Looking At The 2020 Holiday Season

This promises to be a very unusual holiday shopping season for small retailers this year. We can’t look to past consumer behaviors since the coronavirus has impacted how, when, and where people shop. According to a report in Think With Google, 83 percent of shoppers say the pandemic altered their shopping habits.

The holiday shopping season is obviously crucially important for retailers. The latest report from Alignable reveals the dire circumstances many retail businesses are facing, with 69 percent predicting their fourth-quarter sales will be down, compared to last year. What’s worse is 63 percent of these businesses “generate a disproportionate share of their sales during Q4.”

Targeting Online Shoppers

The key, according to several surveys, is to boost your online sales efforts. For this upcoming holiday season, Think With Google reports 74 percent of shoppers plan to buy more online this year. Even more specifically, a survey from Adelphic of Americans who stream television content shows a 62 percent rise in the number of streamers planning to do most of their holiday shopping online.

The good news is e-commerce sales are booming. A report on data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows a 44.5 percent increase in online sales in the second quarter of 2020 compared the second quarter of 2019. And total online sales for Q2 hit $211.5 billion, which is 16.1% of all retail sales, compared to 10.8% of total retail sales in Q2 2019.

Also, eMarketer adjusted its retail sales forecast for this year, predicting online sales will most likely grow 18% this year to $710 billion.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

A new report from PayPal sounds a cautionary note, showing “many U.S. retailers taking a reactive, wait-and-see approach to the holidays.” This is the wrong approach. Small retailers need to be proactive. by finding innovative, tech-enabled ways to reach consumers in the new environment.

Even though 20 percent of SMB retailers surveyed say their “future is dependent on this year’s holiday results, 57 percent hadn’t started their holiday prep yet. Most (70 percent) know they won’t be adding holiday staffers this year.

If this sounds like you, you need to get into gear now. To help replace the anticipated lower foot traffic, think about expanding where you sell. The PayPal survey shows that 39 percent of the retailers plan to sell products on digital marketplaces, such as Amazon and Etsy, while 31 percent will sell via their social media accounts.

Safety First

One of the reasons consumers plan to shop less in-stores this year is they’re worried about Covid-19. So, it’s up to you to make sure shoppers feel safe coming into your store. According to the PayPal report, 81 percent of retailers will take extra precautions to keep shoppers safe.

One way to do that is by limiting physical contact and helping customers practice social distancing. PayPal says 46 percent of those surveyed plan to offer curbside pick-up and Think With Google reports 50 percent of shoppers say they may continue to take advantage of curbside pickup services even after restrictions are lifted.

Around 46% of retailers surveyed by PayPal plan to make masks mandatory and implement physical distancing rules and 34 percent will offer hand sanitizer in-store.

Digital Payments

Offering digital payment options in-store also makes customers feel safer since they are less comfortable exchanging cash or a credit card with store personnel. PayPal says 34% of the retailers surveyed plan to implement cashless payment options.

Digital solutions are also making it easier for customers to shop safely and more flexibly.

Consumers are already embracing these. According to a report from CardFlight contactless payment transactions from credit cards and smartphones increased 107% from the week of March 2 to the week of June 29.

There are numerous contactless systems out there, including ones from Square, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Stripe, and PayPal.

A report from CardFlight shows contactless payment transactions via smartphones and credit cards rose 107% in the first three months of the pandemic.

If you need help formulating your holiday sales strategies, a SCORE mentor can help. Contact one today.

About the Author(s)

 Rieva  Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog

CEO, GrowBiz Media