Like everything else in the Covid-19 world, holiday shopping in 2020 will be unlike anything you've ever seen.
Global online sales are expected to grow 30 percent to $940 billion year over year this holiday season--up from 8 percent growth in 2019--which could help retailers make up for lost revenue during the pandemic. That's according to Salesforce's 2020 holiday forecast, a report that parsed online shopping activity of more than one billion consumers.
For retailers angling to generate as many sales as possible this holiday season, you have to be willing to possibly deploy new strategies, according to Rob Garf, vice president of industry strategy and insights at Salesforce. "Businesses that succeed during the holidays will use everything at their disposal to make shopping easy and safe, including convenient digital ordering, creative and effective fulfillment, and responsive customer service," said Garf, during a virtual press briefing to discuss the forecast on September 30.
With this in mind, here are three tips for retailers heading into an unprecedented holiday season:
1. Plan for holiday demand in October.
This year, Amazon moved its annual sales holiday Prime Day from July to October 13 and 14, which will likely become the new kickoff date for the holiday shopping season, Garf said. Consumers are going to be buying earlier than normal this year because they may be nervous about item scarcity and shipping complications, he added. Prime Day deals are also expected to spur online shopping elsewhere, as the holiday could get consumers to start thinking sooner about the holidays. Salesforce estimates that 10 percent of Cyber Week sales will be pulled into October.
2. Focus on last-mile delivery.
Successful last-mile delivery will be the factor that separates the winners from the losers this season, according to Garf. Globally, Salesforce estimates that 700 million packages are at risk of being delayed this season because of orders exceeding shipping capacity, which may be constrained as some suppliers face continued delays arising from the pandemic. Retailers are also liable to see earlier shipping cutoffs than in years prior if they want to ensure customers' packages arrive by Christmas morning.
Besides relying on UPS or FedEx for shipping, retailers can partner with smaller last-mile delivery companies like Instacart or Postmates or even impress their existing employees into making local deliveries. Physical stores can also continue to serve as fulfillment centers for curbside pickup, which Salesforce says will increase holiday digital revenue by an average of 90 percent year over year. Salesforce's data shows that convenience and delivery confidence can trump brand loyalty for consumers this year.
3. Minimize the need for returns.
An increase in e-commerce shopping could mean more returns to process for retailers. To help prevent more returned goods this year, Garf said to give in-depth product information online so customers know exactly what they're buying and be as transparent as possible with return policies. Plus, you'll want to make any in-person return processes just as safe for employees as you do consumers when it comes to handing over any items and disinfecting returns.