Pandemic Isn’t Expected to Halt the Holidays

Jan 30, 2021 9:07 AM ET

iCrowdNewswire   Jan 30, 2021  4:07 AM ET

In a year like none other, traditional holiday celebrations may be in jeopardy. With the possibility of a widespread “second wave” of Coronavirus during the holiday season, some retailers are concerned about the pandemic’s impact on this crucial time of year.

While the pandemic will force retailers to rethink their holiday season sale strategies, shopping will still go on as planned — albeit a bit different.

In October, Deloitte’s annual holiday retail survey gave some insight on how shoppers are likely to approach the holiday season and how to best cater to emerging consumer behaviors. The survey collected data from more than 4,000 U.S. consumers and includes insights from different areas of holiday spending, travel, and celebration.

New Spending Habits

With the combined pressures of smaller income flexibility and the looming hazard of a Coronavirus second wave, consumers are making adjustments to maintain some degree of profitability during the current holiday season. Still, government regulations, as well as consumer fears over safety, will clearly have an effect on what retailers can do this holiday season. Below are some emerging trends from the study.

More Online Deliveries

73% of respondents said they will rely on traditional delivery methods, like FedEx and UPS, for their holiday shopping. This means that inventory may move quicker in warehouses than in stores.

Moreover, more consumers are expected to take advantage of Cyber Monday deals than Black Friday deals. More shoppers will be keeping an eye out for online deals and will willingly pay the shipping costs for added convenience.

Higher Spending Proportion on Personal Purchases

With the pandemic shaping how we live and what we value, consumers are more likely to spend money on personal purchases (approximately $435, 12% higher than last year). This means that consumers will be looking for more practical items to buy this year and may be more cost-sensitive when considering a purchase for themselves.

Shorter Shopping Window

This year, consumers report planning to complete their holiday shopping within 5.9 weeks, approximately 1.5 weeks shorter than in previous years. With the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, the likelihood of delayed shipping, and fewer in-person purchases, consumers may treat their shopping as an errand checklist rather than a buying experience.

How Retailers Can Adjust to the COVID-19 Holiday Season

Offer Curbside Pickup

Curbside pickup and “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) services have greatly expanded during COVID-19, and consumers are expecting these services to be available to complete their holiday shopping. This retail service provides consumers with a contactless shopping experience. With COVID-19 transmission rates spiking in some areas, some consumers may elect to shop via contact-free means as opposed to typical in-store experiences.

Improve Warehouse Infrastructure

With more mobile and curbside orders, inventory can run short in an instant. This makes warehouse optimization a key component of managing the current holiday season.

“Retailers can better meet these peaks and valleys in sales by ensuring that their warehouse crew is experienced and flexible,” says Hisham Khaki of Hapigig, an online warehouse employment platform. “This year, seasonality issues may be irregular, making productivity more essential, so be sure to schedule enough workers to meet shipping demands, but also consider the total time costs for those investments.”

How COVID-19 Will Affect Holiday Shopping

While this year will certainly be different, retailers should consider what drives consumer purchases during the pandemic. For instance, factors like store safety, convenience, and return options can play critical roles in consumer behavior.

When retailers plan their holiday season approach, they should consider the balance between productivity and safety. Each member of the team needs to understand the risk factors at play and the need to provide exceptional customer service.

So while there are new challenges in the COVID-19 holiday shopping season, consumers will still shop in some capacity. The responsibility is therefore on retailers to adjust the typical shopping experience in ways that provide convenience and safety to consumers.