Other retailers are changing plans. Big-box stores like Target and Walmart, for example, are expanding sales into the weeks leading up to the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, blending online-only offers with in-store deals.
According to Salesforce research, sales or promotion codes were among the biggest influencers of holiday purchasing decisions in 2019. This year, heightened unemployment levels and economic uncertainty could consumer outlook leading to more cost-conscious spending driven by deals. According to a recent poll from Statista, 47 percent of shoppers plan to decrease spending, while 20 percent are unsure about their budgets this year.
According to Publicis Sapient’s Digital Life Index, 77 percent of consumers delayed discretionary purchases in categories like apparel, home goods and electronics at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.
An early holiday shopping season may also mean people wrap up shopping long before traditional deadlines. By understanding customer habits and intent, retailers can curate relevant promotions, product recommendations or offers at the right time, cutting through the noise at moments when shoppers may be inundated with deals.
E-commerce puts pressure on shipping and fulfillment
With demand increasing earlier this year, traditional delivery methods are at their limit. According to The Wall Street Journal, shippers like FedEx and UPS expect delays as they hit capacity.
For customers, this could mean days-long delays in receipt of e-commerce orders. Retailers are exploring alternate methods of fulfillment to meet customer demand.
Curbside or Buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS)
Click-and-collect options for online orders can cut delivery volume by directing people to physical storefronts or product lockers to receive their order or manage returns. Ramping up curbside fulfillment requires retailers to:
- Train employees. A digitally savvy salesperson equipped with the right tools that connect customer data to in-store inventory can expedite the picking process, keep delivery times on track and manage customer service requests both online and in store.
- Enable customers to manage their orders digitally. Put the power of order management into the hands of the consumer with personalized mobile experiences designed to keep shoppers informed of their order status, substitutions, available slots and convenient pickup locations. A clear understanding of customer data and inventory visibility can connect these touchpoints, helping retailers steer customers to the right stores for convenient pickup while managing real-time demand.
- Create contactless experiences at checkout. With COVID-19 exposure still a risk, consumers want a safe and comfortable curbside or BOPIS experiences. Minimize in-person interaction through use of contactless payment and pickup options.
Nearly half of shoppers say BOPIS or curbside pickup is their most preferred method of e-commerce fulfillment (Publicis Sapient Digital Life Index)
Manage inventory: Understanding when and where BOPIS demand will spike helps retailers prioritize inventory. Retailers are reimaging the storefront by either reserving dedicated space specifically for curbside fulfillment or converting retail space into “dark store” fulfillment centers.
Alternative last-mile partnerships
With traditional shippers facing capacity challenges, retailers can turn to alternative last-mile partners to help meet increases in delivery volume. For example, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, grocers work with providers like Instacart and UberEats to quickly scale delivery leveraging gig economy employees.
Reduce returns through experience
Reduce propensity for costly returns by improving online experiences, with resources to help customers better understand product size or fit. Augmented reality tools, chatbots or streaming video helps bring in-person experiences online.
Championing the holiday season
This hasn’t been a typical year and the holiday season won’t be the same, either. How retailers adapt will be another step in the acceleration of e-commerce that served as a major theme throughout 2020. By using lessons learned from demand surges throughout this year, retailers can continue to develop a proactive, data-driven approach to managing customer needs and making smarter decisions to enhance their digital business.