Yes, I absolutely, unapologetically just mentioned Christmas in July. We are now, after all, in that downward spiral away from summer that hurtles towards Christmas quicker and quicker every year.
This year might possibly be the strangest Christmas yet, we've certainly had a bumpy summer with uncertainties that we have never experienced before and Christmas 2020 might not be an exception. I already have questions on my lips as to whether we will be able to have a family Christmas together? Will there be a second wave of Coronavirus and a dreaded second lockdown? Which let's face it, during the long winter months is going to be so much harder and as for Christmas shopping, will we be wrapping up warm and heading to the festive markets, craft stalls and homemade treats, or will this year be dominated by staying at home, safe and doing all of your Christmas shopping online.
Facebook has recently released their '2020 Facebook Christmas Package' a really interesting guide that picks out the highlights from previous seasons of festive trading but also focussing on how the Coronavirus will have a huge impact on retail this year.
One thing that jumped out to me is the increase in online shopping for the older generation.
While digital adoption had already been growing, the COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated this trend, particularly encouraging older generations to embrace ecommerce.
And this trend will continue over the Christmas season with 43% of people surveyed saying they expect to shop online more frequently after the outbreak is over.
It isn't just internet-savvy shoppers that intend to do more online this Christmas and I don't blame them, the last place I want to be is in crowded shopping centres paranoid about catching some killer virus.
Shoppers will buy online and look for convenient, contactless services enabling safe shopping experiences.
To adapt to new expectations, businesses should consider offering click and collect, which will be vital to the 2020 Christmas season.
When coronavirus took us into lockdown, we all went online a lot more to communicate with our friends and families. Family zoom nights, online pub quizzes, group video hangouts, talking digitally was the new normal. Messaging businesses with staff working from home away from their usual call centres hearing children or televisions in the background became an acceptable new way of lockdown life.
An average of 40% of people surveyed globally said they were more likely to consider buying from a business if they could contact them via messaging
Shopping online isn't something that is done solely whilst sitting at your home computer anymore. A lot of people will use multi-device touchpoints and with home computers being used more frequently by the children homeschooling, purchases on mobile devices is likely to increase.
However, there are pitfalls when shopping online on mobiles, make sure you are not hitting any of these common shopping problems.
Font size is too small
Images are not clear
The content does not fit on the screen
Trouble typing into boxes
App/Website takes too long to load
Product information is difficult to review
Buying something for yourself.
Have you bought something for yourself during lockdown?
Did you miss retail therapy and treat your self to a little online shopping spree.
It is thought that not only during this Coronavirus pandemic but also during the 2008 recession, when times get tough, we take to simple pleasures to stay positive by treating ourselves with little rewards, things like nail varnish, hair care products and even confectionary had increased sales during financially difficult times.
Trying something new
Have you tried online shopping from retailers you've not used before? We all heard the news stories of toilet roll shortages from our usual go-to supermarkets and how ethical companies like 'Who gives a crap' and 'Bumboo' seeing sales surge as a result of new customers signing up to their brand after they couldn't get toilet roll from their usual places.
The same applies to shopping in the supermarkets themselves, many people used delivery and click & collect services for the first time during the lockdown. This Christmas, shopping trends are open to being completely different from any other year of trading.
People tried new ways of doing things for the first time during the lockdown and this festive season could be the year that lots of new people try online shopping for the first time whilst trying to avoid crowded shops and busy high streets.
As many shops struggle to diversify quickly into this new world of shopping others are taking leaps forward knowing that there are opportunities within the market to excel. Shopping at the moment is either in-store with plastic screens, hand sanitizer, gloves and masks or online shopping from the comfort of your home. Yet some stores are jumping on this new normal as an opportunity and using Facebook live with sales assistants giving advice, demos and product promotions. One shop that really jumped out at me for doing this well is Dunelm... ( I still really struggle not to say 'Dunelm Mill' but that's showing my age!)
Dunelm offers a Virtual shopping experience that they are trialling in a couple of their stores. They use video call technology with one of their 'shopping companions' to show you products around their stores. Personally, I think this is such a brilliant idea. It fills the gap between those that used to love shopping physically in a store but for whatever reason no longer want to but need something more than just online shopping.
Dunelm might be way ahead of the curve here and booking a slot with an online personal shopper could become the new normal. Asking them questions like you would if you were there In-person and getting the advice you need to make the purchase like you would have once done on the shop floor.
For those of you that don't know me personally, I used to work in retail. I worked in convenience stores whilst doing my A-levels, sports stores and art stores whilst at college and even did my NVQ training in retail management. Retail and now e-commerce has been my passion for years and to me, this is a very exciting time for retail, as we might be about to see retail take another huge change in direction. Just like in the '90s, those early adopters of online stores, when brick and mortar retailers assumed online would never take off. This could be the dawn of the next big movement in retail.
Last year, an average of 54% of global Christmas shoppers surveyed purchased something during a mega sale event, and more than 43% of respondents shop for deals on Black Friday.
This year, if you are wanting to win at Black Friday, Cyber Monday or any sales event leading up to Christmas then you are going to have to think outside the box for new ways to win a customers business. Crowds pushing and fighting their way into a shop to grab bargains is not going to be acceptable if we are still to be more than 2 metres from another eager shopper. I know we are famed for our British ability to form an orderly queue, however, it is not uncommon for crushes and surges of people within a store, when they are bargain-hungry savvy shoppers.
This year has already been the weirdest craziest year I have ever experienced but if there is one thing to come out of it, it is that the importance of family and friends has never been stronger. If you take away everything, take away the shops, cinemas, bars, clubs, gyms, your employment you are left with the ones that you love.
This Christmas might not be the same on the high street but we must be grateful for what we have and that is the amazing people in our lives. Whether we can get into a physical store or shop online, we will find ways to gift to those that we love the most.
It might only be July, but if you want to have a successful Christmas trading period then now really is the time to start thinking about what you are going to do differently to succeed this year.