As the flurry of holiday returns slow back to their normal pace, it’s time to take a look at the results of the 2020 peak season. From timing and channel to fulfillment preferences, here are the key takeaways we can use to prepare for 2021.
Early Start to the Season
Typically, peak season is considered to be a two month period ranging from November to December. But with the desire to promote better health and lessen the strain on their distribution centers and employees, many retailers encouraged people to begin their holiday shopping earlier. In many cases, as early as October.
Black Friday-esque sales were held almost weekly by large box stores throughout the months of October and November and Cyber Monday was stretched into an entire week to support the heavy demand for online shopping.
Thus, by the time December rolled around, the NRF found that nearly 85% of customers had already started shopping for the holidays and 49% of all holiday shopping had been done. This new timeline was experienced by retailers across the board, as well, as the industry saw a burst of sales in October, a slight slowdown in November, and a final surge just prior to Christmas Day.
Online Shopping Skyrocketed
Not surprisingly, online shopping grew in popularity during the 2020 peak season months. In fact, according to Adobe, it grew 32% YOY -- more than double the annual growth rate of 15%. But the $188B spent on online shopping wasn’t strictly due to health concerns. In many cases, it came as the result of convenience -- as online shopping can be done at any time, on any device, from anywhere.
Fortunately, many retailers were able to pivot quickly to meet customer demand for an online shopping experience by employing omnichannel solutions and restructuring their fulfillment processes. And as a result, the retail industry saw a collective 8.3% YOY increase in holiday sales, even with lockdowns and strict COVID-19 guidelines.
BOPIS Black Friday
Rather than waiting outside in freezing temperatures and crowding into popular box stores, many customers opted to do their 2020 Black Friday shopping from home. But even with the 52% drop in foot traffic, the holiday was still a hit for brick-and-mortar locations. Customers simply chose to collect their items at the curb instead of pulling them off the shelves themselves.
The increase in BOPIS popularity wasn’t isolated to Black Friday, though. Throughout the 2020 peak season, curbside pickup actually accounted for approximately 1 in 4 customer orders with the largest amount being placed just 2 days before Christmas. This meant that retailers who offered curbside options were generally able to grow 1.5x faster YOY than those who didn’t.
While the next peak season is still a long way off, there are some strategies that retail and eCommerce businesses can start using now to respond to the ups and downs of 2021. Arguably, one of the most important is the implementation of omnichannel, as these tools enable businesses to scale their fulfillment operations up and down easily, accept orders across digital and physical channels, and offer BOPIS services. And given the fact that 2021 will likely be full of unexpected events and new customer expectations, having a system in place to help your business adapt and pivot quickly will be invaluable.