Holiday retail sales have risen substantially in the 21st century, reaching close to $936.3B in 2022 in the United States alone.1 While inflation has been top-of-mind in recent years,2 2023 research from Discover® Global Network found that 55.5% of consumers surveyed expect to spend the same amount on gifts for family and friends this holiday as last year, and 23.4% of consumers surveyed expect to spend more on gifts for family and friends this holiday than they did last year.3
From global shopping events like Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday to regional shopping days around the world, how can merchants make the most of the holiday shopping season? Here are five data-driven tips to strategically plan for a positive and seamless experience that attracts shoppers during the holiday rush and encourages them to return in the new year.
1. Plan promotions strategically
Strategic promotions can be an effective way to attract customers. Discounted prices, free gifts with purchases, buy one, get one free (BOGO) promotions, and buy now, pay later (BNPL) options communicate a good deal, encouraging shoppers to spend.
November’s big spending events include Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the holiday season,4 as well as China’s Singles’ Day on November 11, which is the biggest online and offline shopping day in the world.4 In Mexico, retailers offer special promotions and extended opening hours on “El Buen Fin” (short for “the good weekend”), which is the weekend before Mexican Revolution Day (November 20).
* 12.2% of holiday shoppers expect to shop in September; 18.1% of holiday shoppers expect to shop in October; 34.9% of holiday shoppers expect to shop in November; 13.5% of holiday shoppers expect to shop in early December; and 5.5% of holiday shoppers expect to shop in late December.3
These spending events, along with others like Cyber Monday, are an opportunity to attract and keep shoppers’ attention with strategic promotions such as:
- Limited time offers. Communicating that a deal or discount ends soon creates a sense of urgency for offers that shoppers won’t want to miss.
- Gift cards at checkout. Gift cards are an easy way for customers to streamline their shopping, or to add to gifts they are purchasing.
- In-store service and events. Services like complimentary gift wrapping save shoppers time, and in-person events like tastings, demonstrations, meetups, and shopping parties give customers an incentive to shop in-store.
- Rewards and loyalty programs. Letting shoppers know that their continued business is valued and rewarded gives them a strong reason to purchase again throughout the year.
2. Meet shoppers on social media
79.8% of consumers surveyed said that they plan on shopping on at least one social media platform for the holiday season,3 making social media a key touchpoint for holiday retail and promotional strategies.
* 23.8% of consumers surveyed say they will shop on Instagram for the holiday season; 22% of consumers surveyed say they will shop on Facebook for the holiday season; 16.1% of consumers surveyed say they will shop on TikTok for the holiday season; and 6.5% of consumers surveyed say they will shop on Pinterest for the holiday season.3
While influencer marketing and user-generated content are long-standing methods for boosting sales via social media, social commerce platforms like Facebook Shop, Instagram Shopping, WeChat Mini Programs, and TikTok Shop now provide consumers fast and seamless paths to purchase. Merchants also have the option of using in-app features such as buy buttons and shoppable posts that make it possible for shoppers to immediately buy products they see on social networks without ever leaving the app or platform.
3. Prepare for more shoppers
Because of the increase in shoppers during the holiday sales rush savvy merchants stock trending products and proven bestsellers so they are ready to ship or for shoppers to purchase in store. The goal is to create an optimal shopping experience with minimal wait times during this busy season.
* 23.5% of consumers surveyed expect to buy clothing and accessories for friends and family for the holiday season; 16.8% of consumers surveyed expect to buy electronics for friends and family for the holiday season; and 15.9% of consumers surveyed expect to buy gift cards for friends and family for the holiday season.3
There area number of steps merchants can take to ensure they are prepared with the right amounts of the right inventory:
- Complete an inventory assessment. Review what products sold well last year and consider stocking up on new and unique trending products.
- Check in with suppliers. The earlier they know about increases in orders, the more prepared they will be to fulfill them.
- Order ahead of time. Supply chain slowdowns are always a possibility. Ordering early can help minimize disruptions.
- Clean and organize. Prepare back rooms and storage areas to ensure there is enough room for seasonal items.
- Update merchandising strategies. Make plans for how to showcase holiday products in ways that delight shoppers.
