How to Capitalize on 2020’s Unique Holiday Shopping Season

Ruthie Careyby Ruthie Carey

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The way in which people shop has been undergoing a significant transformation since the rise of eCommerce. 2020 has pushed that evolution over the edge.

With the advent of COVID-19 and the impact the response to the pandemic has had on society, eCommerce growth has rapidly accelerated. As TechCrunch reports on COVID’s influence on eCommerce:

“According to new data from IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, the pandemic has accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by roughly five years… The report indicates that department stores are expected to decline by over 60 percent for the full year. Meanwhile, e-commerce is projected to grow by nearly 20 percent in 2020.”

With in-person shopping hindered by masks, social distancing and other inconvenient measures, many find the experience to be frustrating. As a result, these folks opt instead to stay at home and shop online.

Others who are less bothered by these things are still choosing to do their shopping online in an attempt to ensure their safety.

No matter the scenario, one thing is clear: For eCommerce retailers, business is booming.

As we move into the holiday season, things are bound to become even more hectic for online retailers. While preparing for Black Friday and Cyber Monday is an annual thing for sellers, 2020 is shaping up to be much different from any other year.

According to Klaviyo’s predictions for Cyber Weekend 2020:

“Ecommerce sales, overall, will likely grow a total of 85 percent this year and ultimately top $1.1 trillion in 2020, according to Klaviyo’s projections. Combine this projection with the $88.9 billion in Q2 2020 sales that Amazon reported, according to VentureBeat, which represents nearly $1 billion in sales per day, and knowing that Amazon drives more than one-third of eCommerce sales, it’s clear that this year will make headlines come January.”

Given that the holiday shopping season is poised to be such a unique event, retailers must come up with a strategy that will address the anomalies that are getting ready to present themselves.

Therefore, today, we will be covering how sellers can capitalize on the 2020 holiday season.

However, before getting into strategy detail, let’s take a closer look at how and why the shopping season will be so exceptional.

How the 2020 Holiday Will Be Unprecedented

Again, for many physical retailers, implementing a roadmap to recovery and getting beyond the COVID-19 crisis has been a particularly challenging undertaking as shoppers are forced to socially distance themselves, walk down aisles in specific directions, browse with the looming sense that they might get sick and deal with a multitude of other abnormalities that hamper the overall experience.

As a result of this dynamic, many buyers are altering their behaviors in meaningful ways. As McKinsey’s U.S. consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis survey reveals:

“Consumers continue to shift to online shopping across categories, with nearly half of Americans planning to spend more online than in-store for the upcoming holiday season. Most digital and contactless services have seen increased adoption since April, with more than half of new and increased users reporting an intent to continue post-COVID-19.”

The fact that roughly half of Americans plan to spend more time shopping online during this holiday season is a marked transition from the norm, helping to effectively usher in the future of eCommerce.

Moreover, the fact that half of Americans will shop in this manner implies something else as well: Older generations are beginning to warm up to eCommerce.

The fact of the matter is that, because of the COVID-19 scare and lockdowns, many from the Gen X and Boomer categories have been forced to learn to navigate the digital arena.

This assertion is backed by Facebook’s holiday insights report for 2020, which also comes to this exact conclusion. As the report states:

“Among those surveyed, an average 72 percent of Gen X and 50 percent of Boomers say they’re spending more time on mobile during the COVID-19 outbreak. While digital adoption had already been growing, the COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated this trend, particularly encouraging older generations to embrace eCommerce. On average 85 percent of people globally are shopping online, averaging over 80 percent of Gen X and Boomers. What’s noteworthy is that of the surveyed Gen X and Boomers who shop online, on average 44 percent and 30 percent respectively said they are spending more time shopping online. And this trend will continue over the holiday season with 43 percent of people surveyed saying they expect to shop online more frequently after the outbreak is over.”

At the same time, while many are opting out of shopping in person (or at least doing so to a lesser extent), the dynamic between shoppers and brick-and-mortar locations is changing as well.

