more secure networking solutions in order to better serve their customers, and to protect private information in all aspects of the transaction process.
More Virtual Interactions
Due to the current circumstances that COVID-19 has presented, many people are relying more heavily on virtual interactions than in the past. According to Digital Commerce, 72% of people surveyed said that they had increased their consumption of social media, many, to feel more connected to family and friends. In addition, as you can see through this Google Trends graph, the term “watch party” spiked around the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and virtual events continue to see increasing demand.
Many people are turning to virtual events and activities to stay entertained while at home. According to a “State of the Stream” analytic study, which looks at data from major livestreaming services, such as Youtube and Twitch, “From March to April, every major livestreaming platform experienced growth with 45% more hours being collectively watched.” Livestreaming is a great way to provide audiences with engaging content that they can enjoy from the comfort of their own homes.
Provide ways for your community to interact with your organization through virtual events, online product releases, Q&A segments, and more. You can use popular and streamlined platforms like Facebook or Youtube, which many of your audience should already be familiar with. Such platforms are not only entertaining, but help to foster engagement with your brand. This could pay dividends when people feel more comfortable going to stores, and they remember the connection you built with the community during trying times.
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Lower Demand for “Experiential” Gifts
Unfortunately, due to all the uncertainty with the pandemic, many gifts that would provide in-person experiences are becoming less of a priority. All types of these activities such as concerts, sporting events, and vacations are going to be less in demand due to the inability to have large crowds or travel. However, there are plenty of other gift options that can provide the same amount of entertainment, in addition to some virtual possibilities that would be the next best thing.
Taking this into consideration, try and focus on other more timely gifts. The gifts can still involve small groups of people, such as a newly released movie, or perhaps a board game that everyone can play together. Gifts for people that can provide at-home entertainment such as video games or books are especially good options currently.
Although many people are unable to participate in-person events like they used to, there are plenty of options for virtual events that can provide a similar experience. Digital experiences are safe ways to foster interaction, from livestreaming events such as concerts, to guitar lessons, to wine tastings, there are plenty of virtual gifts that are great for the holiday season.
It’s no secret that holiday shopping will not look the same as it did last year, but many organizations are taking steps to ensure that it still can be safely enjoyed. Extending sales and preventing large crowds can help ensure the safety of customers, and provide enough time for everyone to shop. With the rise of online shopping, businesses should take the necessary steps to be up-to-date with ecommerce technology, and meet the demand of their customers. Virtual interactions are helping bridge the gap until we can return to the normalcy of in-person events, and are a great way to provide entertainment and information for your community. Be creative by branching out and finding gifts that can be enjoyed in a variety of settings, or explore some exciting virtual event offerings.
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