Holiday Sales in a Covid World: Navigating the Challenges

There is no doubt that 2020 has been an historical year; fires, global pandemic, riots, Tiger King, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As such, this holiday season will be unlike any other we have experienced and it presents both risks and opportunities to eCommerce. So let’s face them head on, and be proactive enough that the risks and uncertainty will have less of an impact on customer service, sales, and building relationships with your customers while capitalizing on the accelerated shift to eCommerce.

What do you need to know so you can plan?

Demand increase will continue through at least the end of the year

  • Increased levels of comfort with online purchases
  • Social distancing and many still feeling unsafe to do in-person shopping means not having the typical hoards of shoppers filling physical stores
  • A predicted lower level of travel during the holidays means more shipped gifts

Increased demand sounds like a good thing, and it is… mostly.

There have been significant supply chain issues this year, not likely to ease up as online purchases increase. Shipping carriers are nearly maxed out, pushing delivery times out from what we’ve been used to in the past; 1-2 days, to many weeks instead. This can impact your business negatively. It may be difficult for you to quickly replenish inventory from your suppliers, particularly if they are overseas and it can impact your ability to promise your customers delivery dates. In planning for your holiday sales events this year, keep the following in mind:

Evaluate your ability to advertise “order by x date to receive by Christmas” as a marketing tactic. While this tactic in the past may have allowed you to continue to drive sales for those last minute shoppers, this year you run the risk of not meeting that commitment which can lead to a poor customer experience, canceled orders, and missed opportunities for return purchasers.

Investigate different shipping carriers and what claims they are making; which have had delayed shipping issues this year, and which have not. If you have a carrier option that presents less risk in long shipping times, communicate the use of that carrier or consider using that carrier exclusively.

Focus on inventory levels and how that equates to your marketing strategy. Do you currently have ample inventory of the products you intend to put on sale? Are you able to quickly get more if needed?

Consider longer sale dates. Due to all of the factors listed above, people will be online and looking for deals long before Black Friday this year. Don’t wait until Black Friday to begin sales. Start them up to 1-2 weeks prior in fact. This will give you a jump on competitors (less noise=increased transactions), as well as help ease some of those supply chain issues.

Good communication is your best friend.

There is always a deep need for human connection, but this year more than ever we are relying on technology to help fill the gaps that canceled events, closed businesses, and social distancing have created. Be open about that as you increase your customer communication; don’t shy away from it. Personalize your communication as much as possible, be warm and inviting. Be as transparent as possible – expecting shipping delays or inventory issues? Let your customers know before they make a purchase. The more transparent you are, the more those shopping with you will trust you. With trust comes loyalty, increased transactions, increased average order values, and a higher likelihood that the customer will return later to make more purchases in the future.

Place notices in the site header as well as on the checkout page. You may fear that these notices will reduce transactions, but bear in mind most merchants will be doing the same. If you do not have a notice, consumers will assume you do not have those issues. And while the short term gain of the getting that transaction may occur, the above listed issues that can lead to an unhappy customers are not worth the risk.


With so much uncertainty this year, and with much still lying ahead; presidential election, continuing pandemic, and probably zombies (preferably Walking Dead style and not World War Z style), we still have the opportunity to create connection and drive success in our respective businesses. And while the landscape of shopping has shifted significantly in 2020 necessitating being mostly reactive in our ever-changing strategies, we hope these tips will help you get ahead of the game and be proactive about shifting your sales and communication while you continue your ride on this crazy train.

Interested in learning more about how you can navigate this holiday season well? Contact us to help!

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