This piece was originally published in RetailWire.
It’s no surprise that online sales were higher than ever before during the 2020 holiday shopping season—especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday—while in-store traffic fell by 52% compared to 2019. Although the demand for e-commerce shows no signs of slowing, we’re surely going to see a renewed interest in in-store shopping in the new year, particularly as vaccines slowly and carefully become more widely available. Traditional and multichannel retailers can prepare for the next shift in customer behavior by taking advantage of the post-holiday period to begin reestablishing the in-person shopping patterns lost in 2020.
For example, retailers in January and February can offer a coupon with any purchase over a certain amount – whether the transaction is online, BOPIS, curbside or in-store – that can be redeemed for an in-store discount a few weeks or months later. This will not only keep the store top of mind for shoppers going forward but also give them the opportunity to visit at a future date when they may feel more comfortable doing so.
Because January is also a prime month for returns, traditional retailers should also make the in-store return process as appealing and easy as possible – even for items that were originally purchased online. To incentivize in-store returns and encourage shoppers to come back after their initial transaction is complete, retailers can again offer a special deal or discount coupon to be applied to in-store purchases down the road.
Above all, in early 2021, retailers need to renew their commitment to keeping their stores both safe and appealing. Shoppers want to be able to ask questions, see the merchandise and get real-time support from staff members – all benefits that in-store shopping offers over online channels. Traditional retailers should take care to ensure that staff members are trained to safely work the floor and help customers as needed. Retailers must also manage inventory closely to avoid stockouts whenever possible. Shoppers who can’t find the items they want when they venture back into a store are far more likely to buy online next time.
The effects of this unusual year will continue to be felt far into the future, and 2021 is bound to deliver unexpected challenges and consumer demand shifts. By thoughtfully planning ways to encourage and support in-store shopping while continuing to adhere to all local protocols and guidelines, traditional retailers can successfully navigate the next phase of the pandemic and safely draw customers back into stores over time.