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Between the hot temperatures outside and looming global pandemic, the holidays may not be top of mind – but to see a successful November and December in retail, the planning begins now.

Holiday shopping has grown over the years into a multi-billion dollar event. In the past 18 years, the only time holiday sales did not increase year-over-year was during the global financial crisis in 2008. Even in the face of the economic ramifications due to COVID-19 and its related economic shutdowns, we’re still anticipating one of the largest holiday seasons to date.

On the Bazaarvoice Network of over 6,200 retailers, we’ve seen shopping activity continuing to increase year-over-year in spite of COVID-19. Year-over-year, our network is seeing more page views, orders, review submissions, and questions asked than this time last year. We’re predicting as consumers settle into the new normal of online-heavy shopping, these online shopping spikes will continue.

Which is in line with trends we’ve seen in years past from the holiday shopping season. While holiday shopping is growing year-over-year, the popularity of online shopping during the holidays has been growing even more rapidly. In 2019, total holiday shopping revenue increased 4.1% while online shopping revenue for the same time period increased 14.6%.

Want to have a cheerful 2020 holiday season? Download our month-by-month holiday prep guide to learn how global retail leaders are getting ready to ring in the season.

We surveyed over 140 global brands and retailers to see how they’re getting ready for holiday shopping this year, and there were two key themes: 1.) Start preparing early 2.) User-generated content (UGC) is crucial for season success. These two concepts go hand in hand – the sooner you start preparing for the holidays, the more UGC you can collect, and the more successful the holiday season will be for your business.

https://www.bazaarvoice.com/resources/how-to-have-a-successful-holiday-season-in-spite-of-covid-19/

With each passing year, holiday seems to be starting earlier and earlier. This is due in part to the rise in popularity of Amazon Prime Day, which has become known as Black Friday in July. Prime Day, which is now two days of sales, has become an internet-wide sales event. In 2019, 70% of shoppers who made a purchase on Prime Day said at least one item they bought was for a holiday gift.

Although Prime Day is reported to be delayed until October, there’s still urgency to start planning early. In fact, almost a third (31%) of businesses we surveyed are starting their promotions and sales earlier this year, and over a third (39%) of businesses think researching and purchasing will start even earlier this year due to COVID-19.

https://www.bazaarvoice.com/resources/how-to-have-a-successful-holiday-season-in-spite-of-covid-19/

According to our survey, September is the most popular time for brands and retailers to begin planning for the holidays. However, our team recommends starting sooner. Entering the planning stages early guarantees ample time to collect UGC, which is crucial year-round, but especially during holiday shopping and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Almost half of brands and retailers (47%) believe UGC has become even more important for their business because of COVID-19. While 48% of those surveyed have used UGC in their holiday campaigns previously, another 21% are interested in trying it this year.

UGC, which includes ratings, reviews, customer photos and videos, and more, helps your customers make informed decisions and can win you more business. 

In fact, in 2019 we saw an average 159% increase in revenue per visitor among shoppers who engaged with reviews across best-in-class sites.

Because of the impact UGC can have for business, our sales and client success team say the number one request they get from clients and prospects during the holiday season is, “How can I get more content on my product pages?”

And often, this request comes in November or even December, when it’s a bit on the late side to first gather UGC, like ratings, reviews, and customer photos, for products. One of the best ways to get ahead of barren product pages is running a sampling campaign in the summer or early fall.

From retailer-managed sampling programs, to custom sampling boxes, your business has ample opportunities to sample your products to your target demographic

By starting a sampling campaign, you’ll have more than enough high quality content in place on your target products by peak holiday shopping. First, decide which products need reviews. Identifying new products that have or will launch ahead of the holiday season, popular products lacking in reviews, or top-selling products with older reviews are great places to start. Next, you’ll pick a sampling program. Need help running a sampling campaign? Let’s chat about how Bazaarvoice can help

Product sampling increases conversion and revenue at retail.

Running a sampling campaign not only helps your business secure a significant quantity of UGC for your product pages and marketing materials, but it helps you get reviews that are high quality and recent. These 3 pillars – quantity, quality, and recency – are important to customers as they shop.

Not only will UGC make product pages more informative, marketing campaigns more engaging, and social media content interactive, it’ll actually help reduce returns. When shoppers can see photos from other customers using your product or read a product FAQ, shoppers can buy for their loved ones more confidently, even if they’re buying a product they’re unfamiliar with.

Providing additional support for customers, which includes more UGC, increased customer service support, and more, is crucial for shoppers at all stages of holiday shopping. From the early planners and purchasers, to the last minute buyers, don’t cut holiday promotions short because it’s Christmas Day.

We found that shopping activity stayed elevated through mid-December and while buying did taper around Christmas, it immediately picked back up on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.

Want the full play-by-play of holiday shopping traffic? Download our prep guide here.

As shoppers spend gift cards, make returns, and treat themselves after treating loved ones, your business will still see a flurry of holiday shopping activity come January. Once the month comes to a close, we recommend doing a post-mortem of the holiday season while everything is fresh in your mind. Not sure where to start? Here are the questions you should be asking yourself and your team.

Holiday season for retail can often be a stressful time of year, but it’s also a time of year with significant potential for your business. Planning early, setting proper expectations, and working with a trusted partner like Bazaarvoice can help make a joyous season even more cheerful.

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Want to understand how best-in-class brands and retailers are getting the most out of the holiday season? Download our prep guide here.

 

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