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Planning for the holiday rush: Lessons learned from a peak year.

August 19, 2021 By: Alex Torres

2020 was the ultimate stress test for retailers worldwide. 

Retailers were forced to navigate the complexities of the pandemic, rapidly shift to digital-first commerce, and manage spikes in retail sales that shattered previous Black Friday Records.

A recent Quantum Metric consumer survey shows that ecommerce is here to stay. In fact, a majority of Americans plan to do more than 50 percent of their 2021 holiday shopping online.

As the Covid-19 delta variant continues to leave its mark on businesses, retailers must be prepared to address the rapidly changing landscape, especially as new challenges and crises arise everyday. 

With that in mind, here’s a look at the trends retailers should take into account when preparing for the 2021 season.

The holiday shopping season will start earlier than ever before. 

Faced with unreliable supply chains, logistic barriers, and labor shortages, retailers big and small are struggling to keep their shelves and warehouses stocked. 

As Quantum Metric CEO Mario Ciabarra recently told CNBC, “Inventory levels will be retailers’ primary concern as they are faced with the decision to either have limited or no stock of certain items or manage higher costs associated with air shipping goods instead.”

This means that consumers will start shopping earlier than ever before to ensure that their holiday gifts arrive on time. 

Retailers can’t fix the supply chain challenge, but they can ensure that the  online shopping experience is perfected–and well before the code freeze. Given the extended holiday shopping season, brands must have their websites, mobile applications, and other digital channels as close to perfect as possible–and way before Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit. 

The boundaries between the physical and digital experience will continue to blur. 

In addition to causing a boom in deliveries, the pandemic also led to new hybrid shopping methods such as  Buy Online Pickup in-Store (BOPIS), drive-throughs, and curbside pickup. As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, such methods will continue to be important, especially for at-risk shoppers. 

Outside of health concerns, new pick-up and ordering methods have added a layer of convenience that consumers now expect in the shopping experience. It’s more important than ever that retailers monitor and capture data on how customers are using both their digital and physical storefronts to understand points of misalignment or friction. 

Digital shopping experiences will continue to improve.

Ecommerce is here to stay, and many brands are responding by improving the digital shopping experience. They are investing in new features such as augmented reality, enhanced product videos, better sales messaging, and more options to shop on social media platforms, like Pinterest and Instagram. 

If digital transformations have shown us anything it’s that tech for tech’s sake is never a path to success. Retailers need to understand what types of shopping enhancements fit the needs of their customers and which are just flashy additions. 

Retailers will need to shift from third-party cookies to first-party

Tech giants Apple and Google have announced that they will soon no longer be tracking third-party cookies. For brands, this means that paying for targeted ads based on a user’s browsing history will become a thing of the past. 

Instead, brands will need to safely collect, analyze, and leverage data directly from their customers. The focus will be on enhancing their digital user experience, not pouring money into targeted ads. Most importantly, the shift to first-party cookies will enable brands to deliver hyper-personalized experiences for shoppers, such as product recommendations based on previous purchases. 

Quantum Metric, the Continuous Product Design platform, is already helping brands like Lululemon and Neiman Marcus collect first-party cookies using a secure, encrypted data capture solution. 

Interested in hearing more? Join us at LEAP into Retail

Interested in learning more about how brands are preparing for the 2021 holiday shopping season? On September 14, 2021, Quantum Metric will host LEAP into Retail, a one-day virtual conference focused on how retailers can build better experiences for online shoppers.

Join our panel, “Planning for the holiday rush: Lessons learned from a peak year,” to hear 

The North Face’s Scott Martin and Neiman Marcus’ Alek Nelson speak about the the lessons he learned from the 2020 holiday rush and his expectations for the upcoming season including:

  • How retailers can respond to the heightened importance of the 2021 holidays
  • Shopping behaviors and motivators to expect
  • What retailers need to be doing now to prepare

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