There’s no sense in denying it – nobody’s ever seen a festive shopping season like this one. As we all round off a year simply none of us could have ever seen coming, the world of ecommerce is seen by experts to have leapt forward the equivalent of five or more years in growth, scale and opportunity. From the perspective of OnBuy, the world’s fastest-growing marketplace, that statistic was echoed by over 600% GMV growth for the second year running – and is only set to accelerate.
As the golden quarter dawns, there are still plenty of question marks over how life will look, both for the holiday season as much as for the new year to follow it. Yet one certainty is that online shopping is here to stay, putting the onus on retailers to create customer experiences that comfort, delight and deliver – while also assuring plenty of business success.
With the right approach, the right tools and the right marketplaces at your side, there’s every reason to remain optimistic. Here’s how to prepare for the festive shopping season in a way that balances short-term gains with long-term potential.
Becoming the voice of reassurance
This year, consumers and businesses alike have endured hit after hit to their incomes, confidence in the future and overall definition of life as normal. Put simply, it’s difficult for many consumers to know which way is up any more, and the wise enterprise is the one who provides an anchoring point of trust, certainty and reassurance during this moment in modern history.
This goes beyond informing customers of fast delivery, secure payments and fair prices – these are aspects of shopping online that customers have simply come to expect nowadays. For the holiday season of 2020, and going forward, this trust – and the consumer loyalty that it cultivates – needs to come from other incentives and strategies instead.
Primarily, customers today value transparency, environmental consideration, independent businesses versus corporate goliaths and an overall sense of compassion. Conveying those ideals to your audience, from the unique position of your brand identity, is key – although you can further refine this approach by thinking of the stories behind your business and what makes them uniquely humanising to your buyers.
Customers want to know they can rely on you to deliver not only their gifts this festive season, but increasingly, their everyday essentials too. Prove yourself indispensable in this area, and you’ll have won plenty of long-term business to complement your successful Q4 results.
Understand the must-haves of the season
From huge new tech launches like games consoles and smartphones, to the toys, gift hampers and unexpected delights set to add some sparkle to people’s festive unwrapping after a long and exhausting year, online sellers using marketplaces are wise to keep in mind which products are the definitive choices for Christmas 2020.
This isn’t just so you can introduce those items to your inventory and offer them to customers – despite that being a great idea! It’s also so you can keep an eye on what customers are budgeting for, depending on the demographics of your buyer audience. Is their spending on certain products going to impact the disposable income they’ll have for yours?
Remember, the unfortunate news is that the events of 2020 have opened the floodgates on the fears of another recession, bringing that challenge directly into our economic outlooks worldwide. In short, people are shopping smart this year, and there’s less of a budget per average customer now than in usual years.
Understanding where that capital is likely to flow, and towards which products, will help you understand which stance to take. Do you invest in getting those products for yourself, or in marketing to persuade the buyers towards your alternative gift ideas instead?
Remember, it’s more than Black Friday now
For years now, Black Friday has been expanding, especially in the world of online shopping and selling. Initially, it was with the introduction of Cyber Monday, then becoming the entire Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend, and nowadays it’s changed even more. In the USA, for instance, where over half of shoppers expect to spend almost two thirds of their gift budget online, the dawn of Black November – and the expansion of the sales season even more broadly throughout Q4 – is now locked into the collective shopping consciousness.
This shift away from Black Friday as a calendar day – or even a weekend – of deals, to instead become more of a spread-out Q4 season of discounts, has been on the cards for a while. In fact, that 2020 shift is only amplifying the changes that were underway even as recently as the Black Friday 2019 season, if not before.
This festive season, it’s apparent that the economic worries and budget constraints we’ve discussed have made consumers more than happy to spread out their festive spending, which means you have plenty of promotions to enjoy from a seller perspective too.
Prime Day famously took place in October 2020 instead of July, and OnBuy, the world’s fastest-growing marketplace, even pipped that to the post with its Autumn Price Crash event which bolstered its GMV to over 600% for the third year in a row. Looking ahead, the season of discounts looks to be a long one this year, and it could well become the new way festive deals are done in the years to follow.
Prepare for that by deciding what among your inventory is best suited for sales and promotion via discount, and prepare to welcome plenty of bargain hunters to your online offerings as a result.
Get ahead of the game with fulfillment
The undercurrent of the immense growth and opportunity of the eCommerce industry as a result of how 2020 has played out has meant that pressures unlike any ever experienced before are being felt by logistics, carrier and fulfillment businesses across the globe.
As demand for fulfilment balloons drastically, amplified by the events of 2020, FedEx and UPS are hiring an unprecedented 75,000 and 100,000 seasonal staff, respectively, to try and handle the surge. In the UK, ParcelHero has warned that the 50% rise in online sales is only exacerbating a looming driver shortage being felt across the British Isles, and beyond, with fears that demand might outsize supply in this area by up to 30%.
Naturally, these concerns will likely peak even more during the festive shopping season, building beyond even the most frenzied of holiday delivery seasons past. Ensuring you have tools like order management software and inventory management solutions to help you keep on top of your throughput in fast-moving multichannel marketplace sales, and effective shipping frameworks for picking, packing and delivery will gear your business up to ride the wave superbly this festive season, with customers praising your timely and secure service throughout.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that many experts are anticipating a holiday season shortfall in the availability and capacity to deliver what online shoppers have ordered, and that means marketplace sellers are wise to prepare for that now. Remember, a multichannel marketplace strategy is as much about the platforms you sell through as it is the fulfillment solutions you select.
The season of plenty
Smaller budgets, stretched logistics and fulfillment capacity, as well as overall uncertainty about the future may well leave many online entrepreneurs feeling cagey in today’s business landscape. However, what this unforeseen era has ushered in is a soft reset of how Q4 shopping habits have evolved overall, as well as a golden opportunity for ecommerce going forward.
In these times of change, opportunities abound for those businesses able to best move with the times and refocus their objectives both on festive success and the long term potential of online retail. Hopefully, these insights have helped you understand how success in one may well lead to success in the other too – together with a deeper base of knowledge regarding the marketplaces and solutions providers best able to help you to win it.