To prepare for holiday shopping in 2021 means offering your customers a seamless online experience and paying particular attention to mobile shoppers.

holiday shopping 2021

Holiday shopping is big business. It’s a crucial time of year for retailers and other companies that need holiday sales to hit their revenue goals.

How important is this time of year to retailers? Forecast from eMarketer predict that U.S. holiday retail sales will reach over US$1 trillion this year. They also predict that e-commerce will increase of 11.3 per cent, totalling nearly US$207 billion.

Even more striking is eMarketer’s prediction that e-commerce will drive almost 19 per cent of total holiday season retail sales. Online shopping is a big opportunity retailers can’t afford to miss.

To stay competitive, be ready to offer a seamless shopping experience. You’ll need to elevate the online experience you offer to reach as many customers as possible.

Multi-channel shopping: How retailers can stand out in 2021

Today’s shoppers have high expectations. They spend time online researching purchases and interacting with brands. Online shopping offers convenience and a broad range of options to shoppers who want to make a purchase.

How can you meet these expectations? First, be ready to offer a convenient shopping experience on every platform where a customer encounters your brand. Make it easy to buy from you, and don’t put obstacles in their way.

Shoppers are likely to begin their holiday shopping in October, which means it’s time to roll out your holiday marketing.

What is multi-channel shopping?

You offer customers multi-channel shopping when you give them multiple ways to purchase your products. This requires creating a strategy that aligns what you provide in-store, online and on social media. If you sell retail, consider how customers experience your brand and content across all platforms you use.

In the past, companies only needed to plan and make sure their branding was consistent across TV, radio and print ads. Today’s retailers need to create a strong, consistent marketing message across multiple digital channels.

When you offer customers multiple ways to research your products and interact with your brand, you’re letting them choose their favourite way to shop. By ensuring they can purchase during any online interaction with your company, you’re more likely to meet their expectations for convenience and flexibility.

A proactive approach to multi-channel shopping increases the chance customers will purchase from you and that they’ll have a positive experience.

Holiday shopping predictions for 2021

Holiday shopping makes up a significant portion of retail revenue. Still, each year plays out differently based on trends, customer behaviour and other significant drivers, such as the pandemic that affected holiday shopping in 2020.

In 2021 shoppers will have already gone through one pandemic holiday season and will be starting early to avoid delays. They will be looking for shipping and delivery options, and seamless online experiences. If you can figure out what shoppers want and need, you can stand out and gain sales as they make their purchasing decisions.

Here are a few things you can expect for holiday shopping 2021:

  • Customers will expect flexibility for delivery and pickup. (Think shipping options, curbside pickup and contactless delivery.)
  • Mobile sales are predicted to make up over 70 per cent of total e-commerce sales, so make sure customers can shop your website from their phones and purchase from your social media channels. You could even explore a mobile application for your brand.
  • People are likely to shop early after experiencing uncertainty in 2020.
  • More people are shopping online, so make returns as painless as possible and cover the cost of shipping if you can.

Start marketing now for holiday shopping 2021

Make your marketing decisions early, so you don’t lose momentum through the season. If you’re still trying to decide on dates and ad budgets halfway through the season, you’re not going to be able to capitalize on sales.

Create a holiday marketing plan early. Then be ready to roll out visual updates, promotions, ads and any other activities without delays. For example, your calendar should show important shopping days such as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday with accompanying promotional activity for each.

Make it clear across all platforms that you’re ready to meet your customers’ needs for holiday shopping.

Your marketing checklist for the 2021 holiday season

If you haven’t nailed down your marketing plan for 2021 and are off to a late start, there’s still time for you to make the most of the season. Each year, you’ll get better at being ready to kick off the season early.

Here’s a quick list of the main elements you’ll need to welcome customers for holiday shopping:

Website and e-commerce

Retailers that want to drive sales during the holiday season will need to be ready with a well-designed, easy-to-use website that offers online shopping. E-commerce has become the new standard, with shoppers expecting it on most websites.

Thoughtful content that helps people do their own research and shows them how to get the most out of the products you sell can help convert website visitors to customers.

Social media and social commerce

You’ll want to be active on platforms where your ideal customers spend time. Proactive social media selling means robust social media calendars with a solid mix of promotional and valuable content to engage audiences.

Go one step further and set up social commerce, which is the ability to shop on each social media platform that has the capability. The easier you make it for people to buy when they see something interesting, the more sales you can drive online.

Brick and mortar store experience

Welcome customers with personalized service when they visit you in-store and which social media platforms they can find you on. Offer options for delivery speed, curbside pickup and shopping in-store.

Stay organized as you fulfill online orders and balance inventory in-store if you are managing both. You’ll need a reliable point-of-sale system that tracks inventory and sales.

Multi-channel experience

Test every avenue customers might use to shop with you to ensure the experience is seamless and easy. Shoppers will be forming impressions of your company and deciding whether they’ll return as repeat customers.

Test your shopping experience to flag areas where you might be losing customers. Pay attention to feedback that indicates a problem and fix issues immediately.

How to compete as a small business owner

If you’re a small business owner, you’re competing with the big brands that can afford to beat you with marketing dollars and by absorbing costs.

Figure out your advantages and use them:

  • Do you have an email list of loyal customers you can use for email marketing?
  • Are customers raving about your customer service?
  • Do you offer locally sourced goods or a unique mix of products?
  • Do you give back to your community?
  • Can you make recommendations based on past purchases?
  • Can you create a loyalty program that rewards customers for shopping with you?

Highlight these elements in your marketing to help your customers remember you and choose you over the more prominent players in the market.

Multi-channel shopping is the norm during holidays

Holiday shopping is the key to driving sales and claiming your share of revenue. Customers expect a convenient shopping experience across multiple channels. Prepare to offer the seamless and easy shopping experience your customers are looking for this holiday season.

Not ready yet? There’s time to bring on help and make swift changes to how you welcome customers to your business.

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