Taking a look at Google’s 2020 retail holiday guide, this becomes abundantly clear as:

  • Searches for “curbside pickup” are up 3,000 percent year-over-year
  • Searches for “click + collect” are up 600 percent globally, year-over-year
  • 61 percent of U.S. shoppers feel that in-store or curbside pickup is an advantageous way for them to shop, even after all restrictions come to an end

All of this clearly shows that the 2020 holiday shopping season is positioned to be wholly unique. However, because of all these changes (as well as some potential unknowns), it is also shaping up to be one for the record books.

As CNBC reports on the coming online holiday sales surge:

“Two years’ worth of e-commerce growth is about to be packed into one holiday season, according to a new forecast, as Americans turn in droves to online shopping to avoid crowded stores and malls during the coronavirus pandemic. Online sales this November and December are forecast to surge 33 percent year over year to a record $189 billion, Adobe Analytics said Wednesday, based on web transactions of 80 of the top 100 U.S. internet retailers. The e-commerce gains could go even higher if consumers receive another round of government stimulus checks or if brick-and-mortar stores are forced to shut down again to curb the spread of Covid-19… Should those two things occur, Adobe expects consumers could spend an extra $11 billion online, pushing total holiday spending past $200 billion.”

Looked at as a whole, 2020’s holiday shopping season (much like the rest of 2020) represents a turning point and won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

That said, let’s take a look at how retailers can capitalize on this event and implement strategies to increase eCommerce sales.

How to Capitalize on the 2020 Holiday Season

Given that substantially more people will be shopping online this holiday season, it is vital that retailers have their seasonal strategy in order.

Per the usual, there is a multitude of things for merchants to consider. However, given the unusual nature of the year, there are some aspects that some would likely overlook if they were not explicitly discussed.

Some of those accepted and abnormal eCommerce tactics include:

Enhance Inventory Management

As online sales spiked during the COVID-19 lockdowns, scores of retailers struggled to keep up with the demand. When looking at the coronavirus’s impact on eCommerce, supply chain disruption touched even massive online platforms like Amazon.

Therefore, it is critical for sellers to analyze consumer purchase patterns for their business and the market in general so as to ascertain the level of demand that can be anticipated over the holiday shopping season.

The last thing that merchants want is to have an abundance of products that don’t sell or a severe shortage of units that forces buyers to look elsewhere.

Given that consumer mindsets and behaviors are likely going to be slightly different than in years gone by, it is critical that sellers take the time to conduct the eCommerce market research necessary for understanding how to prep for the holidays.

Overinvest in Digital Marketing

Given how epically online the 2020 holiday shopping season will be, it is wise for retailers to invest the bulk of their marketing budget for the season into digital channels like Google advertising, Instagram retargeting campaigns, and the like.

At the same time, merchants should focus on generating content that can be promoted through social and the SERPs to drive traffic to their online store and engender conversions.

When it comes to holiday-oriented content, sellers should craft materials that buyers will find beneficial, such as themed gift guides, product videos, item comparison charts, and similar types of content.

Leverage PPC Advertising

Naturally, optimizing eCommerce PPC campaigns for the holidays will be an essential ingredient for generating traffic and sales.

Therefore, retailers should already be planning out various advertising campaigns for Google, Instagram, Facebook, and other popular online destinations. Since each of these are major internet hubs, sellers shouldn’t neglect any of these channels.

That said, one of the most critical ad types that sellers can deploy will be Google Shopping ads. These adverts can help merchants gain a high degree of visibility in the SERPs (above the organic rankings), thereby significantly increasing brand awareness and website traffic.

However, when utilizing Google Shopping ads, it is vital for retailers to optimize their product feed to generate the best possible results.

Given that Shopping ads have repeatedly proven to be one of the best marketing investments that a seller can make, utilizing this ad type during this 2020 holiday shopping season is an absolute must.

