Why COVID-19 Is Already Changing the 2020 Holiday Season & How to Prepare Your Online Store

This blog is the first in a series devoted to providing businesses with an action plan for Holiday Season 2020.

2020 has definitely been a year for the history books for online stores, and it’s not over yet! COVID-19 and social distancing requirements impacted many aspects of people’s lives and have hugely influenced consumers’ buying behaviors, causing hyper-growth in eCommerce sales. US consumers spent over $146.5 billion online in the first quarter of 2020—14.5% more than the same period the previous year.

The 2020 holiday shopping season is fast approaching and it’s poised to be the biggest eCommerce event in history. No doubt, we will continue to see the impact of COVID-19 during this holiday season in particular, as more people than ever before choose to shop online.

The biggest change in the 2020 holiday season will be for in-store sales. This year will see the end of one of the holiday season’s biggest marketing events as we know it: Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when retailers normally launch holiday season shopping with huge discounts in their stores. Many of the largest retailers have already announced that their stores will close for Thanksgiving in 2020, including Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target, and more.

Based on sales data from the Wix network of over 500,000 online stores worldwide: In August 2020, online gift stores already saw over 490% year-over-year growth in monthly revenue.

Another big change this year is an unusually late Prime Day. If rumors are true and Amazon’s Prime Day event does take place in October, it could potentially take over a big chunk of Cyber Week’s usual digital revenue. With merely 50 days between Prime Day and Cyber Week, the reality is that many consumers will finally make holiday purchases earlier in the season.

The 2020 holiday season is set to be as busy as ever, and even more hectic when it comes to the demands on eCommerce. We understand that holiday shopping will be different this year, and we are here to help you prepare your store for this holiday season.

So throw out your old holiday playbook because it’s time for a new approach.

Welcome to the 2020 Holiday Season!

Download Your Complete 2020 Holiday Sales Playbook

Wix Holiday Season Playbook 2020
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holiday season packages

The Biggest Challenges for Online Retailers this Holiday Season

The impact of COVID-19 on the retail industry has been massive. Many retailers and brands saw incredibly high eCommerce demand in 2020, but were not prepared to offset that demand and scale with professional eCommerce and fulfillment solutions.

Some businesses were forced to shut physical locations permanently, many had to quickly start their online stores for the first time, and even those who already had eCommerce stores had to make significant adjustments to their online business to manage their inventory, logistics, eCommerce shipping and more.

Supply chains were also badly compromised during the pandemic, with many factories and suppliers having to close for weeks or even months.

The holiday season will continue to challenge business owners. Here are three issues to look out for:

  1. Store owners have had little time to plan, restock, or update inventory, which could leave them unprepared to meet the holiday season’s demand.

  2. Businesses dependent on a sole-supplier or suppliers located in the same geographic area could be in real trouble if suppliers are forced to close or suffer slow delivery times.

  3. Getting packages to arrive on your customers’ doorsteps this holiday season will also be significantly constrained. The increase in shipping demand alongside social distancing requirements in distribution centers means that traditional shipping providers will be at full capacity during the holidays.

Despite these potential challenges though, with the proper preparations and considerations, businesses can turn this holiday season into a huge success.

Managing inventory and deliveries this holiday season will require a strong eCommerce and fulfillment strategy. Here are seven tips to prepare your business for the holiday season:

7 Tips to Prepare Your eCommerce Business for the 2020 Holiday Season

  1. Diversify Your Suppliers

  2. Plan and Stock Inventory in Advance

  3. Prepare Fulfillment Operations and Staff

  4. Offer Both Delivery and Pickup Options

  5. Get Your eCommerce Website Ready for the Holidays

  6. Make Sure Your Payment Solutions Are Ready

  7. Stagger Marketing Efforts and Promotions

holiday season inventory

01. Diversify Your Suppliers

Make sure you source your products from multiple, diverse suppliers—preferably located in different states or countries. This can help ensure you have a dependable selection of suppliers to rely on. If some suppliers need to close or suffer delivery delays, you can always ramp up orders from another supplier to help cover the load.

Have a backup plan if you do run into supply chain issues. Consider alternatives; as an example, you could start dropshipping as a solution to expand your product catalog and ease the load of shipping and fulfillment.

02. Plan and Stock Inventory in Advance

Try to anticipate your customers’ needs by reviewing sales data for the past few holiday seasons, as well as for the first half of 2020. You should also research eCommerce growth trends as well as online search queries for your product categories to see what shoppers are looking for this holiday season. Use this information to make informed inventory decisions about which product assortment to stock. If you have problematic products that are returned more often than others, consider discontinuing those items before the holiday season starts to minimize product returns.

