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    September 15, 2020
    6 minute read

    How COVID-19 Will Shape the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season — and How to Prepare

    by: Dom Scarlett

    As the holiday shopping season moves closer, everyone in the industry has the same question: How will shopping habits change amid COVID-19?

    This spring, shoppers stocked up on household essentials like toilet paper and disinfecting wipes. This summer, consumers adapted to stay-at-home orders with increased purchases of furniture and home goods.

    As consumers start to plan for the holidays, it’s apparent that COVID-19 will have an enormous impact on how, where, and when they shop. These insights will help you understand both expected trends and how to prepare for the season.

    Even More Holiday Shoppers Will Go Digital

    Ecommerce sales have grown by 49% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Nielsen, and click-and-collect and home delivery options are also up 95% and 39%, respectively. Between temporary store closures and customer safety concerns, shoppers have shifted to online channels at unprecedented rates — with some shopping online for the very first time.

    The ongoing pandemic will likely urge even more shoppers to complete their holiday shopping online or through other “contactless” options, such as in-store or curbside pickup.

    A recent Think with Google survey found that 47% of shoppers plan to shop online or with contactless options to prioritize safety this season.

    Holiday Shopping Will Start Sooner

    “Let’s face it: Historically, deal hunting and holiday shopping can mean crowded events, and this isn’t a year for crowds. That’s why our biggest holiday deals will be available earlier than ever, so you can shop safely and conveniently without worrying about missing out on deals that usually come later in the season,” Target posted on its site, highlighting its plans to kick off its holiday shopping season in October.

    As major retailers like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and others make the move to remain closed on Thanksgiving and start their sale seasons sooner, brands must be prepared to meet the demands of a longer holiday shopping season.

    Customers will start shopping sooner, and brands must move quickly to meet this new timeline.

    Omnichannel Shopping Will Have Newfound Importance

    For those who plan to visit brick-and-mortar locations during the holiday shopping season, planning ahead will have newfound importance this year. One of the most consistent commerce trends year-over-year has been the use of online search before visiting a physical store.

    Even before the start of the pandemic, the overwhelming majority (88%) of shoppers start every in-store shopping journey with an online search.

    In addition to starting their holiday shopping sooner, consumers may also pre-plan every shopping trip to minimize their time spent in-store. According to Think with Google, most shoppers (67%) also plan to first confirm in-store availability before walking through the door.

    How to Navigate the 'New Normal' This Holiday Season

    The majority of holiday purchases in 2019 happened online (58%), and brands must be prepared to meet the predicted spike in digital commerce.

    Understanding how buying behaviors may shift this year is the first step to navigating this “new normal,” and embracing digital transformation is essential for taking advantage of this unique opportunity.

    Create Engaging Enhanced Content Experiences

    One of the most hotly debated commerce questions in 2020: Will these new shopping habits be lasting? While it’s yet to be seen how many shoppers keep these habits after COVID-19 ends, experiences may be the key to developing lasting habits.

    Lackluster digital shopping experiences hurt growth, as missing product information, shipping delays, and other product-experience issues can limit your chances of nurturing long-term relationships with new and existing customers.

    Permanent adoption will require brand manufacturers to ensure consistently positive and engaging digital experiences. The holiday shopping season will be an exceptional opportunity for your brand to provide engaging digital content experiences that could help you develop lasting brand loyalty.

    Follow these tips to ensure your product detail pages (PDPs) are ready for holiday shoppers:

    • Write detailed product descriptions and bullet points that answer frequently asked questions about your products clearly and concisely.
    • Highlight several editorial images (at least 5–7) in a gallery to show customers detailed views of what they’re buying and how they can use your product.
    • Use additional content features, such as comparison charts, videos, and graphics, to engage shoppers and help them make final buying decisions.

    Meet Your Customers Wherever They Decide to Shop

    As more shoppers go digital, brand manufacturers must embrace new retail channels, such as direct-to-consumer (D2C) and marketplace opportunities. As shoppers make their way across the digital shelf, they expect their interactions with your brand to be consistent and engaging wherever they decide to shop.

    To win this holiday season, you must be able to tell your brand story to win customer loyalty across all of your priority channels. To accomplish this, you must equip your ecommerce team with a system that allows you to store, manage, and transform accurate and channel-ready product content with speed and agility.

    Embrace Digital Transformation

    A set-it-and-forget-it model doesn’t work for modern commerce, as the requirements of the digital shelf change constantly — from trends and market shifts to retailers, shoppers, distributors, and more.

    Continual optimization is vital to stay ahead during the holiday shopping season — and the rest of the year. By embracing digital transformation, your team can be ready to adapt to whatever the season holds.

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