Whether your company operates online, in-person, or both, you will need to prepare for the upcoming 2021 holiday season. Many sources, including the National Retail Federation, have forecasted an increase in holiday sales up to 13.5 percent in 2021. Determining which type of shopping (online or in-person) customers will favor more is even more difficult due to the 2020 COVID pandemic. Some sources estimate that consumers prefer the ease of online shopping, while other sources project audiences are looking for the in-person shopping experience.
Preparing both your digital and in-person presence will be vital to meet the customer demand. Below you will find reasons to start preparing your business now and a list of holiday season 2021 preparation tips.
Why Should I Start Planning for the Holiday Season?
The holiday season is an undeniably golden time for retailers to build trust with prospective customers and empty their warehouses for newer products. With competition rising during the holiday season, you don’t want to lose sales from competitors who implemented a better strategy. Here are other reasons why you should start preparing now:
Biggest Shopping Events Held Simultaneously Draw in Customers
Customers instinctively flock to holiday shopping events. Malls and markets are highly sought after due to the wide variety of brands in a delegated area. If your company does not have locations in or around these markets, try synchronizing your events to the same days and times. Doing so will create interest in your audience.
Offers and Discounts Need to Be Marketed In Advance
Not giving yourself enough time to promote and create your discounts will only end up hurting your company. With demand increasing, trying to accomplish a strategy during the holiday rush will result in missed opportunities and frustrated customers. You’ll want to release your offers beforehand to compete with competitors and target a variety of shopping styles.
Holiday Seasons Are Hectic
This might sound redundant, but holidays are the busiest time of the year. Not only do you have to focus on the responsibilities as a retailer, but you also have personal events to attend. With a decrease in employee availability and increase in customer demand, managing schedules efficiently can be hectic. It will save time and effort in the long run to anticipate what will happen with a thorough plan that effectively manages the store while adjusting to employee attendance.
Promotion Takes Time
Shoppers start considering gift ideas months in advance of the holiday season. Having your promotional objectives in place and ready to display to customers will ensure you draw attention to early and late shoppers. You must create interest in your brand ahead of time. It is unlikely that promoting late will pique the interest of prospective customers.
Stayin A Step Ahead of Competition
The earlier you start releasing your holiday strategy, the sooner you reach shoppers. Even if customers are not ready to begin their shopping experience, they will know that your business is prepared and waiting for their presence. When buyers then decide to start shopping, they will recall your offers. Loyalty is important as customers are more likely to return year after year.
Holiday Season 2021 Preparation Tips:
1. Evaluate Inventory
It is difficult to predict the future customer demand but, you can use past data to your advantage. Think about the last two holiday seasons. Considering both 2019 and 2020 data will help you estimate customer behavior before and during the pandemic. Ask yourself questions like:
- What items did we sell out or overstock?
- Did we have enough staff to meet the holiday demand?
- What were the best or the worst situations we encountered?
- Were orders delivered promptly?
- What items were more or less favored than others?
Analyzing past data will help you see trends and avoid making repeated mistakes. Alongside forecasting your inventory needs, ensure your provided information is up-to-date. Photos, reviews, pricing, and shipping information should accurately reflect your inventory. Adjusting this information beforehand will positively impact your audience.
2. Display Accurate Shipping Information
Ensuring the accuracy of your shipping information is even more important during the holiday season. People want things delivered on time. Be transparent when sharing the shipping times, dates, and status of their order.
There will inevitably be disruptions and delays during the shipping process. Be upfront with your customers about their order status and always be readily available to answer their concerns. Consider encouraging your customers to make purchases before the holiday season to avoid potential delays.
3. Manage Workforce
The increase of shoppers during the holiday season may require you to hire a few extra hands. Evaluate your current workforce and determine if it can effectively handle the holiday demand. If your current workforce is equipped to handle the customer demand, ensure all employees are delegated and trained. If your employees are not enough, start looking to hire during September and October. During this timeframe, you will have the appropriate amount of time to assess if they meet the job requirements. It will also provide enough time to train them properly.
Working capital loans from National Funding can help with this step, allowing you to invest upfront in your employees in order to take full advantage of the holiday season. If you anticipate the need for more hands but aren’t sure how to make that happen with your current funds, talk to a loan specialist to see how much you qualify for.
4. Incorporate a Holiday Gift Guide
Participating in a holiday gift guide or collection is a great way to attract new prospects. For shoppers specifically interested in holiday specials, it will quickly grab their attention and leverage your business presence. Providing gift ideas early in the season will attract shoppers looking to avoid the holiday rush and last-minute buyers who recall your guide to make a purchase.
Gift guides are also a great way to re-engage past and existing customers, increase conversions, feature your promotions against competitors, and provide relevance during the holidays. Let shoppers browse your holiday selection to stir interest in your products.
5. Prepare Your Digital Presence
Many shoppers find online shopping is the easiest way to browse, search, and purchase items. To make sure you catch their attention, increase your digital presence. Market your business through social media, emails, and websites.
Social media is a tool to help prospects discover, engage, and build relationships with new brands. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter generate gift ideas and convenient deals. Email and website marketing will help customers keep your business at the forefront of their shopping experience.
6. Implement Customer Privacy Measures
While looking for growth opportunities is your top priority, never forget to ensure the privacy of your customers and their sensitive information. With the increasing risk of cyberattacks, shoppers are wary of providing any information online. Holidays are particularly high in cyberattacks due to fraudsters aiming for customer payment information.
Before the holidays hit, run tests on your security systems to check for malware attacks and glitches. Centering your strategy around shopper privacy will drive better personalization and help with identification. Customers who build trust with your brand will be more likely to return for the next holiday season.
7. Draw Attention With Promotions & Sales
Creating promotions for the holiday season is a way to both attract new buyers and reward loyal customers. No one understands your customers better than you do. Use this knowledge to cater to the specific needs and wants of your customers. To attract prospective customers, think of ways you can stand out during the holiday season. Some deals to consider offering include:
- Free shipping
- Guaranteed shipping
- Gift wrapping
- Bulk discounting
- Percentage-based discount
With competitors offering holiday sales and special discounts, it may be necessary to promote your offers. However, ensure discounting items is a smart move for your long-term goals. If your company is positioned as a high-end brand, it is not advisable to discount a wide variety of your products. Make sure if you decide to offer discounts that you are finding the best way for your business to stand out amongst competitors, and it aids in reaching your long-term goals.
The holiday season is a busy time for retailers preparing for influxes in inventory, sales, and shoppers. Arranging business functions and security beforehand can help companies avoid issues during the holiday rush. Preparation can also ensure customers are well informed, taken care of, and interested in the products.
Effectively preparing for the Holiday Season this year is a great opportunity to recoup losses from the pandemic. Making sure to prepare your strategy and your workforce will allow you to take advantage of the boosted season of sales. Be sure to get started early to prepare sufficiently for the season!