By Rieva Lesonsky
Yes, it’s early, but due to the coronavirus pandemic the official holiday shopping season is underway. Already we know many of the big box stores won’t be open on Thanksgiving Day, so online sales are expected to soar this year.
In recent years, holiday sales were kicked off during Cyber Week, starting on Thanksgiving, with Black Friday deals following the next day. Consumers were then encouraged to shop local to support small businesses on Small Business Saturday. This shopping surge was capped by Cyber Monday, the busiest online shopping day of the year.
Last year U.S. shoppers spent more than $9.2 billion on Cyber Monday alone, setting a new record. And this year Adobe Analytics predicts Cyber Monday will ring in at a record-setting $12.7 billion in sales, while Black Friday sales will generate $10 billion in online sales.
The New Cyber Holiday Sales
However, it is 2020 and there is no such thing as “typical” this year. Adobe says we’re done with Cyber Week, at least this year, and they’re expecting November and December to become Cyber Months, with online holiday sales hitting $189 billion, “shattering all previous records with a 33% YOY increase, equal to two years’ growth in one season.” Stats from the National Retail Federation (NRF) concur, as 59% of holiday shoppers plan to shift more of their shopping online vs. 2019.
- Daily Records: Online sales will surpass $2 billion every day between November 1-21 and increase to $3 billion a day November 22–December 3.
- Smartphone Share: Americans will spend $28.1 billion more on their smartphones vs. 2019, accounting for 42% of all online sales, a 55% increase YoY.
And in really good news for small businesses, Adobe says small retailers will see a larger boost to revenue (107%) than large ones (84%).
This means you have to be ready—now—to take advantage of the change in consumer shopping behaviors.
Here is a checklist to help you kick off your holiday season:
- Build your website. If you don’t have e-commerce software already, you still have time to create one. Outsource the project now, there is literally no time to waste.
- Have a plan. Brainstorm marketing ideas with your team and delegate responsibilities. Make sure your social media plan is detailed and extensive. If you have a physical store, signage should promote Cyber Month sales as well.
- Update your online listings. And yes, while online sales are expected to soar, that doesn’t mean people won’t be doing some in-store shopping. This means your business information must be current. Check your listing on Google My Business, Yelp, Bing Places, and any other listing where your business is mentioned. Are you changing hours during the holiday? Your hours, address (including a map to your location), phone number, and email address should be current. Make sure any holiday shipping information is easy to find, and your customer service contact information is also listed.
- Update your website. Obviously, the same goes for your website. All contact information, as well as the information consumers look for during the holiday season, such as shipping rates, estimated shipping dates, wrapping options, gift cards, and discounts should be easy to find.
- Increase your customer service. More than before your customers will have questions about inventory, shipping and more during the holidays—and they’ll reach out to you any way they can. Consider adding chatbot and live chat capabilities. Chatbots can be programmed to direct customers to find the answers they need and then transfer consumers to live chat when they need a real person. Do you need to add personnel to answer phones, social media questions and email queries?
- Increase shipping and processing help. One positive outcome from the pandemic is the rise in distribution options for businesses to deliver products to customers. UPS suggests researching your warehousing and distribution resources and expanding your inventory purchasing to various supply chains to ensure your options stay open. Make sure you know shipping deadlines and pass on those dates to your customers.
- Offer free shipping. Adobe also says 64% of customers surveyed say they will not pay for expedited shipping this year. In other words, to compete, your business needs to offer free and/or affordable shipping.
- Offer discounts on all items. Competition is intense at this time of year, so you really need to up your game and offer discounts across your website and in-store. If you’re only offering discounts on certain items, customers will be disappointed and immediately surf over to your competitor. You might need to offer extra incentives to get consumers into your store this year, particularly with COVID-19 cases on the rise. You don’t need to discount everything, obviously, but you do want to entice customers to shop with you.
- Add curbside pickup. If you haven’t already added curbside pickup options at your retail store, do so immediately. Curbside pickup during the pandemic saved many retail businesses from closing and enabled customers to shop and get products safely. The Adobe report found BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) will increase by over 40% than in 2019 and at an IAB conference they noted this behavior will continue post pandemic.
- Check your website for responsive design. Responsive design means your website works and is user-friendly on any device—computer, tablet, or smartphone. Did you know smartphones are expected to account for 42% of all online sales this holiday season? You better make sure consumers have an easy time accessing your mobile website.
- Optimize social media profiles. Update profile pictures across all social networking platforms to promote your deals. Use banners, memes, TikTok videos, and whatever clever and eye-catching posts you can think of to make your business stand out.
- Create urgency. In all your marketing campaigns, create a sense of excitement and urgency by using trigger words such as “Hurry!” “Shop Now!” “Limited Offer,” “Today Only,” and “Don’t Miss Out!”
- Use hashtags. Everyone will be using #cybermonday, #BlackFriday #smallbizSaturday and #shopsmall hashtags, but also include hashtags relevant to your specific business such as #giftsformom, #giftsforkids and #christmasgifts.
- Cyber Month is real. Since online sale surges are projected to last beyond Cyber Monday, be ready to offer online deals well before and after the big day.
- Be ready for next year. Next year Thanksgiving 2021 will be November 25th. Keep a journal of what worked this year and what improvements you want to make next year so you don’t forget in the tumult of the holidays.