What a Creative Holiday Shopping Experience Looks Like in 2020

The holiday season always calls for unique merchandising and sales strategies. But in 2020, retailers need to get even more creative than in years past.

With so many limitations on what can happen in stores, how can sellers captivate customers with new kinds of holiday experiences?

Square sellers are asking that question, and are developing smart ways to engage their customers while keeping safety top-of-mind. Here are some of the rising trends retailers can use to continue to reach their customers this holiday season.

Get valuable insights from Square experts on how to sell this holiday season.

Learn how to adapt your business

Offer more ways to shop in person

In-person shopping may look different this year, but stores are still integral parts of the communities they serve — especially during the holidays. Innovative sellers are finding new ways to bring festive shopping experiences to their customers, outside.

Bring stock outdoors

Since outdoor spaces are considered less risky for COVID-19 transmission than indoor ones, many retailers are selling on the sidewalks in front of their stores. To adopt this approach, bring a rack, table, or your holiday display outside and check out customers with a mobile POS system.

Participating in outdoor holiday shopping fairs and other events can also help customers browse while still following social distancing measures.

Let customers window shop

Some retailers are turning their shop windows into more than just displays. Popular items can be moved to window fronts with clear labels and pricing, enabling customers to actually window shop.

Customers can see what they want, and then pay through a touch-free transaction at a window or by visiting that retailer’s eCommerce store.

Experiment with pick-up and delivery

For customers who prefer to browse and buy online, adding holiday themes to pick-up or delivery experiences can make it feel more festive and encourage repeat purchases.

Pick-up and delivery offers opportunities to grow customer relationships through promotions and engagement. If team members who handle curbside pick-up or home delivery go the extra mile to wish customers “happy holidays” and talk to them (from a safe distance) about their shopping experiences, it can leave a lasting impression.

Reimagine the in-store experience

Another approach to creating a memorable holiday experience is to embrace touch-free shopping while still supporting in-person browsing.

Get thoughtful about space planning

Rethinking floorspace and customer flow is important, regardless of the products you sell, since there should be fewer people in your store at one time. With the holiday rush, this is even more important.

That means limiting both how and how many shoppers enter your store — architecting the store flow in a socially-distanced way, and getting shoppers quickly in and out. Additional checkouts can also help reduce crowding in any one area.

Thoughtful displays can highlight holiday goods and essential items retailers want to move, and when they’re kept toward the front, they can limit in-store traffic. This can help customers quickly spot and purchase what they need, while still enjoying a holiday shopping experience.

Try appointment-based shopping

Shopping appointments not only limit store traffic, but can also be an opportunity to create a more personalized holiday experience.

For example, if a customer is looking to get their holiday shopping done, you can ask ahead of the appointment what they’re looking for. When they visit the store, you can have suggested items ready to go, making it more likely that they’ll make a purchase.

Offer gift sets and kits that reduce shopping time

Some sellers are getting more creative with packaging and delivering products that cut down on the amount of time shoppers need to spend in-store.

For instance, they’re selling products through subscriptions, item-of-the-month sample clubs (with virtual meetings), fun project kits, or mystery boxes with surprise holiday items inside.

Reach customers online

Customers are spending their time differently during the pandemic, and it’s up to you to meet them where they are. McKinsey found that more than 70% of people aren’t ready to get back to their pre-pandemic activities outside of their homes, which is why connecting with customers online is so key.

Put your best holiday sellers online

For sellers who feel overwhelmed by getting their whole store online, start with the products customers are specifically looking for during the holidays.

Look at historical data to identify your top holiday sellers from last year. You may need to take new product photos or rewrite item titles and descriptions to speak more to what shoppers are looking for this year. Then, add those items to your online store.

Make your social channels shoppable

Having an online sales strategy doesn’t only involve an online store. Many retailers are using Instagram to publicize promotions and keep customers informed about what’s going on in-store. They’re also layering in tagged product photos and checkout-by-DM tools to make their feeds more shoppable.

Offer virtual experiences

Virtual offerings can elevate your holiday experience even further. Consider creating and selling tutorials, workshops, and other virtual experiences, creating new holiday revenue streams.

The key is making sure that no matter what happens with store openings or closures, you can still connect with your customers. Shifting your retail business online will give you more ways to reach customers as things change, and it doesn’t have to be a full-fledged website to be effective.

It’s also an important way to prepare for the future of your business. Many consumer behavior shifts stemming from the pandemic are likely to stick around. If your top customers can’t reach you online or on social media, you may lose them permanently.

Ultimately, customers still want to support their favorite businesses. Having a fully shoppable digital inventory — one capable of being converted into smart, engaging merchandising strategies — can make that support possible.