It’s no doubt that the 2020 period for shopping will prove unique as the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to affect how retailers conduct business and also changing the way consumers shop. With shopping capacity in retail stores drastically decreased across the United States and consumers limiting their time in crowds due to the pandemic, significant in-person shopping events usually related to Black Friday are unlikely to be held this year. Therefore, large and small companies have shifted their attention to sales online and deal that begin earlier to attract more customers.
KaziHouse discovered that more customers are buying on the internet in 2020 than in 2019; however, the amount per purchase remained approximately the same. The report also forecasts that Black Friday might likely be an all-online holiday for big and small-scale companies. In addition to that, Cyber Monday could see an increase in sales from shoppers.
To assist your business in preparing for this unique shopping season, Here are 13 steps from experts in retail and business owners who have the experience to help you get maximum value from the holiday season.
How can you prepare for the Christmas shopping season?
- Set and establish seasonal goals.
The planning process continues for each retailer, but the preparations for the busiest time of shopping of the year should comprise an extensive analysis of the previous year’s holiday sales strategy and results. The information gained could be utilized to calculate the amount of inventory available, make deals more customized or promotions, and determine revenue goals for the holiday season.
“Make sure that the goals you set for yourself are reasonable and attainable,” said Stefan Lewinger, founder and CEO of Sock Fancy.
He also reminded entrepreneurs that they don’t need to base their goals based on revenue. “Other metrics, like customer engagement and social media following, are … great tools to measure your success,” he explained.
Alex Tran, a digital marketing strategist at Hollingsworth, has recommended using analytics to monitor the distilling of and interpreting of all the data that will help you formulate your objectives for the holiday marketing season.
“There are programs that can track POS (point-of-saleinventory], inventory, etc. and will help you plan what your company needs to be successful,” Tran said. “Without data, you will not be able to make informed decisions.”
Do some research on the strategies for sales during the holidays of your most reputable competitors, and then determine the strategy you’ll use to get your message to your potential customers. Lewinger advised including your product in guidebooks for gifts in “best of” lists.
Also, consider looking at what strategies have been successful for your company and how you can incorporate these strategies into your plan for this year to make your company successful online.
- Get enough working capital.
When the season is in full swing, It is possible to have additional funds available to expand the inventory, employ seasonal employees, or even set up displays for the holidays.
According to Garcia-Villari’s research, many lenders have fair interest rates, repayment terms, and quick turnaround times from approval to financing. However, business owners must look around and be aware of scam lenders.
“Be sure that you know what you’re signing up for before you agree to any loans or lines of credit,” she said.
Furthermore, business owners must seek out their processing company to discuss an expansion of their transaction volume or to negotiate a higher credit limit, if needed. According to Geoffrey Scott, associate marketing manager at Taroko, small businesses typically have limits for credit processing written in their merchant account agreements.
“While seasonal fluctuations are taken into account, to an extent, by your processor, a huge spike could potentially freeze your ability to process credit cards during the busiest time of the year,” Scott explained. “The responsibility lies with you to initiate this process. Don’t expect them to give any holiday gifts without asking.”
- Review and update technology.
It is essential to ensure that your system is up-to-date and ready to face the influx of Christmas shoppers, especially this year. You do not want to lose customers due to your site not functioning, or you are being unable to take credit card transactions. This means that you should take the time earlier in the year to update security software, check the checkout and payment process, test the functionality of search features, and ensure your website is user-friendly and ready to handle the increased traffic.
Check that your website can handle large numbers of visitors, in particular, if the website isn’t accustomed to large-scale traffic. Conduct tests before significant events, and create plans for what you will do in the event of problems or crashes.
- Embrace omnichannel customer experiences.
The most significant trend that affects sales during the holidays is omnichannel retailing. It is described as an integrated sales method that provides a seamless shopping experience for customers regardless of whether they’re shopping via a computer or mobile device or in a store. For instance, they might purchase the item online and at the shop or utilize a smartphone app to check prices before they buy the item on a company’s website.
Omnichannel customers are more likely to purchase more products and recommend brands to friends and family. So you’ll want to not just enhance your communication with these customers but also increase the value of the interaction.
One method for businesses to respond to the needs of shoppers across all channels is to honor online coupons and in-store sales in an interchangeable way.
“Make sure that all of [your holiday deals] are scannable for your in-store sales,” said Mike Catania, CTO and the founder of PromotionCode.org.
- Make sure you stock up on your holiday supplies.
There’s nothing worse than being short of a must-have item and then having to decline any new customers. To avoid this, ensure the online shop is with stock, and you have lots of your most popular items readily available.
“Stock up on your most popular items, the latest trends in your industry, and specially branded or crafted gifts that make your merchandise stand out,” Garcia-Villari advised. “Talk to vendors and see if you can get discounts for buying in larger quantities or extended payment terms.
- Cultivate online sales.
