This holiday season shoppers will act differently online and in-store: Here’s how retailers can prepare


Retail Express founder and chief Aaron Blackman. Source: supplied.

The disruption of COVID-19 has thrown traditional retail planning out the window.

Normally, at this time of year, retailers would be well progressed in their holiday season planning, however, many are too busy managing day-to-day sales and treading water to stay afloat.

It is hard to find the headspace to plan for a campaign that feels impossible to plan for.

But now, more than ever, retailers need to double down on planning and preparation for the 2020 holiday season.

The campaign will look different from previous years, but a successful season is going to be essential for the survival and future success for many retailers.

The industry has experienced unprecedented volatility over the last six months, and it is difficult to accurately forecast based on previous years.

What this means is the most important seasonal campaign for retailers will be unlike any other — and the stakes have never been higher. 

Retailers need to act now to be ready for the upcoming season to maximise the sales opportunity and recoup the revenue deficit from the last six months.

The time is short, but it is not too late to get your business ready to pivot and implement the strategies that will help you to succeed this year, and will set you up for sustainable future success.

How will the 2020 season be different?

The new normal is well and truly embedded into our everyday lives now, and this will continue into the holiday shopping season and beyond.

Some of the biggest changes we can expect include:

  1. A significant portion of sales will be online. While the online shopping trend was already on the rise, 2020 will deliver more than just a steady increase. The growth will be exponential, and your e-commerce ecosystems and infrastructure will be pushed to its limits.
  2. FOMO will drive an early start to the season. Buyers have already experienced delivery delays in their online shopping over this last period. Research shows FOMO, otherwise known as a fear of missing out, will drive a significant number of online shoppers (78%) to start earlier, with the majority of those (83%) indicating they will be starting in early-November.
  3. Consumers will do more bargain hunting and comparison shopping. A key reason that shoppers are going to be increasing their online spend is to take advantage of bargains. In terms of the discount thresholds that you want to consider, 36% is the average discount required to trigger an immediate purchase. What’s also important to understand is that 50% of online shoppers will purchase at a 25% discount and additional discounting above 50% achieves minimal additional sales.
  4. Agility will be critical to compete effectively this holiday season. The brands that will win holiday 2020 will be highly agile. They will be able to adjust their marketing messages and business processes quickly, so they can be first to react to changing circumstances around everything from inventory levels to customer demands to external forces.

How you can prepare for success this holiday season

The last point above about agility is an important one.

Even though agility is about being able to react quickly and pivot as needed, it still requires robust planning.

With that in mind, how can you prepare for a successful 2020 holiday shopping season?

  1. Ensure you have the right systems and technology. It is not too late to put in place the right system that will ensure you can maximise sales during this holiday period and set your business up for future growth. Choose a partner who can deliver a rapid implementation service and has expert support to ensure your staff are trained and onboarded in time.
  2. Optimise your inventory holdings. You need to ensure you have the perfect balance of stock to cater for demand. Too little will risk lost sales, and too much will risk having your cashflow tied up with excess stock that will lead to clearance selling. Having the right POS software system will enable you to plan and optimise the perfect balance of inventory investment for the duration of the season.
  3. Deliver an omnichannel customer experience. The reality is that we live in an omnichannel world where consumers expect to be able to bounce seamlessly between different channels and have the same experience. They want to research and find available products online (and see ‘live stock in store’) and be able to immediately pick up from a nearby physical store (”instant click and collect’). Your gift vouchers and special offers also need to be omnichannel for both purchase and redemption.
  4. Prepare for an agile marketing program. Be ready to have a large range of discounted inventory available from early-November and pre-promote offers for special online events such as Click Frenzy on November 10, Black Friday on November 27 and Cyber Monday on November 30. Be prepared to be able to react to the situation on the ground at a moment’s notice. 
  5. Dial up your customer service both instore and online. Customer service will become the main driver of retail sales and brand loyalty in a post-COVID retail world.
  6. Make customer acquisition your primary goal. Online sales will enable the collection of data that will power new customer growth programs in the new year. While there will be fewer people crowded into shopping malls, those who are shopping instore will be there with the intent to purchase. Ensure your POS system makes the capturing of customer data easy and seamless for your staff so you can build a database for ongoing personalisation, loyalty programs and marketing to drive repeat sales. A customer is for life, not just for Christmas.
  7. Carefully plan your rosters and both brief and upskill staff. Make sure your people are engaged, well trained, knowledgeable, loyal and motivated. 

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