After Halloween – or even before, judging by the abundance of holiday decorations and Christmas carols we noticed during some last-minute candy runs – the holidays seem to come fast and furiously. Thanksgiving falls on Nov. 25 this year, so we have less than four weeks of the traditional shopping time.
That means retail franchises are going to have to bring their A game to the busiest time of the year. We’re here to help.
State of the Shopping Season
Just as 2020 changed so much about how we live, it altered consumers’ shopping behaviors – probably forever. For starters, holiday shoppers are starting earlier than ever.
You know that super-organized friend you hate who is Christmas shopping when you are still looking for a fall wreath? She’s back, and she started shopping in August. The rest of us mere mortals started shopping in October this year, and most U.S. consumers said they would be checking off gifts on their lists before Thanksgiving.
We’ve all seen the lines of ships parked of the coast waiting to unload our future gifts. Shipping vessels are reporting on-time arrival of only 40% this year, compared with 80% a year ago. That has people worried about shortages and shipping delays, so 40% are paying attention to when you say you will deliver their gifts. And retailers who deliver late probably will lose customers.
Good news: Consumers plan to spend about 7% more than last year, although they are still chasing bargains. Most have joined loyalty programs in pursuit of discounts, and three out of four expect to buy at least one secondhand item for a gift this year.
3 Steps To Take Now
So, what can you do to prepare for a holiday shopping season unlike any other? Here are three urgent recommendations to get ready:
First, update your Google My Business listing.
Double-check that your address is correct and that your phone numbers, emails and more are listed and up to date. Make sure your hours reflect any special hours when you’ll be open, any days you expect to be closed and any special after-hours or VIP shopping events.
Go ahead and upload a holiday post or photo. You can’t really schedule out Google My Business posts in advance, so post something now that has some shelf life in case you are too busy to post again for a while.
Second, think “mobile first.”
Whether you sell products from your website or consumers just visit it looking for deals or ideas, you need to make sure that the site looks beautiful and operates flawlessly on a mobile device.
In 2020, e-commerce sales saw a 47% increase during the holiday shopping season, and more than half of online sales came from smartphones.
Cater to social shoppers.
If you’ve been holding on to some ad dollars for a rainy day, it’s time to spend it. About half of shoppers don’t know what they want to buy until they “discover” it, and most of those discoveries come on a social platform or app. Brand awareness ads keep you top-of-mind for your customers.
Likewise, increase organic posts and make sure you are responding to comments and questions about gift ideas and availability promptly. Most consumers say they will return to doing some in-store shopping this year, but you have to make it easy for them. Last year, they loved the option to buy online and pick up in store or curbside, and that trend is definitely here to stay.
All in all, there are plenty of reasons to expect this holiday season to be merry for retail franchises, but you need to have a plan in place. Start now by having your gift selections ready early. And make sure your customers can find your store – in person, online and on social media.