Optimize the On-Site Experience

With the massive influx of online shopping that is just around the corner, ensuring that retail sites are streamlined, decluttered, smooth, and intuitive should be at the top of a seller’s list. After all, people are going to have a near-endless array of options at their disposal. If one retailer’s website is confusing or frustrating, they will simply seek out a more amicable website.

In order to achieve this, merchants must ensure that their sites are fast, easy to navigate, have a succinct checkout process that offers guest checkout, are secure, and have a great mobile experience.

This is important because, as the Facebook holiday insights report mentioned earlier revealed, “an average 72 percent of Gen X and 50 percent of Boomers say they’re spending more time on mobile.”

As this seems to be the device of choice for many, mobile optimization for 2020 holiday shopping is critical for success.

Offer a Generous Return Policy

Here’s the thing: Given that shoppers will be buying more things online this year, it is safe to assume that merchants will have an influx of returns as well.

However, many potential customers will be deterred from buying from brands that make returning products difficult, who don’t offer free returns, or otherwise have a return policy that places a burden on buyers.

One of the biggest hurdles that retailers have been grappling with for years is the ROPO (research online, purchase offline) phenomenon. Now that sellers have a massive opportunity to overcome those lost sales, it is critical for brands to do everything possible to help make shoppers feel comfortable buying online.

Therefore, by writing a generous return policy, many will feel more compelled to click that “Buy Now” button, knowing that if things don’t work out (or if they need multiple sizes), they can just send it back.

Create Content for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

As touched upon when discussing where to invest marketing budgets, creating useful content is a vital component to driving traffic and sales during the holiday season. After all, content is the backbone of search and SEO.

Again, the key to holiday content is generating pieces that shoppers find valuable and useful in their search for products for themselves and those they love.

Therefore, creating themed gift guides, infographics, comparison pieces, product videos and similar content that can be promoted in the SERPs, through email, on social media and other high traffic destinations is vital to earning holiday sales.

Create Targeted Email Campaigns

Email marketing is one of the single most profitable marketing activities that merchants can utilize. As a Data & Marketing Association report from 2019 detailed, email marketing generates an average of $42 per $1 invested.

Knowing this, it is vital that merchants get their campaigns in order and segment their audiences accordingly. The fact is that there are a variety of Cyber Monday emails that can boost eCommerce revenue when the proper segmentation techniques are implemented.

By sifting through audience data now, sellers can significantly enhance their retail revenue during the 2020 shopping season.

Elevate Customer Service Expectations

With the substantial influx of older shoppers entering the eCommerce arena this holiday season, there is likely to be an uptick in customer service requests, no matter how well designed a retailer’s site.

Moreover, while savvy shoppers tend to know the ins and outs of shopping online, with the delays and breakdowns seen earlier this year, many are likely to have questions such as:

  • Is the item actually in stock?
  • When will the order ship?
  • Will the item arrive in time for the holidays?
  • Where is the order?
  • Are there any promo codes?

Since folks will be expecting answers to these kinds of questions relatively quickly, it is essential that merchants up their email, phone, social media and/or live chat abilities to help address customer concerns. Alternatively, sellers might opt to utilize a chatbot for such easy-to-answer questions, saving their customer service reps for more complicated issues.

Final Thoughts

For retailers the world over, the holidays are the most crucial time of year. In 2020, things are likely to get a little wild with the massive uptick in online shoppers surfing the web.

Because of the shopping dynamic that the COVID-19 scare has created, eCommerce retailers are in a unique position to not only generate more sales but to earn new customers and generate loyalty among digital newbies.

Be sure to leverage this guide for planning your company’s road to success for the holidays. Implement the strategies outlined above and you are likely to capitalize on the opportunities presented by 2020 effectively.

However, if your brand needs help optimizing its holiday marketing efforts, reach out to Visiture’s paid media and advertising specialists.

Our eCommerce-oriented team knows precisely how to optimize retail campaigns to reach the maximum number of qualified buyers and produce an ROI that will have your team celebrating more than just the holidays.

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