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4 Retail Trends That Will Shape the 2020 Holiday Season

Posted by Drew Melendy on Nov 4, 2020 12:14:05 PM
Drew Melendy

With the Coronavirus fallout and a fluctuating economy, holiday retail is looking like a mixed bag for 2020. What can retailers expect?

Even experts can’t say for certain, but this year's retail trends and shifts in consumer behavior can help retailers make the most of this year’s shopping season, and, possibly, for some years to come.

1. Omnichannel strategies will take center stage

In the era of social distancing, it’s safe to say that this year will look very different than the ones before. Nearly half of Americans say they are planning to do most of their Christmas shopping online than in-store this holiday season. 

Whether retailers plan to open their doors or rely solely on online sales, it’s clear that an omnichannel strategy will be necessary. Businesses must go beyond the business-as-usual mindset to meet customers where they’re at, engage them, and move them to purchase with a unified brand experience - whether that is online, in-person, or both.

Online shopping has the most prominent changes we've seen this year, most notably on mobile devices. According to Adobe, Americans are likely to spend $28.1 billion more using their smartphones compared to 2019. All online sales channels should be fully optimized for this changing behavior.

Many businesses have also added their mobile shopping apps to the Android and Google Play Store ahead of the holidays. App Annie, the leading mobile data and analytics company, predicts the largest Q4 holiday shopping season on mobile yet.

Lexi Sydow, Senior Market Insights Manager, stated, “Retailers, fintech and payment providers should prioritize features that resonate with shopping-from-home and socially-distant needs to capture customer spend and loyalty in our mobile-first world.” Push notifications along with interactive features, such as live video sales and real-time chat, make it easy to readily reach homebound customers and invite them into a engaging and fully immersive shopping experience.

But whether or not brands invest in their own feature-rich shopping apps, their best bet for success lies in creating consistent, enjoyable customer experiences between all their available channels and touchpoints.

This means that physical storefronts are still considered a core component for those that plan to open their brick and mortar storefronts. Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) is a now a largely favored service. Customers may be more likely to purchase from stores that offer frictionless pick-up options instead of having to wait on deliveries. Analysts say that retailers offering BOPIS may even grow digital revenue by an average of 90% compared to the last holiday season.

2. Social media becomes an indispensable sales & marketing tool

While social media usage continues to surge through these isolating times, we’ll see more businesses focus their efforts within popular social platforms. Facebook and Instagram will play a vital role in reaching shoppers where they spend the majority of their time online-- in their social networks. 

Many will consider it a primary source for driving traffic to online sales channels, building customer relationships at scale, and as a way to leverage the rising popularity of live video and social commerce. An active presence, engaging content (paid or organic), and quick response times will be rewarded with customer loyalty that will last beyond the season.

Related Reading: 7 Types of High Performing Content For Social Sales

3. Sales are pushed earlier as the holiday shopping timeline advances

Traditionally, November is known as the official start of the holiday shopping season. This year AlixPartners, the global consulting firm, declared October as the start in 2020. Reinforced by their annual consumer survey, 49% said they plan to start holiday shopping by Halloween or earlier.

Now entering the start of November, an early shopping season isn’t so much of a prediction as it is news. However, this behavior has shifted spending away from the traditional peak five-day shopping period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday. 

E-commerce giant, Amazon Prime, and other large competing retailers already delivered Black-Friday worthy deals during the Prime Day event. Other large retailers such as Target, Walmart, and Home Depot have declared that they’re shutting their doors on Thanksgiving while doling out digital deals throughout November and December. 

Others will likely follow in their footsteps as anticipated product scarcity, shipping delays, and retail competition are also contributing to earlier sales.

4. Retailers find workarounds to ease shipping concerns

With unpredictable high volume online orders and supply chain delays, stockouts will likely be a  challenge this year. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve observed businesses adding and diversifying vendors locally or regionally to restock a variety of items on short notice. 

Implementing waitlists has become a popular way to sustain customer interest in sold out items before they turn to competitors for similar products. This e-commerce tool notifies interested shoppers when an item they want is back in stock, which gives retailers valuable lead time to get hot sellers back on the shelf for eager buyers.

Shipping delays are another widely anticipated challenge as popular carriers expect an unparalleled package volume increase. Last year, consumers stated that late delivery was their topmost concern for online gift buying. This year, retailers need to get ahead of this concern by communicating shipping expectations early and often. Clearly conveying fulfillment options, timelines, and shipping costs on product pages and checkout screens will be crucial.

Scheduling doorbuster deals earlier in the season and frequently announcing holiday shipping deadlines will encourage shoppers to make their purchases ahead of the busiest shipping dates. In addition, businesses should put a special emphasis on their alternative fulfillment methods, such as BOPIS and curbside pick up.

The takeaway

E-commerce sales will explode this year, putting retailers’ online strategies to the test. Our advice? Don’t put the cart before the horse. Adapting to the “new normal” will require a heavy reliance on technology. Make sure you have a reliable e-commerce platform that has the tools and integrations to support your omnichannel strategy, fulfillment methods, and marketing tactics this holiday season.

Topics: Marketing, Technology, Sales, Business Strategy

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