Lessons Learned From Our First Holiday Shopping Season in a Pandemic
The 2020 holiday shopping season has come and gone. It brought with it an unusual mix of shopper expectations and concerns. Consumers still wanted the best deals, but Coronavirus concerns reduced the number of shoppers willing to visit retail locations. According to the holiday retail forecast reported by Deloitte, 2020, e-commerce holiday sales were projected to surge by 25% to 35% compared to the 14.7% increase in 2019.
Retailers experienced many challenges and opportunities over the last half of 2020. While many stores struggled with the shut down of in-store shopping early in the pandemic, others seized the opportunity to expand their existing online and delivery strategies and modify their in-store infrastructure and experience to attract and maintain their core customer base.
InStore Design Display has worked with brands to build engaging in-store experiences for decades. But when retail hit pause in the spring, we quickly pivoted our manufacturing capabilities to create products to help organizations create safer spaces (e.g., personal protective equipment).
This unique combination of experience and ingenuity gave IDD the ability to help retailers prepare for and execute the holiday shopping season amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Check out our 3 favorite ways retailers approached holiday shopping during the coronavirus pandemic. They are great lessons for retail as we launch into a new year.
#1: Improve In-store Experience
The 2020 holiday season made the in-store experience more crucial than ever before. First and foremost, retailers had to create safe spaces for their shoppers while maintaining an on-brand experience that shoppers had become accustomed to in the retailer's brick and mortar locations. Some did it better than others.
Aside from implementing physical safety measures like countertop barriers and mobile partitions to separate spaces, there were other, more experiential, methods that characterized holiday shopping. Here are two examples:
1) Improved flow. Offering guests a mixture of in-store maps and staff guidance enabled shoppers to locate the merchandise they were looking for faster.
2) Pop-up shops. More opportunities were created for consumers to shop by installing parking lot pop-up stores. These temporary structures brought the in-store experience outside for shoppers still unwilling to enter crowded indoor spaces.
To spread out its customers, Lululemon took a slightly different approach to pop-up shops by opening them inside malls where it already had a permanent store. The luxury fitness retailer is well known for its high-end products and modern store design. Lululemon did not lose their design esthetic in the pop-up locations. Instead, everything from signage to the store's flow was on-brand with what shoppers have come to expect.
#2: Extend Sales
Many big-box retailers were running their Black Friday deals until Christmas. These discounts were also available online so that shoppers could get the same values from their couch. Stores like Target extended their price match guarantee as well. This extension meant shoppers still received a discount if an item was considered a Black Friday deal, whether bought at the start of November or on Christmas Eve.
National Retail Federation (NRF) President and CEO Matthew Shay said, "In response to the pandemic, retailers have aligned with the concept of safer, spread-out shopping, and are offering discounts earlier and for extended periods to ensure consumers can find the gifts they want, in stock at the price they want to pay, delivered at the time they want to receive them."
#3: Order Online, Pick Up InStore
Retailers were also wooing consumers with flexible delivery options, including the standard direct shipping, and buying online and picking up in-store or at curbside.
To encourage customers to socially distance and shop from home, Walmart's Black Friday discounts were available at Walmart.com three days before they were available in the store.
"We've been very thoughtful as we planned this year's event," said Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart. "By spreading deals out across multiple days and making our hottest deals available online, we expect the Black Friday experience in our stores will be safer and more manageable for both our customers and our associates."
Plato's quote, "Necessity is the mother of invention," is an apt description of 2020 retail. Retailers, businesses, and other organizations lived this truth more in 2020 than ever before. And while brick and mortar retailers experienced endless challenges this year, they also took significant strides. Their efforts to improve and evolve customer experience, both in-store and online, brought about a deeper understanding of shopper preferences and behaviors.
At IDD, we are tapping into that knowledge to develop even more thoughtful in-store design and technological advances. Our company has a century-long track record of being on the retail space's cusp of innovation. While we spent much of 2020 putting our design, manufacture, and deployment abilities to the test in different capacities, we are excited to bring what we learned back to retail to continue to advance the in-store experience.