Are You Ready for Online Holiday Shoppers?
For the past several years, ecommerce has played an incrementally increasing role in holiday sales. In 2020, as online shopping became a critical need, the pandemic forced retailers’ hands. This resulted in a permanent shift in spending, shopping habits and expectations. It’s the truly innovative retailers who have been anticipating trends for years that are now experimenting with trailblazing ideas to further improve their reach to consumers.
In This Article
The 2020 holiday shopping season was unlike anything ever seen in retail. Online sales, steadily increasing for several years, saw a 6.5% increase between 2019 and 2020 due to shifting pandemic shopping habits. To put this in perspective, prior to 2019, 6.5% was the percentage increase in holiday shopping over the prior four years combined. With so much uncertainty about the Delta variant, combined with consumers wanting to get back to normal, what is the path forward?
The “pandemic-pivot" is just table stakes
According to a recent survey by Google and BCG, 70% of shoppers will leverage digital channels for holiday shopping in 2021, and 50% of shoppers are likely to utilize online channels for some or all their gift-giving. Prior to the pandemic, the lines between shopping channels were clear, with a few exceptions. While e-commerce has been taking market share, the in-store experience was still king. E-commerce shoppers did not see, touch or smell; instead, they received items and gifts through the mail, and when required, worked with customer service agents when returns or exchanges were needed.
Retailers were just scratching the surface of omnichannel, beginning in the following areas:
- Buy-Online, Pickup-In-Store (BOPIS), leveraging scheduled store delivery to eliminate shipping cost, or backroom pickers to fulfill in-stock items. However, the consumer experience was often disjointed and clunky, as the eCommerce platform was seldom integrated to the Point-of-Sale (POS). This resulted in fulfillment delays and lost orders amid increasing consumer expectations
- In-store returns took advantage of point-of-presence and existing reverse logistics routing, to eliminate shipping costs. Challenges again included disjointed frontend platforms; while records existed in the Enterprise Resource Platform (ERP), often the POS had no way to recall those order invoices.
The pandemic brought an about-face to the entire industry, as rules and regulations evolved amid rapidly changing scientific discovery. Supply chains were crippled. Employees are still in short supply. Consumers began looking for, and expecting, more fulfillment options. Touchless and distance-based methods became a necessity. This is omnichannel's moment.
How to up the ante
The retail industry has never moved backwards. Once an option is made available to consumers, that option must always be available. Fulfillment options are starting to become table stakes, fueled by the pandemic, but carried forward by consumer expectations:
- In-store returns
- Curbside pickup
As we emerge from COVID-19, consumer trends will continue to evolve, and retailers must continue to adapt. The same retailers trailblazing BOPIS and curbside prior to 2019 are now experimenting with:
- Text ordering, either with customer service, or in the case of larger retailers, chatbots and AI technology.
- Buy now, pay later, in partnership with card processors and Fintech startups like Stripe and Finix.
- Social media ordering, direct from Facebook Messenger.
- Using only recipient phone or email to give physical gifts, while fulfillment addresses are recalled through collected data.
- Predictive analytics to anticipate and prevent shortages caused by supply chain disruption.
Omnichannel will continue to evolve, and we're just beginning to learn exactly what "omnichannel" means. Having an integrated platform, capable of handling associate-facing POS, e-commerce in its many facets: web, kiosk, phone and wearables, robust fulfillment options: BOPIS, curbside, 3PL, last-mile, as well as data analytics and machine-learning collaboration, will be critical to carrying forward the momentum that opportunities presented by both the pandemic as well as revolutionary shifts in consumer trends.
We've worked closely with grocery, restaurant and retail clients to build and execute technology roadmaps to future-proof, and meet and exceed consumer expectations.