Shopping during the holiday season is much more than just purchasing gifts. So much of the holiday experience includes the care of thinking of others, the anticipation of gathering with loved ones, the excitement that comes with tracking a package to its final destination and the thrill of snagging the perfect present for a great price. For so many, shopping is an important part of celebrating the holidays. But in a time in which brown cardboard boxes showing up at home has become more mundane than exciting, and many shoppers are more mindful about when and how they shop in-store, how can retailers create a great experience and bring some joy to the holiday season?
Strengthen experiences across channels
Consumers have adopted alternative contactless shopping methods like buy online, pickup in store, curbside pickup, home delivery at record levels due to the pandemic and we expect to see that continue through the holidays. According to data from McKinsey, most categories saw an increase in online sales since the pandemic began and survey responses from ShopKick showed that 67% of shoppers said they plan to do their holiday shopping online (as compared to 50% in 2019). To meet shoppers where they are – on their mobile devices and in their homes – retailers need to craft their experiences to make purchasing seamless, no matter how customers chose to shop.
Since traditional Black Friday shopping doesn’t lend itself well to social distancing, many large retailers have decided to shift their promotions online and extend their promotional calendar several weeks ahead of Thanksgiving instead. Online promotional events like Cyber Monday may become even more important this year, as shoppers who weren’t accustomed to shopping online before are becoming more comfortable with it because of the pandemic. For many retailers, the holiday shopping season has already started. So during this extended holiday shopping season, retailers need to make sure the promotions, deals and offers that customers get are seasonal and personalized.
Make returns safe and simple
Returns are a major part of holiday shopping every year, as well as a source of frustration, but this year social distancing and in-store capacity guidelines have added an additional hurdle. Many shoppers will continue to avoid crowds when possible so retailers will have to find ways to mitigate long lines and make the return process as quick, easy, and as safe as possible. A good or bad experience during a return can heavily influence if a customer will shop at that store in the future, so retailers will need to ensure they are prepared with a clear process, an organized and safe in-store area, and in-store systems that will help associates quickly and reliably process returns so customers can spend less time waiting.
Make it special – no matter the distance
Many people are coping with the lack of experiences that they won’t be able to have because of the pandemic: traditions like big dinners with family, in-person gift-giving, baking cookies with grandparents, and holiday parties with friends and neighbors are going to look very different this year. Retailers have a big opportunity to fill that gap by offering products or experiences. Holiday baking or craft packages that can be dropped off at a loved one’s front door, pre-made meal kits that a family can send, cook and eat over a video call, or making it simple to purchased and send gifts directly to recipients are just a few ways that retailers can help make this unusual holiday season a little more personal and special for each other.
The 2020 holiday season may be different than previously imagined, but retailers have the opportunity to shine by building trust with shoppers, getting creative with new experiences, connecting with their customers to help deliver solutions that still make the holidays feel special.