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5 Consumer Behavior Trends Reshaping Holiday Shopping

COVID-19 has changed the way people shop. Here’s how to prepare.

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AMID ALL of the uncertainty we’re facing in 2020 with COVID-19 and the recession, one thing is crystal clear: Your target consumer is evolving at a rapid pace, and as business leaders, that means you have to evolve with them.

Since March, we’ve seen a surge in e-commerce, retailers pivoting to Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS) and delivery services, new technologies emerging to enhance the customer experience and much, much more. So, what does this mean as we gear up for one of the most important times of the year — the holiday season? How are evolving trends in consumer behavior reshaping the holiday season and how can you best plan for it? Here are five ways:

1. Know that efficiency is everything.

Remember the old days when more time spent in-store equaled more money spent? With COVID concerns and safety measures in full effect, shoppers this holiday season will be looking to “get in and get out” quickly. This doesn’t mean resign yourself to single-item sales. It means providing clear signage, easily accessible products, and ample staff to provide help and keep lines short.

2. Communicate that you care.

“In every survey we’ve conducted, consumers have continued to confirm that their needs and demands are around safety first, then comfort,” Marie Driscoll of Coresight Research told Retail TouchPoints. Retailers need to show and tell! Leverage all your consumer touchpoints — from your website to a sign on the front door — to communicate the measures you’re taking to safeguard your customers’ wellbeing.

PRO TIP: Expanded curbside services, free disposable face masks (or low-cost, branded face masks), hand sanitizer stations, encouraging phone orders and BOPIS orders, enhanced staff training around responsible practices, and portable, wireless checkout to reduce line congestion.

3. Think of your store as a retail fulfillment center.

Online sales have been setting records all year, and that trend is going nowhere but up. Salesforce predicts Holiday 2020 e-commerce penetration will hit a whopping 30 percent. Compared with the peak of 19 percent during Holiday 2019, this is a huge transition.

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For online retailers, waste no time in conducting a full audit to ensure your customers’ digital experience is flawless.

For brick-and-mortar retailers, fortify your digital properties and marketing channels with all the ways you’re providing a safe, expedient and differentiated shopping experience. In order to stay competitive, make the mindset switch from holiday browsing to retail fulfillment center. This will look different for every shop, so be creative and solution-oriented to your customers’ needs.

4. Say bye-bye to Black Friday because holiday shopping now starts in October.

Be ready to kickstart holiday earlier than usual. Amazon will hold its Prime Day event in October. Partially in response, major retailers, like Target and Walmart, will also be pushing holiday promotions before Halloween.

Not only will consumers be conditioned to start shopping early, logistics will demand it, too. Delivery delays from the US Postal Service are expected to continue and worsen. Since the USPS covers about 40 percent of all last-mile deliveries, retailers are building in extra time to ensure on-time holiday packages.

On top of that, many retailers have already announced Thanksgiving Day closures, and have been tight-lipped around plans for Black Friday and Cyber Monday amid concerns around overly congested stores.

5. Double down on your brand.

An underreported phenomena of the pandemic has been the widespread community support for local businesses. Remind yourself and your staff about why you’re in the pet industry in the first place. Whether your brand is earnest or quirky or educational, it’s a fair bet you’re in it to provide for animals and the people who love them.

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PRO TIP: This holiday, also double down on what you do best and how you choose to express it. Consumers may be in the drivers’ seat, but your commitment to their needs can convince them to steer to your door.

Kristin Carpenter founded Verde Brand Communications after a decade-long journalism career, working on staff for major consumer lifestyle magazines, business and trade titles. Verde turns 20 years old in 2021, and Kristin now serves as CEO of Verde, directing strategy for the agency. Kristin also founded Verde’s podcast, Channel Mastery, which was voted best Outdoor Podcast by SNEWS in 2019. The Channel Mastery podcast launched in 2017. Every week, specialty business and brand leaders tune in to understand, serve and nurture today’s evolving consumer. The show covers consumer trends and what channels they like to use to connect, engage with and buy from their favorite brands. In May 2020, Kristin and the Verde team launched the agency’s first digital product, the Multi-Channel Marketing Academy, an eight-week course that teaches specialty marketing professionals how to serve and sell to their target consumers across multiple channels. In her free time, you can find Kristin chasing her kids around the mountains and desert at her home in Durango, Colorado.

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