To say this year has been different would be an understatement. From transitioning to remote work to total retail shut down, keeping businesses afloat and jobs secure has been a struggle.
With the pandemic still affecting companies and customers during the holiday shopping season, many small and medium businesses (SMBs) are dealing with very different circumstances than in years past.
As a business owner, it’s important to tune into how your customers are to shopping this year–as this will affect their preferences and expectations long past this holiday shopping season. Staying on top of the latest consumer behavior trends will help you get there. If you want to learn about some of the ways customers will be shopping differently this year, read on. Even if you can’t implement some of these changes now, you can start formulating a plan to act on them once the holiday rush is over.
1. Customers Increasingly Prefer to Shop Online
Ecommerce has been trending upwards for many years. Now, with many of us stuck inside this year, only leaving the house to purchase essential items or go to work, it has really spiked. Many have turned to online shopping to purchase other items that they couldn’t find while non-essential businesses were closed. Online shopping, mobile apps, curbside pickup, and other retail technology are growing in popularity for shoppers.
If you’ve held off on building or adding additional e-commerce capabilities for your business, this year should have convinced you that building and extending your online presence is essential. Not only will this allow you to reach a larger audience in your community and the beyond, but it will allow your customers to continue to support you while they cannot physically shop in your stores or meet with you to obtain your services. Selling on your own store, as well as via third-parts such as Amazon, Etsy, and Facebook, will all help your business to grow.
Of course, if you have the resources, taking your digital presence one step further with a mobile app for your business will also help you facilitate sales and service this holiday season. It’s clear that sales via mobile commerce are sharply rising. If your business wants to tap into this increasingly important sales channel, offering a mobile-friendly shopping experience is vital.
2. The Holiday Shopping Period Is Longer
With online shopping become so popular, concerns about supply chain and shipping issues have risen. As a result, customers are shopping earlier. They want to be sure that they’ve purchased gifts well in advance of the holidays and avoid shipping mishaps.
Traditionally, the holiday shopping period includes the months of November and December, but this year, some shoppers started preparing for the holidays in October.
Early shopping ensures that items are delivered on time, and helps cut down on the number of shoppers in-store at one time. For those businesses that have been cleared to open their doors again and allow shoppers into their stores, it’s important to keep crowds small. With a longer shopping season beginning earlier than usual, shoppers are less likely to all show up on the same few days and weeks, creating large crowds and increasing any chances for germ spreading.
Using technology to offer customers multiple ways to shop early–conveniently and safely–helps retailers grow their share of customer spending–both during the holiday season and beyond.
3. Many Customers Have Less Money to Spend
Many consumers are dealing with smaller budgets for their holiday shopping this year. Whether it be losing their job, getting their work hours cut back, or other unforeseen circumstances that have reduced income, 48% of Americans have less money to spend during the holidays this year than in previous years.
In order to make sure they stay on track with their budgets and don’t overspend, more customers are using apps for online banking to track online spending and check account balances. With account balances right at their fingertips, shoppers can check their spending regularly to make sure they are staying on track, and even know when they have a little extra money to splurge.
Whether online or in-store, let customers know that by shopping at small and medium businesses rather than major chain stores, they can find unique and affordable gifts, and that the funds spent to purchase these gifts will be going back into the community, which has likely also suffered throughout the year.
4. Online Sales Mean Spending More Time On Order Fulfillment
With online sales expected to increase by 33% during November and December as compared to the same time last year, strong order fulfillment is critical to smooth operations. In some businesses, this may mean hiring a few extra seasonal employees to help out with packaging and shipping orders, or allocating your time differently to allow for more hours spent getting orders together for your customers.
While businesses welcome increased sales, the amount of work that goes into fulfilling more orders can become overwhelming at best. At worst, it can lead to mistakes, delays, and unhappy customers.
Implementing order fulfillment software can help you more easily track purchases as they come in. Being able to visualize the details of each order your business receives makes it easier to fulfill these purchases, and allows you to collect data on the sales your business has conducted during this holiday season.
If you’re feeling stressed about your business operations as this year draws to a close, remember to take everything one step at a time. This year has been completely different for everyone, and just getting by has been the focus of so many people.
During this time, building relationships with customers and helping them get the products and services they need will be your best option for surviving and thriving during this unprecedented business season.
But if your business has survived this far, now is the time to look ahead and put plans in place to be better prepared for next year. While the pandemic will hopefully recede into the rearview mirror, the trend for customers to do more shopping and purchasing online will only rise.
© SMB Group, 2020