Making online sales a part of your marketing strategy is crucial for all small companies that want to keep up with steady sales and enjoy an increase in sales this holiday season. Although the trend toward more internet-based shopping has been steadily occurring in the last few months, don’t be concerned when you’re not able to bring your entire stock online before the rush of Christmas.
“Make a small selection of what you feel will be hot this holiday season and offer those items up for online purchase and shipping to the customer’s front door,” said Christopher Mohs, vice president of operations and strategy for Cora+Krist.
To make the most of the growing popularity of online businesses, merchants must focus on reducing abandonment of shopping carts (when consumers add products to a shopping cart but fail to make the payment), explicitly using mobile devices, according to Amit Mathradas, the chief operating officer and president at Avalara.
“Online sales and an emphasis on mobile are categorical imperatives,” the CEO said. “A site not rendering properly on a mobile device or any hiccups in payment processing can cause a ripple effect in terms of lost sales.”
Another significant trend in online shopping in 2020 will be “buy now, pay later,” that allows customers to pay for their purchases in fixed installments or on a monthly basis.
- Improve Your SEO effort.
Since online shopping is expected to be an increasing trend this year, it’s crucial for your company to do everything it can to ensure that your company is at the top of the search results. As per BrightEdge’s BrightEdge study, “An impressive 60% of people have been purchasing more from online stores after COVID-19. Of this section, 73% are planning to do so after the outbreak. What SEOs and digital marketers [search engine optimization experts] have been observing for years is now becoming a reality: online shopping is easy and convenient. The problem is making SEO essential to your company.”
Here are a few simple methods to increase your SEO:
- Create content that is relevant to your brand’s image and appealing for your customers.
- Find and use keywords that can help your visitors navigate to your site.
- Keep your site’s content updated so visitors have a reason to return to your website.
- Use descriptive hyperlinks, which means that the terms you link describe the link you’re making.
“Investing in search terms via Google ensures that you are easily found by customers looking for similar products,” Mathradas stated. “This is especially critical for [niche] businesses … to target the right customer as they follow the path to purchase.”
- Marketing to customers who are loyal.
In order to attract new customers, it takes more time and effort than gaining loyal customers to return. This is particularly the case in the time of the holidays. It is possible to encourage customers to purchase gifts for the holidays by offering them special online deals as well as in-store events, special discounts and promotions that are personalized to each customer.
“Based on their past buying history, you already know exactly what will appeal to them most and can create personalized campaigns that will convert them” into loyal customers, according to Jurgen Nebelung, vice-president of digital and e-commerce at Tea Forte. “Loyal customers spend, on average, 67% more than new customers.”
- Make use of social media to promote your business.
Utilize social media to make sure your customers are able to find you. They will also keep them informed about your offerings and services once they are ready to purchase Mathradas added.
“Look at every way to build your digital brand – from posting on Instagram to taking out cost-effective ads on social media networks, like Facebook – that can boost online visibility and keep your business front of mind for target audiences,” Garcia-Villari explained.
If you’re on an email address, it is recommended to regularly send out updates that highlight new products as well as other promotions she advised. Other avenues to engage with potential customers is to respond to feedback and reviews about your business, put together specific promotional campaigns and make Pinterest boards that focus on gift-giving ideas or topicst •
- Offer excellent customer service.
In these challenging times, businesses must improve their customer experience. Prior to the pandemic, it could be as easy as brick-and-mortar stores extending their hours to accommodate the holidays. But, given the rise of online shopping this year, any business who sell online should have customer support staff on hand to respond to any complaints from customers on a moment’s notice.
“Using your deep understanding of your customers, you can create an enjoyable and hassle-free customer journey, from browsing to checkout to returns,” Nebelung said.
Make sure you are as transparent and as transparent as you can as you can, and ensure your customers understand any possible COVID-related delays to shipping that could impact their shopping timeframes.
- Provide an affordable delivery option.
You can differentiate your company from the competition and gain the respect of customers who have waited until the last minute by providing the option of free shipping or fast delivery.
“Free shipping raises the perceived value of your product and simultaneously lowers buyer friction,” said Augustin Kennady Director of media relations for ShipMonk..
Due to the anticipated increase in online purchases during the year ahead, internet retailers must be prepared for a greater demand for delivery and shipping. Companies that have a large volume of merchandise might want to think about outsourcing this service.
“Some companies that ship 500+ packages a month can outsource their shipping and warehousing operations to a third-party logistics company,” Tran explained. “There are companies who tailor plans that work for businesses of any size.”
Even businesses operating on a smaller scale could come up with ways to improve the delivery services they offer. For instance, they could provide local delivery that is tailored to the local neighborhood, or use the resources provided by the e-commerce giants.
“If customers place orders on our site and we can’t ship it fast enough to meet a holiday delivery date, we will drive them through to our Amazon store to leverage Prime’s fast shipping,” Nebelung stated.
Furthermore, brick and mortar retailers who are concerned about online sales outpacing their footfall this season may offer customers the option of pickup in-store for online purchases. So, customers can will save on shipping costs, and retailers can earn an additional revenue while also encouraging secure purchasing.