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Friday, September 18, 2020

Black Friday different, not dead, says Shopify Plus

The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on retail businesses and the global supply chain was the topic of a Sept. 17, 2020, webinar hosted by Shopify Plus. Among topics discussed were the future of epic shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday and how businesses are digitalizing products and services.

Justin de Graaf, global head of research and insights, ad marketing, Google, proposed that trending data reflects a dramatic shift to digital across numerous categories.

“Searches for online gift, online clothing stores and baby clothes online have grown globally by over 100 percent year over year,” he said. “We’ve seen 400 percent growth in art supplies, online fashion, online shopping and meat delivery service; these jumps are huge and think about the behavior. If folks are comfortable buying meat online, why not a car or something else?”

Recent research also shows that more than 30 percent of shoppers have purchased a brand that's new to them, and as we head into the holidays, 66 percent of U.S. consumers planning to shop indicated they will patronize local small businesses, de Graaf added.

Retail’s new normal

Additional insights from retail businesses that use the Shopify Plus platform were the topic of a panel discussion moderated by Jamie Levy, engagement lead at Shopify Plus. Panelists related how the pandemic has disrupted consumer behavior and business supply chain management.

Peter Keller, CEO at Fringe Sport, has been helping housebound customers stay in shape by building in-home workout facilities. “We are fundamentally selling strength and conditioning equipment and helping people build gyms in their homes,” he said. “And we have seen a massive influx of demand in our space. You may have read one of these articles about the kettlebell shortage of 2020, the great dumbbell shortage in 2020; these shortages are actually happening where we're living.”

For Quita Coleman, fashion director at Sassy Jones, adapting during the pandemic meant pivoting content to be more empathetic with the challenges that customers are facing. “It really results in a need to connect and invite our customers to come along for the ride," she said. "On Saturday mornings and afternoons, our CEO actually would make customer calls.”

Mackenzie Yeates, co-founder and chief business officer at Kotn, found that catalog changes were needed to stay in sync with customers. “We did see an influx in certain products like bike shorts, which were really hot this season and hard pants are no longer a thing, so people do not want to buy jeans or chinos anymore,” she said. Having always been a digital-first brand helped the company pivot its product assortment and remain responsive to customers, she added.

Prevent fraud

Retailers will see a sharp uptick in holiday ecommerce in 2020, Sri Sunderamurthy, head of product at Vesta, predicted.

“Merchants will see plenty of in-store shoppers on Black Friday, but the move to online shopping has grown significantly; thus the advent of Cyber-Monday a few years back,” she said. “No doubt that move will increase even faster as a result of COVID-19 safety protocols limiting traffic in stores and extending already long wait times to enter. Holiday ecommerce sales are projected to grow by 25 to 35 percent year-over-year, and retailers will likely see a lot more hybrid shoppers who buy online and pick up in-store with contactless pickup."

Sunderamurthy further noted that the acceleration of ecommerce underscores the need for retailers to maximize the shopping experience by blocking fraudsters while seamlessly approving and processing orders for good customers. “There are still too many merchants that, in an effort to mitigate fraud risk, turn away good customers,” Sunderamurthy said. “Some analysts estimate that the revenue lost with these false declines is more than 10 times the damage done by actual fraud.”

Plan early

Even before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Google had observed consumers were beginning holiday shopping earlier each year, de Graaf noted. As of late August 2020, more than one in four of U.S. holiday shoppers had already started making holiday purchases. Google research shows two in three shoppers plan to shop early to avoid crowds or to avoid items being out of stock, he noted.

According to de Graaf, COVID-19 has also pushed up the calendar for numerous retailers as brands plan ahead for the coming ecommerce tsunami. “People are considering new brands, and new stores are trying to help their communities as they gear up for their holiday shopping,” he said. “A lot of things have changed but many things, such as finding the perfect gift for loved ones, have stayed the same."

The race to get those perfect gifts has started earlier than ever, so if retailers want to capture these motivated shoppers, they need to start their holiday season planning earlier than they have in any other year, de Graaf added. end of article

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