This promises to be a very unusual holiday shopping season for small retailers this year. We can’t look to past consumer behaviors since the coronavirus has impacted how, when, and where people shop. According to a report in Think With Google, 83% of shoppers say the pandemic altered their shopping habits.
The holiday shopping season is obviously crucially important for retailers. The latest report from Alignable reveals the dire circumstances many retail businesses are facing, with 69% predicting their fourth quarter sales will be down compared to last year. What’s worse is 63% of these businesses “generate a disproportionate share of their sales during Q4.”
Targeting online shoppers
The key, according to several surveys, is to boost your online sales efforts. For this upcoming holiday season, Think With Google reports 74% of shoppers plan to buy more online this year. Even more specifically, an Adelphic survey of Americans who stream television content shows a 62% rise in the number of streamers planning to do most of their holiday shopping online.
And the good news is e-commerce sales are booming. A report from the Census Bureau shows a 44.5% increase in online sales in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the second quarter of 2019. And total online sales for Q2 hit $211.5 billion, which is 16.1% of all retail sales, compared to 10.8% of total retail sales in Q2 2019.
Also, eMarketer adjusted its retail sales forecast for this year, predicting online sales will most likely grow 32.4% this year to $794.5 billion.
Be reactive, not proactive
New research from PayPal sounds a cautionary note, showing “many U.S. retailers taking a reactive, wait-and-see approach to the holidays.” This is the wrong approach. Small retailers need to be proactive. by finding innovative, tech-enabled ways to reach consumers in the new environment.
Even though 20% of SMB retailers surveyed say their “future is dependent on this year’s holiday results,” 57% hadn’t started their holiday prep yet. Most (70%) know they won’t be adding holiday staffers this year.
If this sounds like you, you need to get into gear now. To help replace the anticipated lower foot traffic, think about expanding where you sell. The PayPal survey shows 39% of retailers plan to sell products on digital marketplaces, such as Amazon and Etsy, while 31% will sell via their social media accounts.
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One of the reasons consumers plan to shop less in-store this year is they’re worried about the coronavirus. So, it’s up to you to make sure shoppers feel safe coming into your store. According to the PayPal report, 81% of retailers will take extra precautions to keep shoppers safe.
One way to do that is limiting physical contact and helping customers practice social distancing. PayPal says 46% of those surveyed plan to offer curbside pick-up and Think With Google reports 50% of shoppers say they may continue to take advantage of curbside pickup services even after restrictions are lifted.
Around 46% of retailers surveyed by PayPal plan to make masks mandatory and implement physical distancing rules, and 34% will offer hand sanitizer in-store.
Offering digital payment options in-store also makes customers feel more safe, since they are less comfortable exchanging cash or a credit card with store personnel. PayPal says 34% of the retailers they surveyed plan to implement cashless payment options.
Digital solutions are also making it easier for customers to shop safely and more flexibly.
Consumers are already embracing these. According to a report from CardFlight, contactless payment transactions from credit cards and smartphones increased 107% from the week of March 2 to the week of June 29.
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