How to Get Ready for the Holiday Season 2020

It’s time to prepare eCommerce businesses for the most crucial time of the year – the holiday season.

After everything that’s happened during 2020, there is no doubt that this holiday season will be different from what it used to be.

Researches show that over two months, the eCommerce industry jumped ten years ahead in its development. Sellers are at the crossroads of what to do and in which direction to move.

We created this article to help you understand how to get ready for the holiday season. We’ve covered the following points to help you create a robust and effective strategy:

  • changes that happened during 2020
  • challenges that eCommerce sellers are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • step-by-step guide on how to prepare your store

Let’s dive right into the details.

2020 Recap in Numbers

COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down. Social distancing and lockdowns all over the world changed consumer behavior once and for all. Instead of going out for shopping, customers started ordering in, even the products they’d bought in local stores before.

There is no doubt that pandemic is a very turbulent time for all retailers. Many small to big sellers went bankrupt while others were forced to size the trade temporarily. At the same time, many companies were on the other side of the road and witnessed a massive surge in sales.

 U.S. Retail Landscape During First Half of 2020

Let’s take a look at the first part of 2020 highlighted in numbers:

  • During Q1-Q2 2020, retail businesses worldwide lost two-third of the projected sales. This period touched only a part of the sales season, but the consequences were present.
  • During lockdown in the USA alone, 17 retailers filed for bankruptcy protection. The list includes big and famous retail chains, like JCPenney, Lucky Brands, and others. Even the oldest U.S. department store Lord & Taylor was affected.
  • Q2 captured a full 3-month period of shopping behavior during COVID-19. After an abrupt fall, a huge growth followed.
  • During the first half of 2020, consumers in the USA alone spent $347.26 billion in online shopping. The number is 30.1% up compared to the same period in 2019.
  • Online sales accounted for 18.6% of all retail sales for the first half of 2020.
  • Amazon and its sellers are two sides that win in this situation. The company is reported to have the best year ever. In July the website traffic increased by 28.1% as compared to February 2020. Amazon reports that during 12 months (this time period ended on May 31), the marketplace sold 3.4 billion products and helped merchants get $160,000. The number for the same period a year prior was $100,000.

Traffic Growth on Amazon During COVID-19 Pandemic

The change in consumer behavior created new trends:

  • According to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index report, BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In-Store) transactions increased 208% year-over-year in April. Overall, digital purchase power – a measure of how much more consumers can buy online compared with 2014 – increased by 4.1% YoY in Aprils.
  • The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that eCommerce sales great more than 30% between the first and second quarters of 2020. In the second quarter, customers spend $211.5 billion online, which is up 31.8% from the first quarter.

Despite the growth in eCommerce, not all product categories were the same popular.

Products Demand During COVID-19 Lockdown

  • The fashion product category was the first to take a hit, followed by Beauty & Personal care products. They saw a drop of 17% and 2% during mid-March-April 2020.
  • Entertainment, Stationery & Hobbies, and Food & Beverages were the biggest winners. From January 31 to mid-May 2020, the percentage change in monthly sales of entertainment products grew by 236%, Stationery & Hobbies by 204%, and Food & Beverages by 167%.

Key Challenges of eCommerce During COVID-19

The change in consumer behavior and lockdown created a lot of issues for eCommerce businesses. Even big companies were struggling to circumvent the problems caused by the crisis. Let’s investigate the main challenges threatening the eCommerce industry during the first part of 2020.

Delays in Shipping

Delivery problems plugged all eCommerce merchants. No small or big company could avoid unexpected delays in shipping and delivery. Even such a company as Amazon failed to keep up with the demand, offering to ship the ordered items in a few months instead of days, even for groceries. Thus, customers were forced to look for alternative sellers of goods to make purchases faster.

Stock Shortage

Problems with inventory replenishment caused another challenge, closely associated with the previous one – stock shortage. Delivery problems played a huge part in it. The demand for certain types of products was so high that sellers couldn’t meet it. For example, there was a limit on orders for some medical products to prevent stockpiling.

Lost sales became the main result of such issues. Instead of selling more, many sellers sold even less than they usually did.

Skyrocketed Website Traffic

Since customers moved online, online stores saw an increase in website traffic. Many businesses, especially small ones, had not prepared server infrastructures for such huge traffic, resulting in websites crushing under load and network congestion, which affected website performance. All in one, unprepared sellers lost a lot of potential customers and sales.

As you can see, an increase in online sales created a lot of challenges for eCommerce merchants. With the upcoming holiday season and the new wave of COVID-19 lockdowns, you need to get ready for all issues that might arise soon.

Key Tips to Win the Q4 Sales

The last quarter of the calendar year, which also happens to be the holiday season, always sees a massive spike in online sales. Based on extensive analysis, there is no doubt that demand in eCommerce will grow even more.

