A Very COVID Christmas

A Very COVID Christmas

There is little in our lives that COVID has not touched. But COVID can’t cancel Christmas. With that in mind, what will Christmas look like this year and what trends will continue into the 2021 holidays?

While the window has already closed for the deployment of any substantive technology initiative this year, the focus on making the 2020 holiday season the best it can be must be directed to front line operations and customer convenience.

Whether a small retailer or a big box store, driving sales volume will have to be subordinated to the concern for safety. There is no doubt that foot traffic will be down, but that does not mean that there must be a commensurate drop in sales volume.

Big box retailers have largely adapted with safety programs like BOPIS and curbside pickup, while mall-based retailers have struggled because they lost valuable time as they were forced to close by the mall operators.

COVID: Effects on 2020 holiday shopping

Look for these disruptions to traditional holiday shopping patterns as much of the country braces for a third wave of rising infection rates:

  • Obsolescence of Black Friday
    • Concern for safety of traditional Black Friday Crowds
    • Social pressure on retailers to provide safety to customers and employees.
  • Cyber Monday will supplant Black Friday and extend buying on-line for the entire holiday shopping season
    • Another hurdle for store-centric retailers
  • BOPIS/curbside process must be flawless from both a technical and operational aspect
  • Bring the excitement of the Black Friday “hunt/deals” and the novelty of doorbusters to the online experience
    • Virtual pop-up sales create “doorbuster” events online
  • Recognition that consumers will undoubtedly be buying items online that they have historically bought in-store
  • BOPIS and curbside pickup require perfect inventory accuracy and flawless back office operations
  • Retailers must recognize that foot traffic will be down and resist the habit of cutting sales associate hours, as those hours will be required to execute new convenience programs
    • This will be more acute for mall-based stores that are quick to cut staff

Emerging trends affecting the 2021 holiday season

Expect the following as the “new normal” continues into 2021 and beyond:

  • COVID accelerates the changes in consumer shopping habits
  • There will not be a return to the past as we knew it; it will just be a new future
  • There is no reason to assume that there will ever be the same level of foot traffic as we have known it
    • Without recognizing and reacting to this new reality, more retailers will become extinct
  • The rate of acceptance of virtual shopping accelerates as consumers make safety and convenience their top priority
  • It must be recognized that everything familiar to us about shopping is moving from the physical to the virtual world. This has created the imperative to rethink our understanding of data and reinforces the importance of robust data management.
  • The reverse engineering of purchase history will create new opportunities
    • Store-generated shopping lists create new avenues for customer convenience
    • Personalized communications create a stronger connection with the customer
  • Retailers finally figure out subscription services
    • Retailers figure out how to add flexibility to subscriptions
    • Consumers set the cadence of delivery rather than accept the rigidity of the retailer’s calendar
    • Subscriptions can now be personalized based on consumption patterns
  • Need to develop creative ways to engage consumers virtually
    • One- on-one virtual shopping events
    • The concept of the “Personal Shopper” gone virtual
  • Emergence of mall-based fulfillment services enabling branch stores to ship direct to consumers without a heavy instore operations footprint
  • Traditional malls to offer non-shopping experiences (reading spaces, product demonstrations, education offerings)
  • Rethink “experience” (safety first, convenience, entertainment, then service)