Here’s How to Get the Most From 2019’s Holiday Shopping Season
In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2018, U.S. consumers spent a record $850 billion. While Thanksgiving 2019 is still four months away, the competition for holiday dollars is already under way. Discerning retailers are looking to win back some of the holiday dollars going to Amazon.com every year. Amazon had more traffic on Cyber Monday 2018 than Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Kohl’s and Macy’s combined, and those looking to reverse this trend and win this all-important season need to make digital operational excellence a priority before the holiday season begins.
In order to achieve a successful 2019 holiday season, retailers should take four steps to drive sales increases and be competitive.
Black Friday is Key
First, retailers should hone in on Black Friday. Amazon dominated Cyber Monday, when its traffic and conversions grew 70 percent and 86 percent, respectively, in 2018. Rather than trying to compete with Amazon, brick-and-mortar retailers are better suited to using Black Friday as their springboard into the holiday season. Black Friday is still a time when consumers line up outside stores hoping to snap up deals. To win on Black Friday, retailers should feature “door-buster” deals on popular items and aggressively promote same-day and click-and-collect delivery options.
Build Early Momentum
To develop early momentum, retailers should plan for a strong and sustained holiday strategy that starts earlier in November and extends through December. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest shopping days in the holiday season, consumers are increasingly seeking out additional opportunities. ShopperTrak data shows that eight of the top 10 holiday shopping days are in December. To reach consumers, retailers should consider preview sales, days of deals or big weekend promotions to drive customer traffic throughout the entire season. For example, Best Buy, which offered deep discounts on big-ticket items for most of December 2018, saw its traffic and conversion rates increase roughly three times as much as that of retailers without similar sales.
Focus on Last-Minute ‘Click-and-Collect’ Shoppers
Brick-and-mortar retailers must also play to their built-in advantages: convenient shipping and fulfillment. The five-day window before Christmas is traditionally a slow time for Amazon; traffic and conversion rates on the site dropped 9 percent and 18 percent, respectively, last year. Consumers are at risk of not receiving their gifts in time, leaving last-minute shoppers scrambling. Brick-and-mortar retailers that offered click-and-collect through Christmas Eve in 2018 saw an average increase of 52 percent in online traffic and conversion rates. Store pickup is a valuable way to drive online sales throughout the holiday season, as evidenced best by Target, which grew its click-and-collect business by more than 60 percent in 2018.
It's All in the Execution
Perhaps most importantly, retailers must ensure perfect execution of their customers’ orders during the holiday season. Thanks to social media, which can amplify any issues, consumers are less forgiving of site crashes, out-of-stock items and — most of all — late deliveries. Missing the mark on shipments can erode consumer trust and result in steep declines in future holiday traffic. Throughout 2019, retailers should test their website, properly train employees, and appropriately stock (or chase) popular items to avoid a lackluster holiday season.
Kelsey Robinson and Jess Huang are partners in McKinsey & Company’s Marketing & Sales Practice, a global consultancy firm.