With the retail industry reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, the pressure on retailers to make the most of this holiday season is intensified. As the peak shopping season draws closer, understanding what will spur holiday purchases this year and how to best reach your customers will be imperative for success.
In the US, 75% of people plan to shop online more this year than they did in the past. What’s more interesting is that 71% of Americans said their holiday traditions will change this time, 10 points up from early August. So not only is this year expected to be the most digital, but also the most divergent one we’ve experienced yet.
From identifying popular gifts to optimizing advertising spend and beyond, retailers with a data-driven strategy will be better positioned to maximize their holiday revenues. We weigh in on some important tips to help you improve your holiday season performance amid the pandemic:
Marry your data with external sources to detect trends
Without accurate insights, keeping up with the new normal is like taking a shot in the dark. The pandemic has radically changed consumer behavior and relying on instinct or past sales data alone could lead to missed opportunities.
A more effective way is to holistically analyze internal data, including sales during past holiday seasons and the pandemic, with external data signals. Incorporating insights from external sources such as search queries, social media conversations, and user-generated content, such as product reviews and YouTube videos, will help uncover key trends to cash in on this holiday season.
For instance, Crayola has launched hand sanitizers in crayon-shaped bottles, Halloween-themed face masks, and a new ‘Colors of the World’ collection of crayons to increase the representation of global skin tones among children. Such product line expansions that keep in mind current themes and trends not only help with increasing profitability but also drive loyalty.
Ensure online product availability at all times
There’s a greater shift to online shopping due to COVID-19. Plus, with many stores like Walmart and Target planning to stay closed this season, more consumers will be shopping online from the comfort of their homes.
To meet this surge in consumer demand across online channels, retailers must take steps to improve product availability in online stores to prevent revenue losses. This includes tracking product availability across online channels consistently and improving inventory visibility. Performing inventory analytics can also help retailers to make strategic inventory decisions through accurate demand predictions. It helps estimate future sales trajectories for proactive replenishments.
Savvy retailers employ inventory analytics to stay better informed on stock aging and demand variability, enabling strategic capital allocations. From forecasting demand spurts in niche categories to taking calculated risks, given potential supply chain disruptions, a slew of e-commerce players are already using it to gain an edge over rivals.
A case in point would be how apparel retailers, when hit by COVID-19 found themselves pressed with questions like ‘Who would now buy a jumpsuit?’ or ‘Would there be an occasion to wear one?’ Quick changing market scenarios made it difficult to anticipate demand and plan accurate stocks. But with the right inventory analytics, they were able to track every market driver that could impact their realities – right from reigning consumer sentiment to updates from the WHO. This helped them strategically tailor their inventory based on market segments and geographies.
Prioritize shopper safety and wellbeing
Given superior hygiene expectations from shoppers in these times, retailers can rest assured that there’s no such thing as over-communicating the efforts they are taking to ensure safe packaging and deliveries. Walk-through videos of the preventive hygiene measures you are taking to ensure employee and customer safety down to when the delivery reaches their front porch will bolster shopping confidence.
Even a simple, warm autobiographical note on the package about the warehouse to doorstep journey can brighten up the shopper’s experience and add to the holiday cheer. With more consumers choosing to shop locally, retailers will do well to re-iterate their safety protocols so as to build a sense of trust that’s hard to expect with from local brick-and-mortars.
Empathetic messaging will be key in winning both hearts and sales this season. Companies that are careful to weave in their company values, ownability, and timeliness will be able to drive home resonance and build a positive customer sentiment. Additionally, letting them know of your community efforts in these troubling times can inspire sustained loyalty and improve your holiday season performance. The below testimony serves as a perfect example by Amazon on promoting its social support.
Update marketing content to include trending search terms
Search engine performance dictates a majority of digitally-driven purchases. Moreover, it’s gaining ground as a top brand discovery enabler across generations, a recent report by Global Web Index shows. As such, optimizing your marketing content, including product content and digital ads, with relevant search terms will be crucial to ensure shoppers discover your products easily.
The early pandemic days saw search terms like “near me” gaining traction. A thorough keyword analysis that takes consumer intent into consideration will help your detect current and popular search terms to improve holiday season performance. For instance, shoppers may look for more “durable”, yet “lightweight” desks as their work from home routines may require switching rooms. For consumables, focusing on benefits like “immunity-boosting” are bound to see more takers. Plugging in or highlighting such pandemic-based search terms will enable high visibility and trigger better conversions. The country of origin is another unmissable aspect that deserves mentioning to promote informed purchases.
Leverage automation for Product Information Management (PIM) processes
With so much happening, most retailers have little or no time to recalibrate their product pages for the holiday season. Savvy retailers are using automation across multiple facets of product information management to achieve scale.
From gathering product data from multiple sources, normalizing it to meet the standards and formats of various digital channels, ensuring content correctness, and listing SKUs across channels, automation is helping retailers gain a competitive advantage through increased speed-to-market.
Additionally, employing automated review analytics helps to quickly identify important product attributes, search terms, and opportunities to improve the overall shopping experience for customers. As consumer expectations take a new turn, those who put insights into action in time will reap greater rewards this holiday season.
While the holiday season of 2020 is poised to be far from calm, retailers that can quickly and decisively navigate the changing tide will thrive. A greater emphasis on data-driven strategies will be critical for increased relevance and meeting new consumer demands amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Top that off with automation to achieve the desired efficiency and retailers could see a merrier Q4 than expected.
For about two decades now global retailers have been partnering with Netscribes to achieve their business goals with our end-to-end e-commerce solutions. To know how we can help you make the most of this holiday season, contact us.