Prospecting for Silver Linings

New Astound Commerce report highlights challenges and opportunities for 2020 holidays.

“Home for the Holidays? An Astound Insights Special Report” analyzes the approaching holiday season, identifying potential pitfalls for retailers and recommending practical strategies for building customer loyalty and revenues.

The Astound Commerce study doesn’t sugarcoat the current realities for retail. COVID-19 has dealt consumer commerce a massive body blow, and the sector is struggling to regain equilibrium; that effort will continue through the holidays and beyond.

But as our report notes, the situation is not apocalyptic. Commerce trends that were in play prior to the pandemic have continued to develop, many skewing to the long-term prosperity of retailers. That’s not to say the benefits will be distributed evenly.  To survive—or ideally, thrive—during the 2020 holidays, merchants and brands must accommodate evolving consumer needs and embrace the bleeding-edge technologies that turn potential customers into dedicated buyers.

It’s no secret that the coronavirus has emptied malls and driven shoppers online. Savvy retailers have ramped up their ecommerce capabilities in response. But as the Astound report confirms, an increasingly nuanced approach is warranted as we head into the holidays, one that conflates all digital and physical marketing assets. Using this rationale as a basis, Astound analysts have identified multiple takeaways for successfully navigating the 2020 holidays: 

The importance of transparency. The report identifies the specific difficulties shoppers have encountered during the pandemic, and provides ameliorative strategies based on candor and honesty.

Bridges between offline & online. Using real-world case studies, the Astound report illustrates the power of digital commerce in supercharging sales in physical stores—and vice versa. 

Expansion of payment options. The report explains why alternative payment procedures improve sales, and lists options for accommodating wider choice.

Contactless purchasing. BOPIS (Buy online, pick up in store) exploded in popularity during the pandemic. The report explains why this trend won’t fade, and how to harness it for maximum advantage during the holidays. 

Build on consumer safety. COVID-19 engendered a lot of fear among consumers. It’s still out there. The Astound report quantifies it, and examines ways to reduce it. 

In the end, it’s about loyalty. Loyal customers buy more—much more—than casual or fickle shoppers. The report examines the various reward and loyalty programs currently favored by large brands and retailers, identifying the most effective. 

Flexibility Is paramount. Over the long run, sales and revenues accrue to the nimble and resilient. The report elucidates winning strategies for remaining flexible, sensitive to changing conditions, and responsive to emergent opportunities.

Harness the virtual for real sales. The coronavirus has accelerated virtual marketing, and video-etailing will only grow in coming years. Astound’s analysts provide compelling statistics that support strong video initiatives, and outline programs for augmenting virtual assets.

While the report speaks specifically to the 2020 holidays, it’s germane to the retail environment of 2021 and beyond. The bottom line: vast changes are in play, and the wise merchant and brand manager must always look to the horizon. Retail goods shift with fluxing consumer tastes and changing economic conditions; marketing strategies must do the same.

“Home for the Holidays? An Astound Insights Special Report” can be accessed here.

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Glen Martin

Glen Martin is a a frequent Astound Insights contributor whose other credits include Forbes, Wired, Outside, and Men's Journal.

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