The holiday shopping season has arrived, and with it, all the changes that brings in a COVID retail environment.

But, according to Deloitte, holiday retail sales should rise 7 to 9 percent this year, amounting to about $1.28 to $1.3 trillion from November to January. If consumers’ affection for small local retailers holds, small businesses should command their fair share of those increases.

Additionally, global supply chain issues are hitting big box stores and national retail chains harder than smaller or local businesses, according to Business Insider. As a result, those larger companies are less likely to offer discounts during holiday shopping, which has long been the differentiator between enterprise-size retailers and their smaller competitors offering more unique or less mass-produced wares.

That doesn’t mean shoppers will hold back, however. Despite inflation hitting a decade-long high, the National Retail Federation (NRF) believes shopping will be earlier in 2021, and could be as much as 10.5 percent higher than 2020.

Accenture found that 78 percent of consumers are purchasing more locally sourced products, demonstrating an increased interest in local, environmentally responsible, sustainable and ethically produced products this year. If you keep those values in mind and maintain a safe shopping environment, you can attract more community-minded consumers to your brand.

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To tap into these trends and make sure this year’s holiday shopping experience is safe and satisfying for your customers and your business alike, consider these seven tips:

1. Encourage customers to Shop Small

American Express created Small Business Saturday and the Shop Small movement, which offers resources to help your business make the most of the holidays — insights empowering you to help your customers have a safe shopping experience. In 2020, they reached an estimated $19.8 billion in reported spending, which is a Small Business Saturday record breaker. Make sure to download digital marketing materials that can help encourage your customers to Shop Small with you on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 27) and all holiday season long.

2. Tell your story

Now’s the time to flex your status as a valued member of your local community. Consumers are looking for a reason to feel a connection to your business, so tap into that enthusiasm about shopping local by telling your story in marketing. Don’t forget to celebrate your staff as well; the public’s COVID-driven appreciation for frontline workers still lingers, and shoppers want to support them. Tools like Canva make it easy for you to create compelling content yourself — even if you’re a graphic design novice — with thousands of templates, stock art options and user-friendly drag-and-drop functionality that you can use to instantly publish smart content right from your laptop or smartphone.

3. Step up your promotions

As discussed, it’s easier than ever to create and publish great content right from a smartphone, like the latest Samsung foldable Galaxy Z Fold3 5G. A survey by Social Media Week found that 72 percent of consumers prefer learning about products and services through video rather than text or still images. Z Fold3’s innovative camera features — like the 7.6-inch interior display and cover screen preview — make it easy for your business to create professional, compelling video stories. And don’t forget what’s tried-and-true: discounts, bundles and exclusive offers are still highly effective for driving sales and engagement. Consider in-store tools like digital signage and display kiosks to draw shoppers’ attention and let them know about other products and services you offer. You could also consider offering promotional gift cards to drive future sales, as most customers will end up spending more than the card value.

4. Reinforce COVID safety

It’s likely been some time since you initially purchased health safety materials like social distancing signage, plexiglass screens and hand sanitizer. With holiday shopping coaxing consumers into stores in the face of COVID protocols, now is the perfect time to refresh your safety measures according to local requirements — and publicize those steps in marketing to reassure cautious consumers. A survey found that 68 percent of consumers find it helpful when companies address the global health crisis in their advertising. OSHA offers guidance on how specific types of business can make sure they’re staying COVID-safe.

5. Add contactless payment

Many consumers don’t want to touch retail technology right now. A Mastercard global consumer study found that nearly 8 in 10 consumers report using contactless payments in 2020, and 74 percent plan to continue using contactless payment post-pandemic. So investing in contactless technology now will continue to pay off. Depending on your current point-of-sale (POS) system, that could be as simple as a software upgrade. If your POS system is older, going contactless may require a more significant change. Solutions such as eHopper allow you to enable self-checkout, virtual payment and loyalty rewards programs — while enjoying the benefits of a modern, cloud-based system that helps you adjust quickly to changing retail trends.

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6. Add or expand your e-commerce presence

The surge of consumer interest in digital channels is expected to continue through the holiday season. Salesforce has forecast 7 percent growth in global digital commerce this holiday season, which amounts to $1.2 trillion. The more fulfilling and seamless your digital shopping experience, the easier it is for your customers to buy from you and skip the e-commerce giants. Consumers who said they won’t put in the effort to shop from local small businesses most commonly cited inconvenience (56 percent), followed by cost (48 percent), according to a survey. Sites such as Shopify, Squarespace and Magento offer step-by-step instructions for getting started — and provide a platform to host your online store.

7. Ramp up curbside pickup and shipping processes

Burgeoning delivery demand fueled by the pandemic met retail’s traditionally busiest shipping season, a phenomenon The New York Times dubbed Shipageddon in 2020 — and this year there will be a sequel. Fine-tune your processes for picking and shipping orders or preparing them for delivery or curbside pickup. Check in with your carriers for their recommended shipping deadlines, and be sure to spread the word about the many ways you can connect customers with their purchases while keeping them safe.

Making the most of the holiday season

Like many other industries, retail has been challenged to pivot quickly this year, as once slow-moving trends like curbside pickup suddenly grew far beyond projections. By using essential tools like a strong digital presence, continued COVID safety measures and marketing programs such as Shop Small by American Express, you can make the most of the 2021 holiday season.

Are you taking full advantage of mobile devices in your store? Take our three-minute online assessment to find out — or see how Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 can benefit your store.

Posts By

Lisa Terry

Lisa Terry is a seasoned B2B writer of articles, blogs, research reports, case studies, white papers and e-books, with a long list of media and corporate clients in hospitality as well as retail, IT and supply chain. She has written for Hospitality Technology, HTNG publications, Nation’s Restaurant News, RIS News, Advertising Age, Consumer Goods Technology, Inbound Logistics, Washington Technology and many others.

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