Holiday Shopping During a Pandemic: How Retailers Can Prepare

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of our lives, including shopping and retail business. Forcing more and more businesses to rely on Internet Marketing, the year 2020 came with surprises for many retailers, some of whom saw increased sales and even a shortage of goods, while suddenly, for some retailers, their products became irrelevant for people who couldn’t even leave their homes. Regardless of product assortment, the one common issue affecting retailers of any kind was the lockdowns and closure of brick-and-mortar stores which forced shoppers to make purchases online.

The number of online shoppers in the US has been increasing amid the pandemic. By the end of 2021, there will be more than 263 million US digital buyers—up from 255 million in 2020. Now that we live in a new reality brought by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, you may want to find ways to steer your business in the right direction. Of course, as the holidays are coming up, you want to reach your customers where they are and offer experiences that will help them find gifts for their loved ones. The new normal can be challenging for retailers, especially with the new variants of the virus emerging.

Some consumers hope to get back to normal and plan on shopping for gifts in-store, while others still want to choose an alternative that makes them feel safer: online shopping. Without a doubt, the pandemic will have a significant impact on the second holiday shopping season since the outbreak of COVID-19, but what to expect is difficult to predict even for epidemiologists, so you may wonder how to prepare.

Although we can’t predict the future, the tips below, based on last year’s season, current shopping habits, and retail statistics, might help you prepare for the upcoming holiday season.

Invest in Your Digital Marketing Strategy

With the new coronavirus vaccine, it feels as if we’ve turned a corner in this pandemic, and things are slowly getting better. However, many people are still choosing to avoid the crowds and stay home. So it’s expected that for another year, many people will buy gifts online instead of rushing to the mall.

Many of your prospective customers will start searching for products online, and it’s essential to invest in your online presence to drive consumers to your eCommerce website.

The most crucial aspects your digital marketing strategy should include are:

  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Influencer Marketing

We start the list with SEO, as it’s indeed the core of your digital marketing strategy and the primary way to increase traffic to your online store regardless of the time of the year. Roughly 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine, and optimizing your site will help appear in your prospective customer’s queries.

A successful digital marketing strategy for the holiday season should also include holiday email marketing campaigns, social media marketing, promotions, and special offers. Channels like influencer marketing are also great to use to reach broader and more targeted audiences. Moreover, it’s essential to invest in a content marketing strategy. Creating relevant content like blogs, videos, or podcasts will help appear in prospects’ search queries, who start their search on Google. Before they start looking for a product, many consumers will begin looking for ways to find the best holiday gift, so writing a blog “best Christmas gift ideas for 2021”, for instance, may drive prospects to your blog and from there to your eCommerce site.

Prepare for More Online Traffic and Optimize Your Website

As eCommerce penetration continues to increase and more and more people go online to shop for holiday gifts, there might be higher traffic to your online store than in previous years. Therefore, ensure your site can provide users with a pleasant online experience even during high-traffic and high-transaction days. If your site can’t perform well at the peak of traffic or loads slowly in customers’ browsers, they will most likely abandon the online store even if they already hit the checkout page. Therefore, one of the crucial steps to prepare for the holiday season is to optimize your eCommerce website for speed and user experience.

Invest in Local SEO

Although many choose to buy products online, some prospects, who miss in-store experience, when available, will most likely visit your brick-and-mortar store. However, even when planning on shopping in a physical store, people find information online before heading their shopping trip. More than 80% of consumers go online before heading out to the store; therefore, it’s crucial to appear in their search queries. For example, searches for “available near me” have increased by more than 100% since 2019 globally. Location-related keywords like “near me” signal to Google that a user is searching for a business nearby. Hence, it provides the searcher with a list of local businesses – Google local pack. Appearing in the list will bring more shoppers to your store, and the best way to do so is by investing in Local SEO.

Provide Safer In-Store Shopping Experience

Although some of your customers might prefer shopping in-store, they most likely don’t want to risk their health while doing so. It’s crucial to offer a much safer in-store shopping experience than in the past. As 34% of consumers are still concerned about shopping in-store, according to a spring 2021 survey, it’s essential to offer alternatives like self-checkout, buy online, pickup in-store, contactless curbside, etc. Now 87% of shoppers prefer to shop in stores with contactless or self-checkout options during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s vital to offer them to your customers.

Offer Earlier Promotions

Those customers who plan on visiting your store but still want to avoid crowds will start shopping much earlier, so offering earlier promotions is a great idea to meet their expectations and increase your store’s sales. A survey shows 22% of people plan to shop well ahead of winter festivities, so whether online or in-store, rolling out your special offers and promotions earlier this year might help you meet your customers’ expectations. In addition, 25% of early shoppers plan to have their shopping done by Thanksgiving, so ensure your business is well-prepared to meet your customers’ needs.

Partner with Local businesses that Complement Your Product and Create Local Gift Sets

Small businesses are now in the spotlight amid the coronavirus pandemic as people start to realize their importance to communities and neighborhoods. As a result, many have decided to shop for gifts at a small local store during the last holiday season, and they will likely do so again this year. Even so, the revenue of small businesses was hit hard by the pandemic. Because they need support and are crucial for the economy and local communities, partnering with local companies is a double win for your company and the local business.

More customers who prefer the in-store shopping experience can see and buy your products at the local store, especially if you don’t have one. On the other hand, you can promote the store using your online resources to wider audiences. Plus, you can create a gift set you’d not be able to make alone. For instance, if you own a CBD brand and partner up with a local beauty store, you can offer to combine your topicals with the company’s beauty products and make a local gift set a perfect gift for the upcoming holiday season.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your SEO, page speed, or hitting the local pack, let us know! We can help you reach your potential customers faster.

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