Even though the holiday retail season will certainly be unconventional this year due to the pandemic, it will come nonetheless. Business owners who are prepared for a new normal will reap the benefits.
Companies that can serve both shoppers from afar and reassure those who venture out that they are safe have the biggest opportunities for a strong holiday sales season. "Safety" is the watchword this year, with "online" being one solution.
The good news is that consumer shopping plans appear to be relatively unaffected. A Radial consumer survey regarding holiday shopping reported that "despite the impact of COVID-19, shoppers do not plan to significantly change their holiday spend compared to 2019. However, the data did reveal a stronger preference for online shopping, with 66% of shoppers anticipating they will increase their online purchases during the 2020 holiday season."
Here's what some businesses are doing to entice shoppers to buy from them this winter.
Convert In-Person Services to Virtual
Aware that many shoppers are uncomfortable browsing in-store, Ray Pugsley, owner of Potomac River Running, rolled out an At-Home Virtual Shoe Fitting. Through a scheduled Zoom or phone call, customers can get the same attention they would in person.
"One of the expert staff members will walk you through the fit process and discuss injuries and current goals," Pugsley explains. At the end of the fitting, customers can buy and pay online.
Offer Gift Wrapping
Pugsley offers customers gift wrapping and expedites orders to ensure they arrive in time for holiday celebrations. Adding such flourishes for your online customers may entice them to choose your business over a competitor.
Add Curbside Service
An October 2020 New York Times article reported that curbside service, with buyers purchasing goods online and then driving "the last mile" to pick them up outside the store, has increased dramatically during the pandemic.
"Target said its curbside sales grew more than 700% in the last quarter, while Best Buy reported nearly $5 billion in online revenue in the second quarter, a company record, and said 41% of that had come from curbside or in-store pickup," according to the article.
Beef Up Inventory Selection
With social distancing, customers may want to make fewer store visits and get as much as they can at each stop.
"Shoppers became used to buying most of what they need at just one or two stores, as opposed to shopping around," says Eric Grindley, founder and CEO of Esquire Advertising. "As a result, retailers with a limited selection of merchandise are finding it more difficult to attract business. To get the most out of this holiday season, retailers will need to ensure that they remain fully stocked and address any store backlogs."
Hire Extra Help
Besides having products in stock, ensuring you have enough workers available to assist customers or get products shipped is essential, says Jerry Han, chief marketing executive at PrizeRebel.
"With additional hands to help, your business can cater to the demands of customers better," he says. "Failure to increase employee size would mean delayed customer service and slow restocking of supplies."
Ramp Up Correspondence
The effects of social distancing include feelings of isolation and loneliness, so one thing businesses can do this year is reconnect with past customers.
"The best way to show holiday appreciation this season will be by sending a personal note or gift through the mail"—handwritten, preferably, says Rick Elmore, founder and CEO of Simply Noted. "Sending a handwritten note is a way to stand out from the impersonal e-cards and easy-to-send photo cards."
This approach can bring your company name to the fore at a time when consumers are buying more products and services than usual.
This holiday season, being ready means being fully stocked, serving customers wherever they are comfortable interacting—online or even from their car outside your store—and ensuring you have the human power available to avoid any delay. Flexibility and adaptability will be critical.