Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Every single brand is a retailer these days. Given what we’ve experienced in the past 20 months, most of our shopping is now done online through digital channels. Consumer behavior has shifted simply because people have become more comfortable with shopping online. If you’re having products shipped to your home or picking them up from a locker or curbside, shopping via digital devices makes life easier.
It’s not necessarily that people don’t want to go into stores anymore. It’s just that ecommerce affords us the ability to do things that would be a lot more time-consuming if we had to physically go out and shop.
Take comparison shopping, for example. Back in the day, if you walked into a store and found something you liked, you had no idea if you were getting the best price on it. Now, a quick search online will tell you who offers the product at the best price, all from the comfort of your home, on the device of your choosing, without the stress of having the salesperson in front of you. You don’t even have to wait for stores to open. You can shop in the middle of the night and have your items delivered the next day. It’s all about convenience, and convenience means more now than it ever has.
This holiday season, because of the pandemic, we’re going to see huge disruptions in the supply chain and all of the logistics around shipping and receiving goods. So, what does this mean for brands?
Well, you should be talking about holiday shopping right now. Here are six things you must execute on now to prepare for this holiday season.
1. Stock up
For anyone out there who’s still hesitating, start stocking up on holiday products now. Chances are that many items won’t be available in large quantities, and if they are, you might not receive them in time. Have you seen the traffic jam of ships waiting in the Port of Los Angeles to unload? Don’t delay on this, as it is only going to get worse.
The further ahead you plan, the less likely you are to run into supply chain issues. Also, the sooner you have products in stock, the sooner you can ship them to customers to avoid delivery delays.
2. Have an e-commerce strategy
Brands that do not have a strong ecommerce strategy are simply losing out. The most successful retailers are the ones that understand how to embrace digital channels and the online shopping experience. Is your content optimized for every device? Is it strongly written? Is it searchable? Are you ranking? Are you doing videos and creative projects to ensure your products are compelling in a digital space? Can consumers purchase your product no matter what device, platform or site they are on?
If you don’t know how or are struggling to establish a strategy, hire an expert. There are plenty of agencies out there that specialize in ecommerce and are ready to help you.
3. Determine your offers
Figure out what products you want to offer, establish those price points, and start promoting those offers to consumers as early as possible. Whether you push them out using shopping tips and announcements on your website, through wish lists or with print and email newsletters, focus on getting your offers in front of consumers.
4. Incentivize early shopping
I’m a big TV shopper, and I’ve always been the type of person who embraces Christmas in July. The channel I shop from gives me a great price, and even if I buy in July, I have until the end of January to make any returns. I don’t know about you, but that’s a huge incentive for me. Most companies don’t offer such lengthy return periods — it’s usually 30 days or less. Providing an extended return period is a great way to incentivize customers to shop early.
5. Ensure content is king
Now that the consumer is online, they don’t have the ability to touch and feel the product, so what they read and what they see needs to grab their attention. Ensure product descriptions are worded in a compelling fashion and use high-quality visuals. Why does the consumer need to buy this product? Build the story around how the consumer is going to use it, and answer any questions they might have.
For example, when we buy clothes online, we tend to look at the measurements, fabric and colors. Are these numbers and descriptions accurate? Where would be a good place to wear this piece of clothing? Are there suggestions for what to pair it with? Is it versatile enough that it can be worn day and night? The more helpful information you make available, the more confident a consumer will be about buying the product. Additionally, make sure product descriptions have great keyword search capabilities to help bring in organic (free) traffic and tell search engines what you’re selling.
6. Optimize your advertising
Online retailers have access to analytics data that is very insightful when it comes to consumer behavior. Make sure you’re using the data and the consumer as your guide for how you promote and advertise. If you leverage the insights from your data to take action, you can adjust your advertising strategy on the fly and target a variety of potential customers. This isn’t something that can be done easily in a physical store, where displays and mannequins are used to draw people to products. Sure, you can change up product displays every day, but that’s a lot of work. Online, digital displays can change as often as you want with little hassle. Make A/B testing your best friend, and use this as an opportunity to really personalize the online shopping experience for the customer.
Get to work
What we’re seeing now with the shift to online shopping isn’t just temporary. We’re going to see it accelerate even more moving forward, especially with younger generations viewing online shopping as the norm. The shift has happened, and it’s going to continue to accelerate.
When it comes to shopping for the holidays, this year more than any other year, it starts now. The brands that come out on top are going to be the ones that have the strongest propositions, are well organized, and are the most proactive about how they offer and present their products to consumers. There are billions of dollars up for grabs online. It’s time to get to work — holiday shopping is coming early.