A Guide to Selling Online for the Holidays in 2020

Is your e-commerce brand prepared for the coming 2020 online retail explosion?

This year’s COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated several workplace trends such as work-from-home initiatives, online conferencing, and virtual learning. Increasing comfort with online shopping coupled with a fast-spreading virus will almost certainly result in record numbers of e-commerce receipts, too.

Business Insider projects that e-commerce shoppers will spend $190.47 billion this year on holiday buys, up a whopping 35.8% from 2019. Meanwhile, experts say in-store holiday sales will decline by 4.7%. When surveyed, between 42% and 62% of American shoppers say they plan to do all their holiday gift-buying online.

The pandemic is not disrupting our industry. Instead, it’s simply advancing the timeline for e-commerce growth. E-commerce and multi-channel retail have been nipping at traditional outlets for years. Funds that consumers once spent on travel, attractions, and show tickets will get redirected into online purchases and virtual experiences in 2020.

Here’s what we’re seeing in online commerce this holiday season:

  • 61% of retailers will likely ramp up their online and social media marketing initiatives in anticipation of holiday e-commerce sales.
  • Forrester anticipates that certain sectors will see the highest numbers of in-store decline: health and beauty, home furnishings, consumer electronics, and fashion.
  • Supply chains could sag, lag, or even snap due to heavier-than-usual demands on their capacity.
  • Thanksgiving Day may see the biggest ramp up of the five cyber sales days since many in-store retailers will stay closed, giving shoppers a chance to browse online from home.

Despite — or perhaps, because of — a wonky economy, a contentious and divided electorate, and a once-in-a-century pandemic, consumers still plan to spend heavily this holiday season. They’ll just spend differently than they did last year.

How can your e-commerce brand position itself for success in these unusual times? Here’s what we recommend:

1. Audit your website.

Does your site take longer than three seconds to load? If so, half the potential buyers who visit on your site will click off. Check that all your information is up to date. You especially want to make sure that prices, sales tax, shipping, and the return policy are correct. Finally, be sure your site is SEO optimized.

2. Improve checkout.

You probably know that 7 out of 10 shoppers abandon carts and the number shoots up to 8.5 out of 10 on mobile. Did you know, however, that optimizing your checkout experience can increase conversions by 35.62%? Recommendations, size guides, order reviews, and a general air of excitement can make all the difference.

3. Keep customer loyalty paramount.

Loyal customers will buy your brand’s products even if a competitor offers a cheaper alternative of equal quality. You can create loyalty through rewards programs, holiday giveaways for returning customers, abandoned cart emails, and building a community on social media. Give customers behind-the-scenes glimpses into your business that make them feel like they’re part of what’s happening.

4. Personalize the shopper experience.

According to a Harris poll, just 34% of consumers believe e-commerce retailers deliver exceptional customer experiences. The key to a personalized e-commerce experience is making the right recommendations. Use what you know about your customers’ geography, demographics, and behaviors to decide what you’ll recommend. And this time of year, you’ll also want to showcase your holiday offerings.

5. Target your marketing campaigns.

Targeted marketing separates what an e-commerce brand can do from what a brick-and-mortar shop can do. While a traditional store markets to the masses, an online retailer can create an individualized marketing campaign for each customer — or almost.

6. Experiment with video.

Marketers love video for a reason. Namely, it works. Video blends the power of words, images, and voice to create the most impactful marketing experience available, next to word of mouth. If you aren’t doing video, you’re behind the 8 ball. Consider doing a basic marketing video, a tutorial, expert interviews, or a story-based video. You can get creative and still stay within your budget. If you get into video, prepare to create and post about four pieces a month.

7. Create a memorable unboxing experience.

Your customers are buying a gift for themselves. They want to enjoy unwrapping it, and you want them to share their unwrapping moment online. So fill your distinctive, branded boxes with unique packing material surrounding your product.

The transition from a place-based shopping experience to an internet-based one is nearly complete. The 2020 pandemic has just accelerated the long trend toward online shopping, and now is the perfect time for e-commerce brands to stand out.