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How to Prepare Your Business for Holiday Shopping 2020

Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski

See what the major shopping trends are for the 2020 holiday season and learn how your business can prepare for them.

  • The 2020 holiday shopping season will be different from previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Key trends include online shopping, personalized shopping experiences, contactless pickup methods and extended deals and promotions.
  • You can prepare your business by making sure your website can handle increased traffic, addressing customers' shipping expectations and increasing your digital advertising.
  • This article is for small business owners who want to gain insight into 2020 holiday shopping trends and learn what they can do to prepare their businesses to do well.

It's no secret that holiday shopping this year will be different from holiday shopping in years past, due to how the COVID-19 pandemic has limited in-store shopping. As a result, customers are increasingly buying online but still expect personalized shopping experiences. Here are some of the biggest trends to watch out for this holiday season and tips for how you can prepare your business for success.

This year's shopping trends for the holiday season will affect your business, your customers and your sales. Here are the trends to look out for in 2020:

1. Online shopping

Naturally, the biggest shopping trend this year will be high volumes of online shoppers. With many consumers wary of exposure to the coronavirus and states requiring retailers to close their doors to in-person shoppers or significantly reduce their in-store capacity, you can expect to see a surge in online traffic during the holiday season.

"People have had time to get comfortable online during the pandemic and have had time to find online stores they really like," said James Boatwright, CEO of Code Galaxy.

2. Personalization

A study from Qubit found that two-thirds of respondents said they expect personalized experiences from brands they've shopped with before. Those experiences could include targeted advertisements, a personal concierge or suggestions based on their previous purchases.

A personalized e-commerce experience can help you retain existing customers and attract new ones, as well as increase your sales by making your customers feel valued and seen.

3. A focus on health and safety

Most stores that are planning on allowing in-store shopping this season will be focusing on providing a safe and healthy experience for all involved. This year, it's imperative that you follow all state and federal safety guidelines and make sure that your customers are aware of the rules and the measures you are taking to keep them safe. This will go a long way in encouraging customers to visit your business and making them feel cared for. The National Retail Federation lists COVID-19 retail restrictions for each state on its website and updates the page daily. 

4. Consumers with tighter budgets

The pandemic has greatly affected consumer spending across all income levels. According to Morning Consult, most consumers reported that they plan to reduce their holiday spending more this year than in years past, and 1 in 5 consumers said they are worried about finances this holiday season. Businesses should expect to see more consumers looking for deals and promotions and purchase smaller volumes of gifts (i.e., one or two gifts per family member instead of three or four).

5. Competition for digital ad space

The pandemic has shifted many aspects of life online, and that includes advertising. Because most consumers are shopping online this year, digital ad space is at a premium, and the competition to get your brand out in front of consumers will be fierce. The promotional season is also starting much earlier than usual, which means that it will be more difficult for your business to stand out over an extended period.

6. Contactless shopping

Expect to see creative ways to allow in-person shopping that limits or eliminates contact, such as BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store), curbside pickup or package pickup lockers. These methods have already proved successful, with BOPIS use surging 259% year over year in August 2020, according to Digital Remedy. Measures such as these allow customers who can't or don't want to wait for items to be shipped to their homes to get the items they need while minimizing risk.

7. Early deals and promotions

Many brands are beginning their Black Friday promotions already, in an attempt to curb the usual in-store crowds in stores on Black Friday. Brands are rolling out periodic promotions over time, sending weekly deals or coupons to customers' inboxes. Research from ChannelAdvisor Corp. found that 59% of consumers planned to start their holiday shopping before Nov. 1.

Key takeaway: Some of the main trends to expect this holiday shopping season are increased online shopping, competitive digital advertising, personalized shopping experiences and contactless shopping methods.

How to prepare your business for holiday 2020

With these trends in mind, this year's holiday season may seem daunting, but there are plenty of ways you can prepare your business to be successful.

1. Make sure your website is ready for increased traffic.

There will be a serious surge in online shopping this year, so if your business sells products on its website, you should take measures to ensure that your site can handle higher volumes, increased traffic and more transactions.

Make sure you have an acceptable page speed, HTTPS security protocol, mobile optimization and search engine optimization (SEO). Also, have a plan for how to get your website back up and running quickly if it does crash. [Read related article: Building a Business Website: A Small Business Guide]

2. Improve UX and website navigation.

Chances are good that there will be a lot of first-time online shoppers this year, and you don't want to risk losing their business because they can't figure out your website. Now is the time to improve your user experience (UX) and ensure that your website's navigation is clear and easy to use.

Put yourself in the customer's shoes – or, better yet, find someone who's never used your website to test it for you – and practice the customer's buying journey. Is it easy for them to find the product they need? Is the checkout process quick and easy? Can the customer find support information if they need it?

3. Brush up customer service.

This will be a tense and unusual shopping year for everyone, so you should have a refresher training for your employees on how to interact with customers, address their concerns and make the shopping experience as seamless as possible.

Your employees should be well versed in any changes or unique procedures you have implemented due to the pandemic and be prepared to answer all customer questions and concerns. They should also be ready to provide online shopping support. [Read related article: Conflict Resolution Tips for Handling Difficult Customers During COVID-19]

4. Address shipping expectations.

The pandemic has also affected shipping times, so you should do your best to inform customers of your expected shipping times and deadlines so that you don't find yourself barraged with angry phone calls when customers don't receive their packages in time. However, many customers have adjusted their own expectations, with 50% of consumers saying a five-day delivery window is acceptable, according to a survey from Radial.

"Small business owners should look for multiple shipping options and have a comprehensive and easy-to-access FAQ with delivery cutoff dates," said Jeff Anning, founder of Evolve Skateboards. "Customers are looking for the security that their goods will arrive on time for Christmas, and if they have any issues, they can reach out to friendly customer service easily."

5. Maximize online sales.

There are many ways to increase your online sales this year, but it will take some hard work and creativity. Try these tactics to help increase your online sales:

  • Make your website clear, engaging and easy to use.
  • Optimize your website for mobile devices.
  • Provide product recommendations.
  • Run promotions, like free delivery or discount codes.
  • Launch holiday-related social media marketing campaigns.
  • Use calls to action that inspire urgency (e.g., "Sale ends tonight! Just a few hours left!") in your marketing campaigns.

6. Boost marketing communications.

With more customers than ever looking to social media, store websites and other digital spaces to find businesses and products, it's important for your messaging to be at its best. Review your digital marketing strategy, focus on past campaigns that performed particularly well and use methods that have worked well for you throughout the pandemic. You should also look at areas where you can improve, like social media marketing or SEO, and make those improvements now. A higher volume of marketing communications can also help keep your business top of mind for customers.

"Constantly update your customers through text messages or emails," said Arnold Chapman, CEO of ELDFocus.com. "Consistently reminding them will help you stay in their minds, especially during times where everyone is busy."

Key takeaway: You can prepare for the 2020 shopping season by taking efforts to maximize online sales, brushing up customer service, improving your website's user experience and navigation, and boosting your marketing efforts.

Image Credit: Ridofranz / Getty Images
Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski,
Business News Daily Writer
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Kiely is a staff writer based in New York City. She worked as a marketing copywriter after graduating with her bachelor’s in English from Miami University (OH) and now writes on small business, social media, and marketing. You can reach her on Twitter or by email.