You probably already know that the period of time between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday includes some of the most important days of the entire year for brick-and-mortar and online retailers. This year was no exception. In fact, according to analysts, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday set records this year, especially for online sales.

For example, in an interview with retail expert Meaghan Brophy, Rob Garf, Salesforce's vice president of strategy and insights for consumer goods, says that Black Friday online sales topped $7.2 billion. While final totals for Cyber Monday are still being tallied, Salesforce confirmed it will report that U.S. sales exceeded $8 billion. Adobe Analytics expects that number to be closer to $9.4 billion in U.S. online orders, and either total would be another record.

With that in mind, you might think that physical retail stores are suffering as consumers shift their holiday purchases online--especially to mobile.

While the shift is definitely happening, there are still a few things you can do to keep customers coming into your store over the remainder of the holiday shopping season. In fact, according to Garf, "83 percent of shoppers plan to go to a physical store." In a mobile-first shopping world, that's great news and you should absolutely have a plan for bringing them to yours.

1. Create experiences.

One of the most encouraging data points coming out of Salesforce's holiday shopping research is that one-third of shoppers will attend some form of non-shopping event in a retail store. So you'll want to host a holiday caroling event, a wine-and-shop, a holiday fashion show, or a craft night. 

The goal is to create experiences that put shoppers in the holiday spirit and expose them to your store. Once your guests are there and feeling full of holiday cheer, there's a pretty good chance at least a few of them will become customers.

2. Make the most of returns.

Returned merchandise is one of the inevitable aspects of retail. Of course, with more shopping happening, there will be more items for shoppers to return. That might seem like bad news, but in reality, as many as two-thirds of shoppers will make a purchase on the same visit as a return. 

The key is taking advantage of the time that a customer is in your store. For example, Garf told me stores should consider offering a discount or deal that is valid only on the same visit as the return. That helps motivates consumers who are conditioned to holiday shop for the deals. 

3. Combine online with in-store services.

Finally, the most potent way to drive holiday sales is turning out to be a combination of digital and physical retail. With the shortened holiday shopping season, there is less than two weeks from Black Friday until the ground-shipping deadline, according to the USPS. That means stores should offer convenient ways for customers to place an order online and then either pick it up in-store or have it delivered the same day. 

Target, for example, has used its order-online-pickup-in-store strategy to help it create huge growth ahead of the holidays.  But the good news is that you don't have to be Target to master in-store pickup. You can make it easy for customers to purchase from you by adding local pickup options to your existing online store.

As much as 80 percent of holiday shopping is still to come, which means it's not too late to come up with creative ways to get customers into your store. Your job is to get creative and offer the experiences, incentives, and convenience that consumers are looking for, and then turn them into customers.

Published on: Dec 3, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.