Business tips

How will holiday shopping be impacted by the pandemic?

By Ryan Gibbons on
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In January of 2020, we would never have imagined that we would be trolling the internet for fashion-forward face coverings or stocking up on a garage full of toilet paper, and yet here we are. As you wait for the most recent Netflix series to drop and wonder which color your next pair of sweatpants should be, you might want to take a minute to contemplate what holiday shopping may look like this year. Whether you own a small business or just like to shop, COVID-19 is going to impact the way people buy gifts for their loved ones this year.

Better early than never.

Have you noticed that everything seems to have slowed to a crawl during the pandemic, including deliveries? This phenomenon is due at least in part to bottlenecks in the global supply chain as well as difficulties with the mail. For these reasons, consumers are opting to get their holiday shopping done sooner rather than later. In response, businesses are starting their pre-holiday sales earlier than ever. (Remember when stores at least waited until after Halloween to start decorating?)

Online instead of in line.

Speaking of stores, more and more consumers are feeling queasy about entering them for fear of contracting COVID-19. Instead, they are embracing the same technology that is shaping their new work lifestyle, choosing instead to browse for and order their holiday gifts online. In many cases, buyers are opting for the best of both worlds by ordering what they want on the internet and then picking it up at a local store later that same day, a phenomenon known as buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS). By using this strategy, consumers can research an item on their own schedule, find the best price, and then get it quickly, all with minimal contact or risk of exposure to the virus.

A new way to pay.

Most of us are used to providing money in exchange for a product, but no one wants to contract a deadly virus during a transaction. That’s where contactless payments are uniquely positioned to provide merchants, employees, and customers peace of mind. With this innovative technology, customers simply place their digital wallet-equipped smartphone or EMV chip card close to a merchant’s contactless payments reader. Within a matter of seconds, the transaction will be securely verified and processed. Best of all, there is no physical touching between purchaser and merchant (or their equipment), not to mention no exchange of potentially contaminated cash. Receipts can be instantly emailed, making holiday gift returns a breeze.

The birth of the third-party shopping assistant.

Another way that the retail universe is changing is due to the rise of third-party shopping and delivery services. With just a few clicks of the mouse or with a short phone call, customers can enlist the services of human shoppers who go into a store, choose the items a consumer has specified and bring them right to their door. This strategy is particularly beneficial for customers with disabilities or underlying health conditions that make leaving home during a pandemic particularly risky. For these individuals, the small sum they pay to cover a shopper’s time and driving costs is well worth it.

The skyrocketing popularity of third-party shoppers illustrates the overall theme of 2020. The pandemic swept all of us off our feet within weeks, catapulting us into uncertainty and forcing us to improvise and innovate in numerous areas. As we consumers celebrate the holidays with those we love (in many cases virtually) we can look back on the absolutely unprecedented events of 2020 and marvel not only at what we have endured, but at the resilience we continue to display.