PSFK research shares solutions for navigating the holiday crush in the disruption of 2020, touching on many stages of the path to purchase with ways to successfully bridge the digital-physical divide

It goes without saying that the holiday season, like all others in 2020, will be anything but normal. When it comes to retail, uncertainty about consumer spend and decreased confidence in an ability to prepare has the industry on edge. To help provide some clarity and direction in anticipation of an unprecedented buying season, PSFK analysts have gathered research for a new holiday report and free webinar to shed light on how to respond to projected consumer behavior in the upcoming months with trending strategies for successful retail activation.

The PSFK iQ research team found the following: Skyrocketing ecommerce (a reported 66% of consumers expect to increase their online purchasing for the season) combined with overwhelmed fulfillment operations (57% of consumers plan to ship more gifts directly that last year) has translated to retailers moving up their holiday timelines to help curb an unmanageable crush. In addition, brands and retailers are focusing on innovative digitally enhanced retail activation and store experiences that deliver on the safety and convenience demands of the 2020 consumer.

Within this context, we share here five strategies drawn from the report that offer solutions to the disruption of this year, touching on all stages of the path to purchase as well as ways to leverage hybrid virtual-physical retail. In many cases, these approaches spotlight points of digital transformation that emerged before the pandemic and accelerated during it—making them relevant for the holidays as well as long beyond.

Virtual Window Shopping With many physical stores closed, the opportunity for casually browsing through aisles and racks has decreased dramatically. To recreate the serendipity of IRL discovery, retailers and brands can experiment with ad hoc conversations with store staff and immersive platforms that allow remote shoppers to discover and learn about products. Take Très Bien, an apparel brand that has created a virtual storefront experience over Zoom where an in-store associate takes shoppers on a floor tour full of insights and close-ups. 

Digital Drops As entertainment and commerce continue to blur, fashion brands are recognizing the need for gamified shopping experiences. Brands and retailers can explore immersive methods of showcasing seasonal lines and products by leveraging social media channels, popular gaming platforms and mixed reality capabilities, like droppTV, the world’s first-ever shoppable streaming platform. Debuting with music videos, droppTV lets audiences view the content while seamlessly browsing integrated virtual pop-up shops to purchase limited-edition streetwear.

Social Browsing — Consumers looking to replicate the social aspect of shopping are seeking out private group forums and virtual co-shopping platforms as a means to connect. Brands and retailers can leverage social media platforms and tech solutions to create virtual micro communities where fans can interact and share in real time. Teleport, for instance, is a mobile app experience that invites members to create video shorts of themselves sporting products like accessories and apparel that they love, and sell them to viewers to earn a cut of the sale. 

Pre-Visit Preparation Long before leaving for a store or embarking on an experience, customers are now in a planning mindset. To help shoppers make the commitment to visit a store, retailers are bridging the gap between intent to purchase and in-store satisfaction by offering accurate information about product inventories at local stores. Men’s formalwear retailer Suitsupply is encouraging safe store appointments through guided pre-visit virtual sessions where customers can browse and select inventory in conjunction with live stylists if they choose, then arrive to find fitting rooms ready with their choices..

Density Forecasting — To improve their own operations and customer comfort, retailers are leveraging in-store cameras and digital infrastructure to generate real-time crowd estimates and wait times, helping to manage density and offer alternative shopping options. Safe Queue is a mobile app helping big-box retailers and more create digital lines, leveraging GPS tech to let shoppers within 1000 feet of a store reserve a virtual spot, then wait in their vehicle or other safe place.

For all 24 of the trends and additional research on what to expect for holiday retail this year, attend a webinar presentation of our Holidays 2020 Toolkit report, RSVP is free!