How’s this year’s holiday season going to turn out? A question that is largely on the minds of retailers and consumers alike.
With COVID-19 still at large, consumers will be making difficult shopping choices and retailers will be scratching their heads for a strategy that will bring them a great sale.
Retail businesses, both offline and online, can’t afford to miss out on their most important time of the year. However, this year will be quite a challenge though as all their activities will be happening amidst a pandemic.
What are consumers planning? What do retailers have in store for them? The impact of COVID-19 on this year’s holiday season and the ways to handle them. We’ve taken all the data and compiled them on your behalf.
Stay tuned till the end to get your hands on a lot of great details on how businesses can navigate challenges in the current economic climate!
Let’s look at some highlights of the 2019 holiday season.
Highlights of the 2019 holiday season
It may seem unfair to compare this year with any other year. But it is always good and necessary to understand how a year has turned out so far and will turn out to be. And one of the ways to do that would be by analyzing the performance of eCommerce and retail businesses.
In 2019, holiday sales were up 4.1% to 730.2 Billion according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
Online and other non-store sales were up 14.6 percent over the previous year. With consumers expected to browse and shop eCommerce stores in the comfort of their homes, it would be unsurprising to see these numbers much higher this year.
The mindset of consumers during the 2019 season was geared toward keeping themselves entertained.
According to Deloitte’s 2019 holiday survey, customers planned to spend over 74% of their holiday budget on retail for clothing, home furnishing, gifts, etc. and the rest on travel and socializing away from home.
When it comes to the important holiday season days, consumers spent a whopping $29 billion on the full weekend (Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday), comprising 20% of the total holiday season spend.
Out of this $29 billion, a record $9.4 billion was spent on Cyber Monday and $470 million was spent on Small Business Saturday. With the extended holiday season, this number can also be expected to grow this year.
Retail’s new normal
With the Coronavirus pandemic still looming large, Holiday Season 2020 will be similar to the months of March through October than when compared to last year’s holiday season. This is because the change from the pre-pandemic to the pandemic phase has not been slow or evident but rather tectonic.
Consumers, while still adapting to the current conditions, seem to be accepting of the fact that this is the “new” normal.
Researchers found that in May 2020, at the height of the stay-at-home phase, some online brands made more sales than they made during the pre-pandemic days of January.
If you are looking to sell well this holiday season, review your analytics and reports to understand your sales trends from previous holiday seasons as well as your online sales this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Use this data to forecast what products your customers are most likely to buy, then plan what your business needs to do to meet the coming sales peak and holiday season demand.
Zero in on what customers are expecting in terms of products, price, convenience, etc. and act accordingly to provide great customer satisfaction.
How this holiday season will be different
Despite conditions changing out of the blue, consumers’ ability to get adapted to these present conditions has allowed researchers to understand their shopping behavior for this year’s holiday season. With this data in hand, retailers can take action to meet their customers’ expectations.
Holiday season 2020 from a consumer standpoint
Consumers often have very specific purchasing behaviors and expectations.
Two of retail’s biggest questions during this pandemic are what are customers going to buy more and how are they going to buy?
What are customers going to buy more?
With this holiday season happening in the midst of a pandemic, one of the important factors influencing customers’ mindset would be their spend threshold.
Many consumers have lost their jobs and the global economy is in recession. In such a situation, consumers would be keen on saving and spending less on non-essential items.
According to various research,
- Nearly 50% of all consumers are expected to spend less this holiday shopping season.
- 44% of customers will spend only on necessities.
- 88% of customers plan to purchase gifts online for their families and loved ones.
How are customers going to shop?
Consumers were already moving more and more of their buying online, and the pandemic has greatly accelerated that trend. With the fear of COVID-19 still persistent for many, less than 30% of consumers feel comfortable returning to stores.
On the other hand, 75% of consumers plan to increase their online purchases during the holiday season from Black Friday through Christmas.
Last year, 56% of consumers reported they would make their holiday purchases online; of those, 48% planned to buy online and pick up in-store. With the increase in online purchasing and BOPIS as a result of the pandemic, it would be unsurprising to see these numbers much higher this year.
According to Klaviyo’s research, 2020 Cyber Weekend sales are expected to hit a record of $51.1B (almost double the amount of 2019).
While this contradicts the consumer’s saving mindset, this only shows that retailers are constantly re-inventing themselves to make an impact on customers at a certain point in time.
Holiday season 2020 from a retailer’s standpoint
Big brands have already put forward a plan and set the ball rolling for the holiday season.
What about SMBs though?
In a survey of over 150 enterprise executives by Perficient, over 61% wanted to follow the Amazon way and bring in new delivery options, while 51% wanted to offer wholly new products or services to stay relevant in these testing times.
Digital transformation (Brick-to-Click) – A recent report by IBM states that the pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital shopping by roughly 5 years; the same report also indicates that by 2020, department stores will decline by 60% while e-commerce will grow by nearly 20%.
The future present is online. So, it is high time for retailers and store owners to rethink their strategy to survive the pandemic.
Online businesses on the other hand, need to focus on customer retention and customer experience by pivoting their products or services to fit consumer needs and using technology and social media effectively as returning customers spend 33% more than new customers
Extended holiday season
One thing that has turned out well for eCommerce retailers this year is the extended holiday season.