4. Make holiday shopping options seamless
Consumers have embraced online shopping, and Discover Global Network found that 38.4% of consumers surveyed expect to do most of their holiday shopping online this year.3 However, there is still a strong desire for in-person shopping experiences, and 36.5% of holiday shoppers expect to do an equal amount of shopping online and in brick-and-mortar stores.3
This mix of preferences highlights the need for retailers to provide a superior and seamless customer journey from start to finish during this busy shopping season, online and in-store. The smoother, simpler, and easier merchants make shopping and checkout, the happier shoppers will be.
To ensure frictionless shopping and checkout at every touchpoint, merchants can:
- Update and upgrade payments software and hardware. Consumers expect flexibility and convenience to begin, resume, and finish transactions across in-store and digital environments.
- Check website speeds. According to one survey, 70% of consumers said page speed affects their decision to buy from an online retailer.5
- Keep pricing consistent. Offering the same price in-store and online can help increase the likelihood of a sale.5
- Target abandoned carts. Use push notifications to remind shoppers via text or email about the products they left behind. Abandoned cart emails have a 10.7% conversion rate.6
- Deliver personalized shopping experiences. Offering payment methods that match shoppers’ preferences—such as local currency payments, language functionality, and preferred checkout methods—can increase the likelihood of a purchase.
5. Let shoppers pay their way
This year, increased prices may make shoppers pause before buying big-ticket items. They are more likely to make a purchase when they know they can pay however they want. Merchants can encourage shoppers to make purchases by offering flexible payment options for their purchases, such as buy now, pay later (BNPL) services and digital wallets.
* 31.6% of consumers surveyed plan to use debit cards for holiday purchases; 27.4% of consumers surveyed plan to use cash for holiday purchases; 55.2% of consumers surveyed said they prefer to pay using their mobile device for holiday purchases; 44.8% of consumers surveyed said they prefer to use a physical card for holiday purchases; and 48% of consumers surveyed said they expect to use a buy now, pay later service this holiday season.3
BNPL services like Afterpay and Klarna make items with higher price points—or pricey shopping trips in general—more accessible to customers. Discover Global Network found that 48% of consumers surveyed said they expect to use a buy now, pay later service this holiday season.3
Digital wallets were initially embraced by consumers in the Asia-Pacific region and are now being used globally for point of sale (POS) transactions. Digital wallets are projected to attain at least a 25% share of transaction value in every global region and account for a 53% share of global eCommerce transaction value by 2025.7
Integrating these popular payment methods at checkout and displaying the corresponding acceptance signage can help customers feel confident when they are ready to make a purchase.
Preparing ahead pays off later
The holiday shopping season presents opportunities for merchants to make an impression that encourages customers to return for years to come. Your payments provider can help you ensure that you are offering shoppers the latest in safe, secure, and seamless payments technology, so you are ready to meet shoppers’ needs online and in-store.
Dhar, R. (2023, August 22). How Does Inflation Change Consumer Behavior? Yale Insights. Viewed 16th October 2023, from https://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/how-does-inflation-change-consumer-behavior.
- Panoramic Research. (2023). [Unpublished raw data on consumers’ holiday shopping plans]. Commissioned by Discover Global Network.
Smith, P. (2023, August 31). Black Friday worldwide - Statistics and Facts. Statista. Viewed 16th October 2023, from https://www.statista.com/topics/8714/black-friday-worldwide/#topicOverview
- Rollings, M. (2022, October 19). How Retailers Can Prepare for the 2022 Holiday Season. The Bottom Line. Viewed 16th October 2023, from https://squareup.com/us/en/the-bottom-line/reaching-customers/prepare-for-2022-holiday-season-2
Hartman, R. The Complete 2022 Guide to Preparing Your Ecommerce Store for Holiday Magic. Big Commerce. Viewed 16th October 2023, from https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/holiday-readiness/
- FIS. (2023). GPR 2023: The Global Payments Report. Viewed 16th October 2023, from https://www.fisglobal.com/en/global-payments-report?
The information provided herein is sponsored by Discover® Global Network. It is intended for informational purposes, and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.