Brick and mortar’s pandemic workarounds can counter digital supply-chain gluts

Throughout 2020, the retail industry has largely focused on the consumer shift to online shopping and the need for a strong e-commerce strategy. While it’s true that more consumers will plan to buy online this year due to precautions around COVID-19, retailers would be remiss to ignore the importance of brick-and-mortar, especially for those last-minute shoppers.

In 2019, Criteo data, which analyzes shopping behavior across thousands of U.S. retailers, found that physical store sales took off in December, with a 51% increase in offline purchases in the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

This is compared to just a 1% increase in online sales with last-minute shoppers heading to their favorite retail locations to pick up gifts in time for the holidays. While the pandemic has certainly tilted holiday shopping toward online this year, we should expect an increase in offline shopping, especially as retailers push earlier shipping deadlines to prepare for expected delivery delays. Compared to previous years, when consumers could rely on a last-minute order on Dec. 20 to arrive by Dec. 24, this year the “last ship date” could be pushed up significantly to as early as December 7 due to the e-commerce boom and its impact on the supply chain.

So, what can retailers do to win over customers despite supply-chain headaches and rising social distancing efforts?

Ensure that consumers are aware that your physical store is open and ready for shoppers. Your marketing efforts should not only communicate your holiday in-store hours but also the initiatives and processes your store is taking to create a safe in-store shopping experience.

Provide consumers with alternatives to shipping such as “buy online, pick up in store” or curbside pickup. This ensures that even those consumers who are still hesitant to do in-store shopping can still receive their last-minute purchases.

Be transparent and honest about any deadlines to gain consumer trust and win over consumers. A great example of this comes from a small cosmetic brand that used its display ads to announce that their one and only “Black Friday” sale would be held in October to avoid long shipping delays as the holidays draw nearer.

Ultimately, this holiday season will be about providing consumers with options. It won’t be enough for retailers to have a physical store presence or a solid e-commerce strategy without also incorporating a comprehensive communication plan to inform consumers of their options for getting their gifts on time. While it will be a holiday season unlike any other, clear communication and a personalized retail experience will allow retailers to overcome supply-chain issues and still win this holiday season.

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