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Opinion: How retailers can thrive during 2020 holiday shopping

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The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way Americans shop and will have an impact on the 2020 holiday shopping season for businesses in Springfield.

Last year, a record 189.6 million U.S. consumers shopped online and in stores from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation. Planning for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and into Christmas will require retailers to come up with new, creative ideas to capture their share of holiday sales.

Technology tools are available to make this holiday season easier for local businesses – while maximizing safety and retail sales during this challenging time.

Here are a few tips on how local businesses can boost their retail sales this holiday shopping season:

Offer earlier deals. To avoid overcrowding on specific shopping days, retailers can consider offering deals and discounts starting much earlier in the shopping season. Schedule these sales on social media sites with the help of apps, such as Facebook Pages Manager.

Enhance curbside pickup. Some consumers still aren’t comfortable shopping in stores due to continued COVID-19 concerns. This is especially true in states that are still seeing virus spikes. Utilize social media channels to showcase gift ideas that can be purchased either online or by calling the store and picked up curbside. And keep inventory counts current by scanning items as they are sold with the help of numerous inventory-tracking apps for wireless devices.

Hold outdoor shopping events. As people avoid crowded, indoor spaces, bring products outside. Set up a “sidewalk sale,” display products under a tent in the parking lot, and create an outdoor boutique experience for customers to browse and buy. No matter where the products are set up, it is simple to accept customer credit card payments on wireless devices with the help of a Square card reader accessory.

Offer online shopping options. Even on Black Friday, a traditional in-store shopping day, more consumers shopped online in 2019 than visited stores for the first time ever, according the National Retail Federation. As online shopping is expected to increase this year, make sure your e-commerce site is up and running. Offer all products online to maximize sales and incentivize customers to shop online by offering extra discounts or free shipping.

Make appointments. With a concentrated rush of shoppers expected leading up to the holidays, add a scheduling feature to your website, allowing customers to make appointments to shop in-store. By scheduling appointments – and limiting the number of people at your store at one time – customers will be able to shop safely and avoid the crowds. Having the ability to shop by appointment may attract new customers and prospects.

Keep it safe. Consider posting photos of staff doing frequent store cleaning tasks daily on social media channels to give customers peace of mind. Display signage and floor decals as reminders of safety protocols.

Customers likely will be much more cautious about their shopping experience this holiday season, as they try to protect their health. Retailers that limit crowds, practice proper safety protocols, provide flexible options, utilize technology and think creatively about how to serve consumers during this pandemic have an opportunity to increase their earnings.

David King is a store manager for U.S. Cellular in Springfield. He can be reached at david.king@uscellular.com.

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