Holiday Shopping

2021 Holiday Shopping Is Coming Sooner Than You Think

5 Trends to Watch

The National Retail Foundation is forecasting a sales increase of 10-13% from a year ago. Merchants always look forward to the year’s fourth quarter; this season provides even more reason to be jolly. It also reinforces the value of the customer experience – if there is more traffic and more sales volume, there is a concurrent increase in demand for high-quality customer service, which we’ll touch on a bit later. The lockdowns that forced partial and full closures are more memory than reality, and there is a great deal of pent-up consumer demand that is being unleashed. With that in mind, there is quite a bit in-store (pun intended) for consumers. We rounded up six trends that are likely to drive the season. Holiday Shopping

1. Increased Online Shopping

This is a carryover of a behavior change that was forced by the Covid 19 pandemic. A captive shopping audience was pushed to electronic channels, which has become a habit for many. More stores are opening their doors for the 2021 holiday season, but the retail future seems to be digital and it’s not hard to see why. Numerous touchpoints assist shoppers in decision-making, including product reviews, details, recommendations, price comparisons, and 24/7 availability. Holiday Shopping

2. High Foot Traffic in Retail Outlets Expected

Last year, consumers either could not venture out due to restrictions or were hesitant to do so. The cure to cabin fever is getting out of our houses, particularly during the holiday season when stores are dressed in festive bunting, and the atmosphere is upbeat. Malls and outlets alike will experience larger crowds, and some merchants will try to sweeten the adventure with deals on items that are only applicable to in-person purchasing.

3. Customers Will Seek Convenience

Holiday ShoppingThis applies to online and in-store shopping alike and it has increasingly become a consumer expectation. Anything that makes buying easier tends to yield increased sales. While online shopping might take precedence for a time-strapped customer, convenience means the decision is no longer either/or, but rather, a case of and:
  • Consumers can order online
  • And then pick up purchases at their convenience
  • Or they can reserve products
  • People can be assured of immediate delivery
  • And they can return a purchase they do not like and get a replacement
Holiday Shopping

4. Early Shoppers Expected

With last year’s memories still lingering, this holiday season will witness early demands. In 2020, 40% of shoppers opted to seek their holiday merchandise early to avoid supplies running out or overloaded checkout lines. News regarding supply chains warns of potential slowdowns in the delivery of goods. Online shoppers, in particular, like to have their packages arrive early. Along with questions about delivery times, shipping rates are another concern. This year will be no different regarding early demands, and proactive retailers are working to stock up ahead of the shopping peak. Holiday Shopping

5. Social Media Will Influence Purchase Decisions

As consumers turn to digital channels as their preferred mode of purchase, we expect social media to play a pivotal role in brand discovery. If they have not already, merchants are advised to revamp their social media strategy across all platforms, particularly those that generate the most traffic. Social media is also an emerging tech support channel and a great way of interacting with consumers.

Heavy Reliance on Product Reviews

According to Sprout Social, 88% of online shoppers read reviews before making purchases. Why? Because third-party reviews educate consumers about products, showing real-world use and how that translates into individual buyer benefits. Prospective buyers learn the pros and cons, often from people like themselves who do not stand to gain by either praising or criticizing a product. This holiday season will see more consumers reading reviews. This can work to retailers’ benefit, too, and they should highlight updated reviews that can serve as testimonials.

Product Categories to Watch

  • Toys
US toymakers have already sounded the alarm over limited stocks, and labor shortages and supply chain challenges have led to price increases. As a result, kids could miss out on their most wanted items. To mitigate this, manufacturers are pushing shoppers to place their orders early to avoid disappointment.
  • Kitchen appliances
New models of white goods such as dishwashers and dryers are being unveiled and augmented by offers and promotions galore. That will intensify as the heart of the shopping season draws closer.
  • Perfumes
It may seem counter-intuitive to mention fragrances and perfumes when social distancing and masks are still around. But fragrances are often more about the person using them than any desire to elicit a reaction from another person. Perfumes are popular gift items whose sales are expected to surge.

Top Issues Customers Expect Retailers to Address

Last year, consumers were hesitant to spend their discretionary income; there was too much uncertainty. What did leak out from people’s pockets went to stockpiling necessities. That’s less of an issue and the spending should be more unrestrained. To accommodate this welcome news, retailers are likely to put greater emphasis on:
  • Free Shipping: People love freebies, and no customer wants to pay high shipping fees in addition to what they already spent on products. For example, retailers that add a $10 or $20 shipping fee will likely experience higher cart abandonment rates. Brands must find ways of lowering their shipping costs. Some may build freight into the cost of goods, but that is more of a hidden expense instead of an additional consumer-facing line item.
  • Ease of Returns and Exchange: Consumers prefer an effortless product return process. In many cases, the process can be tedious; in some, downright painful. This also again raises the issue of warehouse stocks. Still, when customers ask for convenience, the happiest merchants will be those who provide it.
  • Shipping Delays: The pandemic has doubled shipping time. An item shipped from Asia to the US takes 90 days by sea and 15 by air. Shoppers expect on-time delivery and that is more difficult to guarantee. This year, this is likely to be a reality with freight cargo delivery taking longer than usual.

Final Word

This shopping season should be a marked improvement over last year. While some of the trends we highlighted kicked off last year, there is traction and momentum in others this year. As a retailer, expect more online orders, with shoppers starting their quests early. Update your product reviews and keep your social media pages active. Also, consider reducing your shipping costs and minimizing delays. In addition, start thinking about customers service and support; you do not want all the product development and marketing effort that went into attracting shoppers to be lost due to a poor customer experience. We can help with that; we are digital natives who are tuned in to consumer preferences and can provide sales support, technical help, returns and exchange processing, and general customer service that brings “wow” moments to light.

References:

About GlowTouch

GlowTouch is a privately held and WBENC-certified, woman-owned enterprise, founded in 2002. We provide personalized contact center, business processing, and technology outsourcing solutions to clients around the world. Our 2,300+ employees deliver operational excellence with high-touch engagement garnering recognition by independent bodies such as Everest Group, International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP), and a six-time honoree on the Inc. 5000. GlowTouch is headquartered in Louisville, KY, with onshore contact centers in Louisville, KY, and Miami, FL; a nearshore presence in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and offshore locations in Mangalore, Bangalore, and Mysore India. To learn more about GlowTouch, visit www.GlowTouch.com

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