Many eCommerce retailers have followed suit to make plans for an extended holiday season that runs for a couple of weeks rather than which merely focuses on individual days.
For example, having a “Cyber Weekend” instead of a Cyber Monday would benefit retailers like you as:
- Providing offers throughout the week would encourage more shoppers to at least browse through your website in order that something they need might catch their eye.
- Last-minute shoppers would start earlier and shop more as they have more time, to begin with.
While this is good news for eCommerce retailers, there are still quite a few issues to be considered this holiday season.
Difficulties due to COVID-19 and its domino effect
1. Brick-and-mortar shops have been affected badly
With major retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, and Target announcing that their stores will be closed on Thanksgiving for health and safety reasons alone, we expect other retailers to follow suit.
While some retailers may go with an omni-channel approach, certain retailers who are dependent on their physical stores will be forced to take their business online.
2. Supply-chain issues
Workers in retail stores and fulfillment centers have been forced to stay at home or have been laid off from their jobs due to recession and social-distancing norms. Fewer employees to handle orders and deliveries can lead to low productivity and even order cancellations.
Factories, industries, and other small manufacturers too were impacted by stay-at-home orders, due to which no new inventory was produced for a period. This resulted in a reduced supply for new inventory and caused severe mismanagement of orders.
3. Delays will be more common
If you’ve brought anything the last few months, you’ve probably experienced delays, a trend that is likely to continue throughout the season.
According to Salesforce, parcels shipped by major carriers will exceed capacity by 5% across the globe between the week before Cyber Week and Boxing Day. That’s potentially 700 million gifts that are at risk of not arriving in time during the holidays.
With a never-seen-before surge in online shopping along with social-distancing measures and supply-chain limitations at distribution centers, major shipping carriers will run out of last-mile capacity during the holidays.
In addition to the potential of disappointing shoppers, significant operational costs are at play as well:
- Major carriers may charge around $4.5 billion in COVID-19 and holiday delivery surcharges.
- Repeated customer service inquiries from disgruntled customers about “Where Is My Order” (WISMO).
- A relatively higher increase in returns due to late deliveries.
1. Have an omnichannel approach
Traditional physical store owners can find it difficult to suddenly shift their stores online. But in times like these, they must realize its importance in attracting customers.
Going digital doesn’t imply ignoring your brick-and-mortar business.
Take the effort to ensure your customers receive the same information about your business across all platforms.
Make use of major eCommerce software like Shopify or 3dcart to take your store online.
2. Maintain a good presence online
Not just by keeping your website relevant, retail businesses can also stay engaged on social media by interacting with customers. Customers staying at home will share their costumes, outfits, decors, etc, widely on social media.
You can conduct contests and giveaways for customers who use your products and give you a shout-out by sharing their experience with their social media contacts.
3. Provide offers and discounts throughout the season
While providing offers continually for a long period of time may seem like taking the uniqueness out of the holidays, it can be an effective way of attracting more customers to your website in these trying times. Moreover, 82% of customers say social promotions and discounts are top priorities.
4. Keep a tab on your inventory
Based on your forecast of customer demand, order the right quantity and type of products.
Stop selling products that have production or supply issues as well as products with high return rates or low profitability.
Plan which products will be on sale or heavily promoted to help calculate how much stock you’ll need.
5. Handle and counter delivery issues such as delays
Delays are not just problematic but are expensive.
Even one delay can lead to a bad delivery experience and affect your customer experience.
You can make use of tools such as LateShipment.com that helps you drive post-purchase CX success
How LateShipment.com can Help Your eCommerce Business
In the event of a delay, LateShipment.com’s Delivery Experience Management (DEM) platform, helps eCommerce businesses such as yours:
- Stay on top of delays by tracking your in-transit parcels across carriers in real-time.
- Resolve delivery issues proactively with predictive alerts for shipments facing delays.
- Over-communicate with customers facing critical delivery issues.
- Send automated delivery status notifications via email and SMS to reduce your customers’ anxiety.
LateShipment.com is the world’s only logistics cloud tool that helps businesses of every size reduce shipping costs by up to 20% and provide memorable delivery experiences to customers at scale.
At LateShipment.com, our focus has remained steadfastly on the last mile, typically the part of the logistics chain that is the most opaque.
LateShipment.com allows you to have your monthly shipping invoices automatically audited for 50+ shipping carrier service failures and claims refunds on your behalf. The claimed amount is directly deposited into your account. This can save you up to 20% on your overall shipping spend.
Our automated shipping refunds solution:
- Audits your monthly shipping invoices
- Submits refund claims to your carrier(s) on your behalf
- Deposits the refunded amount directly into your account
That’s not all!
LateShipment.com’s Delivery Experience Management platform helps you craft outstanding post-purchase experiences and build long-lasting customer relationships.
Our groundbreaking post-purchase solutions help businesses effortlessly bridge the post-purchase CX gap and discover new ways to delight and retain customers.
How good is that?
The best part is, it takes less than 2 minutes to see LateShipment.com in action without any change to your existing workflow.
The value we add to businesses is most evident when experienced first-hand. Try LateShipment.com now.