It’s a scene that we’ve watched play out on television news reports each year for decades. Droves of people swarming stores on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, to scoop up the best retail bargains of the year. As the pandemic continues and concerns of a second wave grow, we know that scenario will not unfold at stores this year. So how can retailers best prepare for this unprecedented holiday season?
The most important factor in this constantly shifting pandemic, especially during the holidays, is retail sensitivity. This is the time to continue to show customers your human side. Retailers should take an authentic stance that staff, customers and the community are most important. That could mean everything from a commitment to close on Thanksgiving Day to giving employees paid time off to be with family to a continued emphasis on safety and health. Retailers should also focus on the reason for the season, giving back to essential workers. For example, offering special days and times for those on the frontlines to shop, or special discounts/giveaways on hot-ticket items. At the end of 2020, you want your company to be remembered for how it behaved and what it gave during a trying year.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that in-store shopping will be down and online sales will be up this year. Salesforce forecasts a 30% year-over-year growth in overall global digital commerce this holiday season; and according to ShopperTrak, traffic in retail stores is expected to be down 22 to 25% year over year during the six key weeks of the holiday shopping season. Instead of focusing on singular days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, approach the holiday shopping season like a soft opening. That means offering deals and discounts earlier and spreading them throughout the end of the year and into 2021. Now is the time to begin a sales push through social media, email correspondence and advertising avenues, as well as amping up your omni-channel presence.
Similar to a typical year, retailers will need extra holiday staffing from warehouses to stores. With an expected spike in online orders, ecommerce capabilities should be up to task, and extra support is needed to ensure that stock is available and ready to ship. A trend that we expect to see continue is retailers partnering with last-mile delivery companies. This can ease the burden placed on traditional carriers and help brick-and-mortars fulfill locally placed online orders. With Covid-19 cases on the rise, retailers should also prepare for staff shortages due to illness. Having back-up or support staff ready to take shifts can prevent falling behind in shipping, stocking shelves and assisting customers.
Statistics from Salesforce show that 700 million packages will face potential shipping delays as orders will exceed shipping capacity by 5%. As we’ve become accustomed to during the pandemic, curbside pickup will continue to be important to customers and can help curb delayed shipping. Customers will also be looking for free shipping and returns, knowing they can buy and make returns safely, so that option is key for retailers.
To manage expectations, retailers should encourage shoppers to purchase early, and stress shipping cut-off dates. Adding extra incentives like free gift wrapping or a gratis gift to reward customers who buy early can also prevent a holiday rush. Keep in mind: Customers will remember a retailer when they’re opening gifts – but especially if their purchase didn’t arrive on time.
While it won’t look like past years, Black Friday is still expected to be a busy day in stores. Now is the time to re-evaluate safety protocols and crowd control. Do you have enough people to man doors, count customers for real-time occupancy or take temperatures, and enforce social distancing? Do you have the right staff to direct customers to the right product?
If you’re having an in-store sale, consider rewarding loyal/long-time customers with special shopping hours or offer shopping reservations. According to a survey by Accenture, nearly two-thirds (62%) of consumers said that booking a time to shop in person could inspire them to return to a physical store. If you have the man power, follow the lead of big-box retailer Target by updating social media or your website on lines outside your store, or texting customers when it’s their time to enter the building. Pop-up locations around the community can also extend your reach and lessen crowds, while also offering a personalized shopping experience.
The biggest gift any retailer can give their customers in 2020 is loyalty and dependability. And as we look ahead to 2021, hopefully they’ll believe in gifting to your business with loyalty.
To learn more about Brett Beveridge, his company, T-ROC Global, his awards, speaking opportunities and upcoming ForbesBooks launch, visit www.brettbeveridge.com.
The Revenue Optimization Companies (T-ROC Global) is home to four sales solutions companies that enable clients to fulfill all of their sales performance needs. The companies are: The Retail Outsource (TRO), Mobile Insight (MI), The Consumer Insight (TCI), and SYMBITS.