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Survey: Retailers should prepare for a busy holiday shopping season — online

COVID-19 hasn’t impacted consumers’ holiday spending plans but it has affected how they intend to shop.

That’s according to a consumer insights survey by Radial, which found that shoppers do not plan to significantly change their holiday spend compared to 2019. The data also revealed a stronger preference for online shopping, with 66% of shoppers anticipating they will increase their online purchases during the 2020 holiday season.

The survey found that 60% of consumers plan to shop less in-store this season due to fear of COVID-19 exposure. While there is still an appetite for in-store shopping, safety concerns and deeper familiarity with online ordering indicated that e-commerce will certainly see higher activity than in previous years, according to Radial, which surveyed 1,000-plus U.S. consumers on their holiday shopping plans. 

The survey also found that what is considered a reasonable timeframe for holiday gift deliveries has shifted, with 50% of respondents saying five days for delivery is reasonable, and 28% stating one week was acceptable. Only 14% expect their holiday gifts within two days compared to a 2018 Radial survey in which 34.6% expected to receive packages in two days or less. 

“This leeway in delivery expectations will allow retailers to focus on implementing practices that prioritize COVID-19 safety precautions and help them manage the influx of orders,” the report stated.

Despite the impact of the pandemic on delivery times, 41% of shoppers said they don't plan to shop any earlier for holiday gifts, meaning that retailers will have no break between the current COVID-19 e-commerce climate and the overwhelming holiday peak season rush. 

To put the high demand into context, across the Radial client network there was a 70% spike in online orders during April 2020, compared to April 2019. In May 2020, orders were up 218% year-over-year. Given the continued high demands and online orders retailers will experience, scaling up for peak season will be more difficult than in years past, Radial warned.

Other findings from the survey are below.
•    39% of shoppers plan to start shopping for the holidays in October into early November, and 30% plan to start on Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

•    The majority of consumers surveyed plan to spend the same as last year on holiday gifts, meaning retailers should expect similar or higher order volumes as previous years.

•    63% of shoppers say they are slightly or very much more likely to purchase from a retailer they knew was following COVID-19 safety precautions in-store.

"The 2020 holiday season will reward omnichannel retailers,” said Tim Hinckley, chief commercial officer for Radial. “Instead of the recurring and seasonal demand cycles retailers are used to, in the wake of COVID-19, brands must contend with consistent high demand for e-commerce year-round. Retailers must leverage unique strategies like using stores as fulfillment centers and creative order management techniques paired with advanced technology in order to keep deliveries flowing by embracing curbside pickup and other emerging consumer expectations."

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