This holiday retail season will be like none other we’ve ever experienced. Retailers and manufacturers who rely on retail distribution must prepare themselves now to benefit from end-of-year shopping to make the most of the holiday season and recapture at least some of the revenue they lost due to the pandemic.
According to the National Retail Federation, 2019 holiday retail sales grew 4.1%, totaling $730.2 billion—higher than previously forecasted. Everything has changed in 2020.
The past retail model consisted of simply locking down products and promotions by July and pulling the trigger on Black Friday. Black Friday gave way to Cyber Week. According to a study conducted by Salesforce.com, digital revenue grew aggressively in the first half of the shortened 2019 holiday season. In fact, fifty percent of the season’s revenue was completed by December 3. And Cyber Week’s share of revenue growth was 18% year-over-over. With e-commerce, retailers could reclaim influence in directing a consumer’s path to purchase. The promotional window stretched through the entire holiday selling season and retailers embraced Cyber Week as part of their holiday strategy.
Brick-and-mortar stores are still part of the retail landscape, but the role of the store is changing. Consumers will rely much more heavily on “click and collect” convenience, especially after holiday shipping cut-offs.
This year, consumers will presume that retailers are paying careful attention to social distancing, contactless payments, and PPE for both sales associates and customers. Beyond the obvious expectations of the selling environment, consumers will expect thoughtful, responsive experiences that respect their situation, anticipate needs, and demonstrate empathy—a tall order for stressed frontline associates. And of course, knowledgeable and time-conscious consumers continue to demand speed and convenience.
Manufacturers need to work with retail partners to gain access to end consumers. They have a common goal: service the consumer and make the sale. The time to interact with the consumer during their buyers’ journey is on your products’ landing pages, whether on your own site or on your product landing page on your retailer partner’s site. Your virtual direct interactions are a proven and effective way to increase sales. For example, studies by eConsultancy and Unique Research discovered that 79% of online consumers prefer live chat. The danger lies in the quality of the customer interactions. When executed properly, consumers that have a positive chat experience report an 82% satisfaction rate. Not only that, but chat interactions result in a 40% increase in conversion rates and a 79% increase in sales and revenue. MarketSource’s own virtual solution services team experienced even higher results.
What can retailers do to make the 2020 holiday retail season successful? Here are six things:
Plan as early as possible. Look at the current sales trends and take them into account when you decide on your product mix, staffing, advertising, marketing, online functionality, in-store distancing planning, curbside pick-up, and alignment with suppliers.
Hire smart, train smart. Start early because good help can be hard to find even in today’s employment market. Invest in training for current and new staff. Get them up to speed on your current strategy and how they can contribute to its success. The goal is for staff to be familiar with products, promotional strategies, and quality customer service practices and for them to understand the lifetime value of a customer.
The store is still the key. Digital hasn’t replaced the store, it has extended it. Integrate store and online shopping experiences. Digitally, the store is “everywhere”—providing consumer access on their terms and their device of choice.
From Salesforce, “Resolve to be Nimble.” Savvy marketers take advantage of pre-season promos and targeted discounts to get shoppers in earlier and keep them spending late.
Prepare your website for seasonal omnichannel. Get your digital game together with teaser banner ads, order online and pickup in-store features, cloud testing to avoid website crashes during peak traffic times, and customer support chat services. Above all, shoppers want consistency throughout the shopping experience. Make sure your physical store is aligned with your online presence.
Ask for additional advertising funds. Many manufacturers have a set amount of cooperative advertising funds available per year, and with this year’s disruptions, those funds may be sitting unused. Approach manufacturers with a plan for putting those ad dollars to work for your mutual benefit. You can also ask them for additional training, virtual support, in-store demos, and sales help.