If possible, buy products from suppliers ahead of the holiday season to make sure you don’t run out of stock. If you have a physical location, move inventory closer to the source of demand so pickup and delivery are easier.

03. Prepare Fulfillment Operations and Staff

Assess how social distancing and safety measures could affect your store management, fulfillment operations and staff. Make sure that your essential operations are protected and implement safety measures to keep your staff safe and to comply with local regulations.

Hire additional staff members on a rotating basis to ensure you have enough hands on deck for all scenarios. If you aren’t already using a shipping or fulfillment service like a 3PL, consider adding one to help ease transit times, shipping costs and overall delivery operations.

holiday sales delivery

04. Offer Both Delivery and Pickup Options

Make it easy for customers to buy from you and get their orders quickly and conveniently. If you have a brick and mortar location, offer curbside pickup and local delivery to make shopping safer and more convenient for your customers. This will also ease the burden on you and your staff for shipping and fulfillment during the busy holiday season. Incentivize customers to use these fulfillment options rather than opting for shipping.

Consider alternative delivery methods. Crowdsourced transportation platforms, like Uber and Lyft, will have untapped capacity this holiday season with fewer rides to restaurants and airports. They could provide an alternative to local delivery services or serve as a fallback option if your delivery service starts to falter.

05. Get Your eCommerce Website Ready for the Holidays

Make it easy for customers to find and shop your holiday promotions:

  • Clearly promote seasonal offers and holiday deals. Use a banner or site badges to let your customers know your store is offering discounts.

  • Provide a seamless buyer journey with optimized product pages, shopping cart and checkout flow.

  • Update and clearly display your shipping and return policies so customers know what to expect.

Set up your store for success by learning from our customer network of over 500,000 online stores around the world:

see you next time

Wix sites that complete SEO setup receive 2 times more visitors and 1.3 times higher turnover.

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Wix sites that offer live chat get 8 to 12 times higher GMV, and those that recommend products to customers via chat generate 71% more sales.

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Wix sites with active automations, like abandoned cart emails, get 2.7 times more visitors and 3.3 times higher turnover.

06. Make Sure Your Payment Solutions are Ready

If you’re selling online for the first time, complete these three steps to ensure that you’re ready for the holiday season:

  1. Connect a payment provider to your site and complete the account setup. Supply all the required documentation and information.

  2. Check that your account has been approved by your payment provider and that you are eligible for payouts before running any holiday season sales. The verification process for new merchants with any payment provider can take time, so you need to set up your account in advance. If you’re planning to use Wix Payments as your payment provider, use this checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything when getting your site ready for approval. Remember that if your account is not verified by your payment provider, all payments that you receive on your site will be refunded, so we recommend not shipping any orders before your account is approved.

  3. Do a few test purchases to make sure everything is working smoothly.

If you’re already selling online and plan to add new types of products to your catalog, make sure that your payment provider processes payments for those product types and that they are not prohibited or restricted in your provider’s Terms of Service.

07. Stagger Marketing Efforts and Promotions

Plan and stagger your marketing efforts carefully so that you generate a good flow of ongoing sales instead of just a few big peaks. This will make it easier for you to manage and fulfill orders, and allow you to provide customers excellent service and timely delivery.

Reach out to your existing customer base earlier than usual this year and incentivise them to make their purchases ahead of time. Plan your promotions ahead of typical holiday season events. This will save you money as paid advertising will be less competitive, and allow you to fulfill orders ahead of holiday shipping peaks. If you are using the Wix Owner App, keep your customers in the loop by sending push notifications.

Plan your sales strategy based on when you want to generate sales peaks. Based on Wix data from eCommerce merchants who ran flash sales in 2020, on average, online stores increase monthly revenue by over 64,000% with a flash sale.

flash sales guide

Review our complete flash sales guide to learn everything you need to know. Discover the 3 main reasons flash sales fail and get our 7 expert tips on how to make yours a success.

For many businesses, the stakes have never been higher than this holiday season. As the pandemic continues to disrupt the world, many retailers are struggling to survive and consumers continue to shift their shopping online. In the shadow of COVID-19, online stores who bring speed, value, and convenience to customers will be the 2020 holiday season winners. With careful planning and creative problem solving, this holiday season could be your best sales season yet!

Read more about how to prepare your online store for Holiday Season 2020:

Want to take advantage of the huge opportunity to make money online this holiday season? Create your eCommerce site and start selling today.

Liat Karpel Gurwicz

Liat Karpel Gurwicz

eCommerce Marketing

Liat has led Strategic Marketing for Wix.com since 2014, including marketing efforts for Wix's creative, professional and business audiences. She currently leads Wix’s eCommerce marketing and business activities.

#HolidaySeason2020 #COVID19 #Coronavirus #HolidaySeason

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