How can you prepare to come as the winner out of the Q4 sales?

The below 8-step guide will help you get ready for the holiday season 2020 to get the best results.

1. Omnichannel eCommerce

Selling products through one store is good; utilizing all the available channels is even better. During 2019, 78% of shoppers used more than three channels during sales seasons. Thus, don’t concentrate on your store alone. Move your operations to multiple marketplace, shopping engines, and social media, and utilize as many sales channels as possible. This is the only way to increase sales and revenue this holiday season.

2. Work with data feeds

This point is directly associated with the previous one. Working with multiple sales channels takes a lot of time, as you need to upload product information and keep data about stock synced. For Magento store owners, we have a solution that will help to sell on all the channels – GoMage Feed Pro. This extension takes on all the manual work and automatically uploads product information to multiple sales channels, like Amazon, eBay, Google Shopping, Facebook, and other platforms. As you don’t have to make anything manually, you get more time on your hands that can be dedicated to other business tasks.

3. Safe store-to-door delivery

The pandemic made a change to how customers prefer to shop. They’ll likely want their purchases delivered to their homes. Therefore, you need to work with local safe door delivery services. It might be useful to explain which precautions you take to disinfect packages and minimize COVID-19 infection danger. Don’t forget to put a badge on your website’s footer that you have such precautions in place.

4. Optimize website speed and reliability

Slow website is the bane of the seller’s existence. Such websites don’t sell. Customers don’t wait for more than two seconds for a website to load. Thus, you need to make sure that your website is running fast and is reliable under any loads. Google Core Web Vitals is a useful tool providing insights into the website’s performance. A low score indicates that you need to get in touch with a web development company that offers optimization services – both Magento optimization and server optimization.

Do you have a Magento 1 Store?
We prepared an ebook explaining how to check vital metrics like speed and security.
Check it out

5. Stock synchronization

Before the holiday season, make sure that you are ready even for unexpected volumes of orders. Analyze your usual holiday sales and stock inventory replenishment beforehand accordingly. If you are unsure what sales levels to expect, create a workflow for backorders and make sure that customers are aware of such possibilities.

Pro tip: if you are selling products on such marketplaces as Amazon, it’s recommended to avoid backorders. Otherwise, the marketplace can put penalties on your seller account or even ban it.

6. Show your products in more details

The inability for customers to directly interact with products before they purchase is the main disadvantage of eCommerce. Still, you can make their shopping experience offline-like by showing your products in more detail. This could be a video of a product or a 3D version that allows customers to view it in detail and from different angles. You can also take photos of your products in different situations to create a better feel of them.

7. Simplify the checkout process

Turn a long checkout process into a single step. Ideally, aim for an experience that doesn’t require customers to jump between pages. The best solution is to provide a single-step checkout with an autocomplete feature. The fewer actions customers need to perform during checkout, the higher is the conversation.

One Step Checkout Extension will help you boost your sales in the holiday season of 2020 by creating a single-page checkout process. Among the advantages, you can find Advanced VAT Calculation for the EU, automatic carrier shipping rates, GeoIP technology, and much more.

8. Create flows for desk support agents

With the rise in sales, the number of customer support inquiring will arise. Create conversations scripts for frequently asked questions and issues that might arise. This will help you optimize and speed up the communication process. You need to ensure fast response time. Instead of hours, aim for replying in minutes. This year, it’s all about being fast and present for customers.

Extra Tips to Boost Your Sales in the Holiday Season 2020

Check out a few extra tips for your eCommerce sales plan for the holiday season 2020.

  • Customers start looking for gifts early – like three to six months before the holiday season. The number of such customers accounts for 23%. Therefore, the sooner you start working on your offers, the higher chances that shoppers will choose your store for purchases.
  • However, now everyone shops before the holiday season. Almost 54% prefer to shop after the Black Friday and Cyber Monday week. Thus, you need to extend the discounts and special offers to meet the demands of later shoppers.
  • 21% of holiday shopping falls for the week of Christmas and the week after Christmas.
  • The holiday season is not the only time in the year that you can use to generate sales. Create a comprehensive marketing calendar to prepare your store for year-round shopping. Come up with different discounts and special offers for each holiday, and don’t forget to make timely inventory replenishment.

How to Boost Ecommerce Sales in The Holiday Season 2020

The holiday season is always a stressful but very lucrative time for eCommerce merchants.

This year, it’s even more critical to prepare a comprehensive eCommerce sales strategy for the holiday season 2020 that will help you get more sales and compensation for the lost sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its annual holiday retail forecast, Deloitte predicts that eCommerce sales will grow during the 2020-2021 holiday season by 25% to 30% year-over-year. So, don’t lose your chance to reap the benefits.

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