Four Ways Retailers Can Prepare for the World’s First Digital Christmas

by Michael Plimsoll

Posted on 09-28-2020

Retail has been a mixed bag dur­ing the Coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, not just because shops were closed for much of the year, but also because many brands strug­gled to meet the needs of an entire­ly dig­i­tal shopper-base.

There have been bright spots, of course. Adobe Dig­i­tal Econ­o­my data from July found that 58% of Brits had bought cloth­ing online in the pre­vi­ous month, 42% had bought health and beau­ty prod­ucts, and near­ly one-third had bought elec­tron­ics. More­over, shop­pers were patient with retail­ers in the ear­ly days of the pan­dem­ic, allow­ing for occa­sion­al glitch­es on their web­sites and will­ing to endure long wait times for their deliveries.

But Christ­mas is an entire­ly dif­fer­ent sto­ry. We are now more than six months into this pan­dem­ic and cus­tomers expect brands to have adapt­ed to a new real­i­ty, just as many of them have adjust­ed to work­ing remote­ly or attend­ing vir­tu­al class­es from home.

The fes­tive sea­son has always been a make-or-break peri­od for retail­ers, but this year the stakes are high­er than ever. Their suc­cess will come down to four key factors.

1) Opti­mise web­pages for seam­less shopping

Cus­tomers buy from brands they trust, and when a retailer’s dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence is their only touch point with the com­pa­ny, the qual­i­ty of that expe­ri­ence is cru­cial. Peo­ple will have no patience for clunky ecom­merce sites or glitch­es in their mobile app when buy­ing gifts for a loved one – there are sim­ply too many oth­er brands vying for their atten­tion, not to men­tion the con­stant lure of ecom­merce plat­forms that offer sim­ple, con­ve­nient shop­ping with min­i­mal fuss.

2) Ensure your online shop can grow to meet demand

Exchang­ing gifts brings us joy, but buy­ing them is a mis­sion. From par­ents scram­bling to secure the year’s must-have video game to fash­ion­istas camp­ing out­side their favourite brands to score the season’s lim­it­ed releas­es, Christ­mas queues out­side shops are as com­mon as Christ­mas songs inside them.

The chal­lenge of sell­ing 100% online is that few retail­ers designed their ecom­merce expe­ri­ence to sup­port sus­tained swells in traf­fic. Some gro­cers exper­i­ment­ed ear­li­er this year by mak­ing shop­pers wait in a vir­tu­al queue before mak­ing online orders ear­li­er this year, but their infra­struc­ture sim­ply couldn’t cope with the vol­ume. One option is to fol­low in the foot­steps of Amer­i­can retail­ers, many of whom will start their hol­i­day sales ear­li­er this year to ease the bur­den on their ecom­merce and merchandising.

3) Be reli­able AND reassuring

When Adobe con­duct­ed its UK Online Shop­ping Trends research in July, we found that con­sumers were four times more like­ly to buy from an online plat­form than direct­ly from a retail­er. The dif­fer­ence at Christ­mas is that among all the urgent sup­plies like toi­let paper and nap­pies; shop­pers will be buy­ing thought­ful gifts for peo­ple who mat­ter to them. That calls for more than con­ve­nience, it calls for reas­sur­ance and per­son­al­i­sa­tion. After all, nobody wants to spend weeks research­ing the per­fect gift only to have it arrive mixed in with the gro­cery order and inad­ver­tent­ly opened.

Few retail­ers can beat ecom­merce plat­forms on scale or logis­tics, but they can deliv­er a more per­son­al touch and bring a sense of cer­e­mo­ny to people’s pur­chas­es. That might mean guar­an­tee­ing the deliv­ery date and time, offer­ing more flex­i­ble return poli­cies that extend into Jan­u­ary, or using sus­tain­able pack­ag­ing for envi­ron­men­tal­ly con­scious shop­pers. What­ev­er tac­tics they choose, cus­tomer expe­ri­ence will be the real bat­tle­ground of this Christ­mas season.

4) Pri­ori­tise mobile shopping

Mobile retail has explod­ed in recent years, but by 2019 many cus­tomers were still using their phone as an explorato­ry chan­nel before even­tu­al­ly mak­ing a pur­chase on their com­put­er. This year is dif­fer­ent. With fam­i­lies liv­ing, work­ing, and spend­ing every wak­ing sec­ond togeth­er, mobile pur­chas­es offer peo­ple a more dis­creet way to buy gifts and keep them a sur­prise until Christ­mas morning.

The Coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic may be daunt­ing, but it has turned every­one into an online shop­per and every device into a poten­tial pur­chas­ing chan­nel. My col­league, Bri­an Green, recent­ly shared the sto­ry of his 81 year old father who used to say he “doesn’t do” the Inter­net. Then the pan­dem­ic hit and he became an online pur­chas­ing machine in the space of just a few months.

This Christ­mas marks a new era of hol­i­day shop­ping expe­ri­ence, and while change on this scale is nev­er easy, it also offers brands a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to rethink and reset their approach. Peo­ple like Brian’s father are dis­cov­er­ing new ways to buy from their favourite retail­ers, and they are not alone. The key for brands will be make sure they under­stand each cus­tomers’ needs and deliv­er a joined up expe­ri­ence fit for the new normal.

To learn more about how Adobe has helped brands cre­ate busi­ness growth through commerce, go the **Com­merce Cloud **cus­tomer suc­cess sto­ries on

Topics: Commerce, Customer Experience, Digital Economy Index, Digital Experience, retail, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA