COVID-19 Prompts Retailers to Plan Early for Holiday Season
August 13, 2020

Pete Goldin
APMdigest

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Retail companies typically start planning and testing in August and freeze code in September, but — according to a new survey commissioned by Catchpoint — due to COVID-19, most respondents (58%) are starting their planning and testing earlier than before.

The survey Catchpoint shows that 97% of respondents report experiencing moderately to extremely higher peak traffic during the holidays, with their biggest Black Friday pains including slow page loads, higher bounce rates and bottlenecks in the revenue stream.

The hot issues for upstream and downstream partners include unavailable hot items, stock-outs, longer replenishment periods and longer shipping windows for customers.

These concerns are validated by Caila Schwartz, Senior Industry Strategist at Salesforce Commerce Cloud, in a recent Salesforce blog, "COVID will set a new precedent in ecommerce penetration: We predict that up to 30% of global retail sales will be made through digital channels this upcoming holiday season."

Ecommerce sales in May 2020 alone were higher than retail sales for the entire 2019 holiday shopping season

Schwartz continues: "When we launched our Q1 Shopping Index in April, we predicted that the digital surges we saw in March and April would likely continue as we headed into the summer. When we released our Q2 Shopping Index earlier this month, that prediction turned out to be correct. In Q2 of this year, global digital revenues grew by an unprecedented 71% over the same period in 2019. Consumer spending via digital channels increased even as brick and mortar locations began to open their doors again in the back half of Q2. As recently as June 1st, 61% of consumers reported that they were shopping in brick and mortar stores less often than usual. At the same time, over 50% of consumers reported record levels of digital engagement, saying that they were browsing the internet, shopping, and streaming content more than they normally would."

Adobe Analytics corroborates these expectations with the Adobe Digital Economy Index report for May 2020, finding that ecommerce sales in May 2020 alone were higher than retail sales for the entire 2019 holiday shopping season.

“COVID-19 has changed business forever,” says John Copeland, VP of Customer and Marketing Insights at Adobe. “We think that over the next couple of months we will see an even bigger focus on experience-driven e-commerce, as the competition heats up where consumers are now putting so much of their attention online.”

According to The Retailer’s Guide to E-Commerce Holiday Sales, 2020 Edition from Splitit: Social Distancing and "Stay at Home” requirements to battle COVID-19 have hugely influenced ecommerce sales in general and will impact Holiday shopping in particular. The report also warns: "Your site should load fast. Every second your page fails to load decreases conversion rates by 20%."

Schwartz from Salesforce concludes: "We believe many retailers will transform their stores to be more optimized for fulfillment rather than shopping this Holiday season (more on that prediction later), pushing up the share of digital shopping, regardless of fulfillment choice, to an unprecedented high. The obvious impacts of a large digital channel are the anticipated record levels of digital traffic and orders. This is something that you should prepare for now by conducting load testing, and planning accordingly for unprecedented surges in digital activity."

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