2020 has been a sea of changes across the world, shifting the landscape for retailers and consumers alike. While planning ahead after a year like this one may seem hard, even impossible–it’s a must for the holiday season. Not only will this holiday season be vastly different from previous years, but it’s also a lifeline for many businesses who have lost sales they need to make up for. 

While it may feel early in the Summer, let’s take a look at some of the changes we’re likely to see and how to start preparing for a holiday season like none other.

Economic considerations

Depending on your industry, sales have more than likely dipped from the first half of the year and the holidays are where you’ll need to make up for lost sales. Since many businesses are in the same boat,  the already fierce holiday competition will be even more intense for shoppers’ attention and dollars. This may lead to even deeper discounts over the top marketing gimmicks, and a free-for-all digital brawl for every conversion

An important part of this equation is the economic impact felt by the majority of consumers during this time. Many people likely have reduced buying power leading to more cautious comparison shopping, extending the purchase cycle as they look to maximize every dollar. While discounts will appeal to shoppers as always, they may not be enough by themselves—you’ll need to find and emphasize a value-add differentiating your brand. Not to mention, shoppers interested only by “fire sale-esque” discounts are inherently less valuable over time than those engaged by your brand–who will continue converting long past the holidays. 

This is not to mention rock bottom prices eating into your profit margins which, when combined with low year to date (YTD) sales, increased acquisition costs, and potentially lower average order values—comes together as a  dangerous balancing game. While this may sound negative and depressing, there is plenty of light at the end of the e-commerce tunnel. E-commerce is the bright spot in retail news, with online sales increasing by 42% according to Justuno agency partner, BVA. Combined with year over year e-commerce trends, it’s not hard to believe that it will continue growing even more than it already has.

Increased traffic

For some consumers, in-person shopping simply isn’t going to be an option this year depending on location-specific lockdown rules or the general unease about being out in busy, public places. E-commerce will be the source of more sales than before, while already on the rise in previous years, many consumers will be forced to turn online for their purchases.

This is a lifeboat for e-commerce stores: more visitors = more potential sales as long as you play your cards right. 

But it’s unwise to wait for the holidays to start optimizing your website’s conversion rate. People are home right now consuming more online content, browsing websites, and looking to fill their time. Use this as an opportunity to acquire new email and SMS subscribers, begin building a relationship, and create compelling onsite experiences. Depending on your industry, your products may be more in demand than usual with first-time shoppers or prone to impulse buying from home-bound shoppers. Optimizing your website experience now guarantees you’re ready to take on current buying trends and the upcoming holiday boom.

The reality of 2020

What’s become very (sometimes painfully) clear to people this year is that everything can change at a moment’s notice, disrupting your plans and life outside of your control. So while planning ahead is important, it’s just as important to have contingencies, the ability to be agile, and pivot in response to change. The sooner you plan, the easier it is to adapt to rapid changes.

Determine manufacturing and logistics timelines

Inventory has been a concern all year from continued strain on supply chains and logistics networks. Supply pipelines are backed up from low factory output, slowed warehouse operations, and increased orders–all being staffed by a smaller fulfillment workforce trying to balance productivity with social distancing.

For some, this may require you to place orders now in anticipation of the holiday season. Running out of inventory is one of the biggest ways to blow holiday profitability and consumer trust. If your industry is experiencing delays from factories, determine now the products you want to have “on the shelf” this holiday season and map out timelines. Many shoppers start researching what and where they’ll be buying as early as September. You’ll want to make sure that you can get in front of these visitors confidently marketing products without concerns about fulfillment down the line.

Final thoughts

What’s very clear is that the 2020 holiday season will have many elements at play: social, economic, logistical, etc. Starting to prepare early this year means fewer surprises down the road and the priceless feeling of being ready to take on whatever else 2020 can throw at you.

Continue following along as we begin to ramp up our holiday content and prepare for the busy season.