For obvious reasons, this year’s holiday shopping season will look very different than in previous years. Most notably, we expect digital sales to soar as most consumers still don’t feel comfortable shopping in stores. Last year, online sales made up 23% of the $730.2 billion total holiday retail sales and grew by 14.6% year over year.
This year, those numbers might prove to be even higher. A recent Contentsquare survey of 1000 U.S. customers revealed that 88% of shoppers say they will avoid stores this Black Friday.
Between ongoing health and safety concerns, high unemployment, and continued uncertainty affecting consumers, things aren’t looking jolly for retailers hoping to boost revenue in Q4. But while this is a tricky time for retailers, this is also a huge opportunity to grow digital commerce and win over customers in new ways.
Here’s a look at what the holiday shopping season has in store for customers and retailers this year and how your business can prepare:
Changing Customer Behaviors
Since the onset of the pandemic in the U.S., customer behavior evolved rapidly to favor the convenience and safety of online shopping. But with no end to the pandemic in sight and the holiday shopping season quickly approaching, consumers will soon have to decide how they want to prepare for and celebrate the holidays this year.
Here are a few ways changing consumer behaviors are sure to impact the holiday shopping season this year:
1. Safety Concerns
As coronavirus cases continue to surge across the country, many consumers still feel uncomfortable stepping into stores and risking infection. Some don’t even have the choice, as some retailers re-closed amid rising cases. As mentioned above, a recent Contentsquare survey revealed that 88% of US shoppers said they will avoid stores this Black Friday amid coronavirus fears. Over a third of survey respondents also said they will still be hunting for deals online—a trend that is sure to unfold more this holiday season as customers choose to buy more gifts online or avoid stores entirely.
2. Cautious Spending
While the employment rate has incrementally declined since hitting its peak in April, 16.3 million Americans remain out of work. The consumer confidence index sits at just 72.8 points this month, a far cry from the 89.8 points we saw in August of 2019. As consumers remain uncertain of the future and their own financial security, odds are they’ll take a more conservative approach to spending this holiday season. In fact, 40% of consumers say they’ve become more mindful of how and where they’re spending money and plan to reduce spending overall, as well.
Implications for Retailers
Retailers will have to adapt their holiday shopping business strategy to account for these new customer behaviors. Here’s a look at what these changing consumer comfort levels mean for retailers:
1. Step Up In-Store Safety
For those customers that do feel comfortable shopping in-person, companies need to communicate the precautions they’re taking to keep both customers and employees safe. Additional cleanings, social distancing measures, employee temperature checks, mask-wearing requirements, and item pick up are all great ways to keep customers feeling safe and confident when shopping in-store. Consumers also care deeply about how businesses are treating their employees. Twenty-six percent of consumers said they are buying more from companies that are taking care of their employees during this time.
2. Can’t Rely on In-Store Sales
Doorbuster deals might not be enough to bring customers in-store this holiday season. Market research company eMarketer estimates brick-and-mortar sales will drop 14.0% this year due to the pandemic and many brands, like Walmart, Best Buy, and Target, have announced they’re closing stores completely on Thanksgiving Day.
3. A Rising Need for Digital
In order to meet customers where they are, brands must continue to prioritize their digital presence. Even without the pandemic, consumer behavior was already shifting towards digital. In 2019, online purchases during the holiday season increased 14.6%—a trend that’s sure to be magnified in 2020. In fact, eMarketer predicts eCommerce will grow another 18% this year.
With less than 100 days until Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s holiday readiness crunch time for retailers. That said, there’s still plenty of time to test and optimize your site before the onslaught of holiday traffic. For digital experience tips, UX best practices, and brand success stories from Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and beyond, check out our Holiday Readiness Hub for more helpful content. You’ll find everything you need to make this year’s holiday shopping season a success.
Featured image by ARUTA Images.
Lyssa Test is a Senior Content Marketer at Contentsquare with a love for writing and sharing compelling stories.
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