November 9, 2020 en_US Here are three ways to maximize your holiday season sales despite COVID, without compromising customer safety. 3 ways to ensure a successful holiday shopping season in 2020 despite COVID

3 ways to ensure a successful holiday shopping season in 2020 despite COVID

By Myranda Mondry November 9, 2020

Despite the current economic climate, consumers still plan to spend an average of $1,000 on gifts, decorations, and other purchases this holiday season, according to an annual holiday survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF). Many are forgoing their traditional travel plans and using that money to treat themselves and others instead. It’s all in effort to spread some cheer in an otherwise bah humbug year.

For many small businesses, the holiday shopping season makes up a significant portion of their annual revenue. It’s a season they can’t afford to miss. But social distancing guidelines may hinder holiday shopping as stores continue to restrict the number of shoppers allowed inside. These small businesses walk a fine line between keeping their customers and employees safe while managing essential holiday shopping crowds.

Here are three ways to maximize your sales this season without compromising safety.

1. Forget Black Friday. Holiday shopping starts now.

This year, the NRF proposes a new tradition: Shop safe, shop early. Rather than squeezing holiday sales into one weekend, you can encourage your customers to start spending now. Big box stores like Walmart, Target, and Home Depot have already embraced shopping safely by committing to staying closed on Thanksgiving and skipping traditional Black Friday sales. Instead, they’re offering deals and discounts throughout the months of November and December. Some even started as early as October.

Consumers are on board. Nearly 40% say they’ve already started holiday shopping, according to a survey conducted by Digital Commerce 360. 21% started as early as September, and another 29% plan to have their shopping done before Thanksgiving.

These consumers have more than safety on their minds. Many of them set out in search of the perfect present for their loved ones. 26% are worried about low inventory, 19% are stressed about slow shipping speeds, and 31% just want to avoid the added pressure of last-minute shopping. As we near the end of a tumultuous year, consumers are spending more time, effort, and money to ensure a happy and memorable holiday for all.

You can embrace the shop safe, shop early trend by offering Black Friday-level sales and promotions throughout the holiday shopping season. More than half of consumers say a sale or promotion would be enough to convince them to start shopping sooner. Others say the promise of smaller crowds is a draw in and of itself.

2. Embrace e-commerce. Every day is Cyber Monday.

We’ve used the phrase “embrace e-commerce” a lot this year, but we really can’t emphasize it enough. E-commerce was the way of the future before the pandemic hit. Social distancing restrictions just got us there faster. Consumers have grown accustomed to the ease and convenience of online shopping, curbside pickup, and local delivery. They’re unlikely to return to their old ways of shopping even after the pandemic passes.

This holiday shopping season, 60% of consumers plan to purchase at least some holiday items online, according to the NRF. A study by GfK Consumer Pulse found that 42% plan to shop exclusively online. Nearly all of these online shoppers (91%) intend to take advantage of free shipping options, while another 60% will opt for curbside pickup or same-day delivery.

With that in mind, there are a few things you can do to appeal to online shoppers and increase your online sales this holiday season:

  • Offer affordable shipping. Consumers are discouraged by high shipping rates. If you can’t offer free shipping across the board, look into flat-rate shipping options or minimum order free shipping.
  • Be available for pickup. Curbside pickup or local delivery keeps your in-store headcount low while still making sales.
  • Update your website. If you live in the e-commerce space, you should expect high traffic to your website throughout November and December. A poor web experience can discourage shoppers, so make sure your website is up to scratch.
  • Invest in digital marketing. Use your social media accounts to your advantage. Offer exclusive deals to followers and new customers alike using social media advertising. Just be sure to nail down your target audience first. Receiving offers for irrelevant items is frustrating for more than 30% of consumers, according to a Redpoint Global survey.
  • Set realistic deadlines. Experts predict major shipping slowdowns throughout the month of December. Up to 700 million gifts might not arrive in time for Christmas, according to Salesforce projections. Set clear shipping deadlines up front to get packages out on time.
  • Revisit your return policy. Items may get damaged in transit. Online shoppers may buy multiple sizes of one item to find a perfect fit, intending to return the extras. Others might decide they don’t like what they bought. Tweak your holiday return policy to account for common online shopping issues and consider investing in free returns.

If you’re new to e-commerce, it’s not too late to join an online marketplace to carry you through the holidays. Creating an Etsy store is fast and easy. If Etsy isn’t a good fit for your business, there are plenty of online marketplaces to choose from, like Amazon or Facebook Marketplace.

3. Prioritize safety for in-store shoppers and employees.

Lots of consumers are opting to shop early or online… but some aren’t. 13% of shoppers said nothing could convince them to shop earlier than planned. They have their holiday shopping traditions, and they’re sticking to them. So while the crowds may be smaller this year, there will still be crowds to manage. Here are a few tips.

  • Follow CDC guidelines for safe shopping. This includes outfitting your store with plexiglass partitions, hand sanitizer stations, and cleaning supplies. Require customers and employees to wear a mask over their nose and mouth at all times and maintain a six-foot distance between shoppers.
  • Use a lottery system to limit in-store shoppers. Maintaining space between customers may require you to restrict the number of customers in your store. Shoppers asked to wait outside may become discouraged by the wait times. Implement a lottery system to give shoppers assigned shopping appointments.
  • Prepare to do some traffic control. Consider using floor stickers or partitions to guide shoppers safely through your store as they browse.

Encouraging consumers to shop early, shop online, and shop safely benefits everyone. The 2020 holiday shopping season brings with it a unique set of challenges, but small business owners and consumers alike can overcome them by planning ahead.

COVID-19 health guidance is evolving constantly. Please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization’s health and safety guidelines for the most recent updates.

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Myranda Mondry

senior content creator

Myranda Mondry is a senior content creator for the QuickBooks Resource Center. She graduated with a degree in English and Journalism from Boise State University. Her work has been published in Forbes, The Huffington Post, and other top-tier publications. Myranda currently resides in Boise, Idaho, where she runs an Etsy shop selling handmade heirloom quilts. She’s passionate about her dogs, '80s rock music, and helping small businesses succeed. Read more