Holiday Selling with No Crowds

Pandemic-induced social distancing, reduced hours of operation, in addition to continued lockdowns and closures could radically alter Christmas shopping behaviors in 2020, requiring retailers to find new ways to serve holiday shoppers and make sales.

“There is definitely doubt about in-store shopping… with Covid,” said Robert Fagnani, head of business development and operations at Formation, a personalization platform.

“If you imagine crowded stores and long lines, especially around Black Friday — I don’t believe we’ll see that happening. One, because people are getting smarter about how to stay safe from the pandemic. And two, numerous state and local authorities or governments… are most likely to place requirements that won’t allow that type of behaviour to happen.”

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Should you imagine crowded stores and long lines, especially around Black Friday — I don’t believe we’ll see that happening.

No Crowds

Notwithstanding local or state stores, omnichannel and brick-and-mortar retail businesses don’t necessarily need packed shops and crowded stores on Black Friday either. As a result of the continuing coronavirus pandemic, audiences create three or more possible issues for bodily stores.

Risk to workers. A worker who contracts Covid-19 is definitely at risk. That needs to be a supplier’s primary concern. Beyond that individual’s wellbeing, the business loses a worker for a few weeks or more, and, in certain areas of the nation, that merchant will have to close its store while the rest of its staff is analyzed and, possibly, quarantined. A tiny Black Friday hype and the affiliated in-store audiences could crossover a shop for the rest of the holiday season.

Some customers are trying to find a fight. There are numerous instances of consumers entering stores and hard workers or other shoppers throughout the requirement to wear a mask.

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“Two men were not wearing face masks when they entered a Trader Joe’s in Manhattan earlier this month. But when lots of the grocery store employees asked the pair to cover their faces, they refused — and went on a rampage instead,” composed reporter Teo Armus, in The Washington Post on July 29, 2020.

Sadly, this is just 1 case. There are a good deal more, and Black Friday crowds could make things much worse.

Legal accountability. At the time of writing, there was no valid defense for businesses from coronavirus liability. If she became sick with the coronavirus, a store’s shopper could, in theory, sue the merchant, claiming that Black Friday promotions encouraged viewers and, thus, irresponsibly spread Covid-19.

As insane as this may appear to some in the retail industry, it is important not to forget that there is also hardly any security for coronavirus sufferers who may have to take extreme action to cover their medical bills, which for many patients exceed $1.5 million.

Changed Behaviors

“I think many customers today — even if they are living in regions of the world who’ve stabilized Covid… or where we don’t feel at high risk because everyone is wearing masks — are still feeling very unsettled and unsure going out, certainly for anything that’s not too concentrated, very specific like grocery shopping. They are only going to opt-out of doing it that way,” said Brian Walker, chief strategy officer at Bloomreach, a customer experience platform.

To Walker’s point, many shoppers have shifted their purchasing behaviors so that even though Black Friday promotions, they may not want to venture out to a store, especially if they expect it to be packed.

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A Different Strategy

Here’s the rub. Nearly all retail firms — brick-and-mortar, omnichannel, and pure ecommerce — need a solid Christmas shopping season with a lot of sales. But this year they probably cannot promote Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or even Christmas Day the exact same manner they have in prior years.

Brick-and-mortar stores will need an internet presence if they expect to compete.

“Call it a slow hunch,” said Bloomreach’s Walker,”I think many people expected that electronic commerce, that digital experience was, obviously, likely to continue to rise in value, and it certainly has, but since Covid began, it moved from important to urgent for many businesses.”

Merchants that don’t have some type of internet presence and the capability to supply pick-up or delivery will most likely overlook some holiday sales this year.

Omnichannel retailers should emphasize ecommerce and click-and-collect shopping to prevent the risks associated with overcrowded stores and Black Friday lines. This may need better, cross-channel shopping experiences.

Selling things throughout the pandemic and advancing the digital experience”has performed in many of ways throughout the Covid crisis,” said Walker,”including [merchants] such as the capacity to search, and sort, and refine based on what’s available for pick-up in their community market as opposed to [the client ] being frustrated to get a product and find later that it is not available in their neighborhood shop.”

“Consumers are programmed over the past four, five, six months to shop online. Granted, most of it is for client essential products and essential things, but I believe we will start to understand that change more into some other discretionary categories as people are thinking more about gifts,” said Formation’s Fagnani.

“For men and women who need the certainty that something is in stock — I am certain that everybody has found something that is out of stock throughout the last six months,” Fagnani continued,”we will likely see an uptick in people doing contactless delivery or pick-up in the store for specific products so that they know they are in reality getting the thing they want.”

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With this focus, omnichannel retailers may continue to be able to enjoy a good holiday season with their stores out there. The aim is not to close stores completely, but rather to prevent long lines and enormous crowds. And by avoiding crowds, these businesses could be preserving the in-store shopping experience.

For brick-and-mortar or omnichannel retailers, the aim is not to shut shops completely, but rather to not market long line or enormous crowds. Photo: Arturo Rey.

Actual ecommerce retailers would appear to have an edge because they are already online. With large businesses cutting back on some advertising spending, promotional costs for ecommerce merchants may be flat or up only a bit in 2020.

Regrettably, there may still be challenges with transportation, new competition (i.e., omnichannel and brick-and-mortar companies now focused on online sales), and even product availability. Bearing this in mind, ecommerce merchants in 2020 may want to”flatten the curve” of holiday earnings, and create sales as soon as possible.

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