The reality is, COVID-19 has shaken the retail industry to its very core. The effects of this pandemic are wide reaching on both large and small retailers and its true impact is nearly impossible to predict. What we can do however is use data and consumer research to identify upcoming trends that will be key to retailers surviving and thriving this holiday season.

Kylie Ross Sibert, our VP of Corporate Communications here at Retail Alliance, poured over stacks of data and research to put together a list of five retail trends that retailers will want to know when preparing for the holiday season.

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Trend #1: Peak shopping season will be earlier and longer thanks to a later Prime Day

Amazon keeps pushing back the date to their massive Prime Day. As of now, rumors have Prime Day being October 26. The later Prime Day is pushed back, the harder it will be on small businesses looking to reach holiday sales targets. With fewer days between Prime Day and Cyber Week, consumers will be making this holiday purchases earlier this season than ever before.

What can you do?

Take advantage of the visibility and demand created by Prime Day to pull traffic and sales to your business through email marketing and your eCommerce homepage.

Start rolling out your holiday plans as early as the end of this month so that you are able to join in on the Prime Day bandwagon.

As container capacity reduces as a result of essential goods being priority, consumers will be open to alternatives in order to secure goods without delay.

Use promos and coupon codes to drive sales. Historically, they are the number one factor in influencing holiday purchases.

Consumers will be purchasing holiday gifts earlier this year due to safety concerns. Reassure your customers of the safety measures you’ve implemented.

Trend #2: New precedent in eCommerce penetration as a result of COVID-19

It is no surprise that COVID-19 has catapulted digital sales 5 years into the future. This means that as much of a third of global retail sales this holiday will be made through digital channels.

What can you do?

Set up an eCommerce store if you haven’t already. Be sure to make it user-friendly and secure.

As we get closer to the beginning of the holiday season, encourage users to leave high-quality, informative reviews on your site.

Inspire users to share their photos and reviews to use for visual user generated content. Run photo contests on social media.

Use social media as an eCommerce platform. 13% of Americans are buying more products directly from social media platforms.

Collect customer information as they use your platform.

Conduct a load test on your platform to plan for unprecedented surges in digital activity.

Trend #3 :Stores will be vital again this year. As fulfillment centers for BOPIS, curbside

While in-store traffic will be down this holiday season, stores themselves will remain vital. Instead of serving customers directly, stores will instead serve more of a fulfillment purpose by completing BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up in Store) orders and curbside pickups.

What can you do?

Make your in-store experience as pleasant as possible within the constraints of COVID-19.

Capture BOPIS and curbside customers attention with engaging window displays.

Promote the benefits of BOPIS and purchasing in-store. For example, focus on how consumers can avoid shipping costs, delays, delivery fees, and surcharges.

If possible, create a special check-out line for pick-ups and BOPIS customers.

Allow for different BOPIS options and allow customers to provide specific instructions for how they would like to pick up their purchase.

Trend #4: Last-mile delivery will run out of capacity

In the simplest terms, delivery providers will not be able to keep up with the increased demand that the holiday season and COVID-19 shopping habits brings. All major shipping providers have announced that they will be increasing the cost of delivery for business owners. In addition, experts believe that up to 700 million gifts will be at risk of not arriving in time for the holidays.

What can you do?

Retailers can use this knowledge to encourage their customers to shop early.

Tap into your store associates to meet the spike in demand. Train employees to pick, package, and deliver products.

Make forward buys in capacity with transportation providers and delivery platforms ahead of the season.

Use your store as your storage facility and distribution center. It is closer to the source of your demand – your customers.

Promote your BOPIS offerings.

Trend #5: Harder to cut through clutter on media due to ongoing health concerns, the election cycle, and economic issues

It is going to be difficult for business owners to reach their consumers this holiday season as their attention will be divided between health concerns, the election cycle, and economic issues.

What can you do?

Promote your deals, hours, closures, order status, safety information, and pickup instructions across multiple channels.

Invest your marketing budget into your digital channels.

Measure the effectiveness of your messaging on all your social channels. See what is working and modify as needed. Use your ability to react in real time to meet the changing demands and needs of your customers.

Ask your customers for testimonials that complement how your business handles BOPIS and curbside pickup.

Personalize as much as you can. Provide tailored experiences to your shoppers.

Segment your customer base and target your communications and advertising to each group with offers that will appeal to them.