Eight challenges retailers should prepare for in the upcoming holiday season

The Business Journals

Like most industries, the world of retail was turned on its head when the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020. As the 2021 holiday season approaches, it brings with it a unique set of challenges for retailers to overcome.

While more shops and stores are open regularly and life is regaining a sense of normalcy, there are some things that the pandemic has changed for the foreseeable future. As retailers start laying the groundwork for the upcoming holiday shopping season, they should be aware of some of the specific challenges they need to prepare for. Below, eight members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share their best advice on how to prepare for the upcoming holiday season.

1. Enabling customers to spend more money.
Eliminate any obstacle that keeps customers from spending money or from spending more money on your products and services. One example I see is a resurgence of charging customers 3% for paying with a credit card. Also, not accepting every single brand of credit card available. I cringe when I hear, “We don’t accept American Express.” I believe the customer hears, “Go somewhere else and get my points.” – Vicki Wallace, Transworld Business Advisors of North Dallas/FortWorth

2. Bringing the human touch back into service.
A major challenge retailers need to prepare for is bringing the human touch back. Putting the human touch back into service will be key as we have become accustomed to distance and low-touch engagement. – Donna Michaels, LMGPR

3. Differentiating yourself from the online market.
I believe businesses must differentiate themselves from the online market. Think about why customers shop in your store. What experience makes seeing what they’re buying different from shopping online? – David Wescott, Transblue

4. Implementing a ‘buy online, pick up in-store’ strategy.
There’s such uncertainty about the upcoming holiday season as we watch Covid numbers closely and try to keep employees and customers safe. Retailers that haven’t yet shored up their e-tail game or launched a buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) strategy may find themselves at a disadvantage. Staffing for in-store shoppers is equally critical, with workforce shortages across the board. – Jen Vargas, JVComms

5. Getting consumers to holiday-shop early.
Retailers should start planning for an uncertain holiday season now. It’s likely consumers will want lots of options to shop, pay and receive their goods. Supply chain and shipping issues will likely continue for the 2021 season. Retailers should look to get consumers shopping early, before Thanksgiving, and offer incentives for getting their holiday gifts ahead of the rush. – Matt Rosen, Allata

6. Making sure you always have the best offer.
Retailers must be aware that customers can price shop while in a physical store or online and typically don’t wait for any Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals as they know promotions are ongoing. If you want your site or store to be the place where a consumer makes their final purchase of a product, make sure you have the best offer. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

7. Enabling consumers to buy safely and with ease.
Retailers will want to make sure folks can purchase products safely and with ease. Have a strong online presence, offer delivery and/or pickup options and ready your resources to ensure these processes run smoothly. Now is the time to test processes to work out any glitches. For example, make sure to run tests from a desktop computer and a cell phone to verify that pictures, prices and menus have been uploaded correctly. – Jim Lane, Lane Technology Solutions

8. Dealing with supply chain issues and delays.
The biggest unexpected crisis for many retailers has been the supply chain and delays in getting products like major appliances into the hands of buyers. Retailers in many cases have limited ability to reduce these delays, but they can be upfront with consumers, explain the situation and offer some well-thought-out options. Help solve the problem rather than just being the bearer of bad news. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove