The upcoming holiday shopping season is poised to be another season unlike any other. As more consumers become increasingly cautious with the recent surge in the Delta variant, there is a lot to consider in preparation for the upcoming holiday season. While uncertainty lingers, there is a sense of familiarity from last year.
The good news for retailers? According to recent research, there will be a strong shopping season ahead. In fact, 66% of consumers in the UK and 64% of consumers in the US say this holiday season will be more important and emotional than prior years, and plan to spend more to make it special. Recent projections from Deloitte also show that holiday retail sales could grow up to 9% over last year.
To get their holiday shopping done safely and conveniently, many consumers are continuing to pursue, and expect, shopping services like buy-online-pick-up in store (BOPIS), curbside pickup, virtual consultations, and more. For retailers, this means meeting consumers where they want to shop and giving them options for how they want to shop.
Here are some recent holiday shopping season trends and strategies to navigate another atypical season:
The next surge in online shopping
According to research by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), COVID-19 was the reason 58% of consumers shopped online instead of in-store during the holiday season in 2020. In fact, in the past year it’s estimated that more than 150 million new shoppers migrated online.
Deloitte recently projected that online shopping sales could increase by 11% to 15% year over year this holiday season - so a comprehensive plan for eCommerce is a must. Here are some ideas on how to engage your shoppers online to drive eCommerce sales:
Build a team of online digital consultants who can share more detailed product information, answer shopper questions, and provide additional recommendations
Provide an easy way for customers pre-book virtual video visits where store associates can share gift ideas and direct customers to purchase directly online
Provide curbside and in-store options for same-day pickup
Consumers are researching online first
The line between digital and physical channels is blending, and one key example of this in retail is how many consumers are doing research on products online before making a purchase in-store.
In fact, The 2021 Future Stores Holiday Report says that 46% of retailers believe consumers are currently searching for more information online before shopping in-store.
Consumers have become a lot more conscious about their spending habits during the pandemic, and thorough research has become a way for them to ensure they are making the right product purchases. They also want to make their in-store experience as productive as possible. This holiday season, retailers should evaluate the cohesiveness of their experiences across digital and physical channels to address this growing trend.
In-store considerations: Increased staffing and safety measures
When opting for in-store shopping, consumers will likely take advantage of slower shopping days during the week to avoid crowded stores. With more people working remotely, many shoppers have more time to get to the store during the week to complete their holiday shopping.
Keeping up with peak times this holiday season will be difficult for many retailers. In fact, 55% of retailers say matching labor schedules to in-store customer demand is one of their biggest workforce management challenges. Reviewing employee capacity data regularly can help ensure operational efficiency during the holiday season. Additionally, finding ways to effectively engage your employees through additional perks, flexible hybrid work models, and more will help you retain top talent.
In addition to staffing considerations for physical locations, retailers are also heightening their safety protocols to give customers peace of mind when shopping in-store. To help consumers feel more comfortable, 72% of retailers are considering maintaining in-store safety, security, and sanitation measures, and many plan to continue implementing technologies and alternative shopping solutions for all shopping experiences. Here are some ways retailers can offer safer shopping environments:
Offer more in-store contactless payment options to ensure a smooth checkout process and eliminate lines
Consider using pre-booked appointments in-store to help proactively manage capacity and reduce crowding
Set up your checkout areas in a way that makes it easy for shoppers to social distance
Clearly communicate safety measurements and restrictions, such as mask requirements
Personalized, omnichannel offerings to meet consumer needs
Omnichannel retail strategies were prevalent in the 2020 holiday shopping season and show no signs of slowing down. While omnichannel has proven to be a challenge for many retailers over the past two holiday seasons (52% of retailers cited this being a top challenge both years), finding the right technologies to create a robust omnichannel strategy will be key to meeting consumer demand.
Even after this holiday season, shoppers will be increasingly channel-agnostic, searching for the most convenient, affordable, and frictionless ways to make purchases instead of favoring one channel over the other.
One way retailers are finding success to implement the omnichannel offerings consumers want this season? With in-store and virtual video appointments! Appointments allow retailers to provide a more personalized shopping experience to take place throughout the holiday season that customers crave.
In fact, 66% of retailers say they will use an appointment scheduling or booking platform to manage in-store customer experiences this year, and 48% of retailers claim their in-store customers will most likely shop in their physical stores via pre-arranged appointments only this season.
This holiday season, appointment scheduling can help retailers:
Minimize crowds and reduce long lines in-store
Provide a safer way to shop and allow for more flexibility and convenience
Increase transaction volumes with optimal upsell and cross-sell opportunities
All in all, consumers are looking for safe, personalized, and convenient shopping experiences. Even with another non-traditional season, retailers have ample opportunities to exceed customer expectations. Planning ahead, being adaptable, and honing in on key performance data will be fundamental to “sleigh” this season.
Want to learn more about how to prepare for the upcoming holiday season? Then be sure to download The 2021 Future Stores Holiday Report to help you get ahead of retail trends this year!
About the author
The JRNI team is made up of product, customer, and technical experts who are focused on driving personalized experiences - for our customers, and for theirs. The JRNI blog enables us to dive into how retail and financial organizations can use personalized experiences to grow profitability, build stronger customer relationships, and drive customer loyalty.
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