6 Ways to Thrive During the First COVID Christmas
The world as we know it has quickly transformed in 2020. The COVID-19 crisis has turned the world upside-down and created an uncertain future for businesses in all sectors. Already, months in, the pandemic has completely altered the way we shop: Cash use continues to decline, e-commerce and online shopping has spiked due to stay at home and social distancing requirements and even as we move into reduced lock down restrictions shopping at brick and mortar just isn’t the same. Some retailers have even discouraged cash payments, instead preferring contactless card payments, for both purchases and to help with an apparent national coin shortage.
56% of Canadian shoppers say the pandemic will affect how they will shop this year. If holiday planning wasn’t difficult enough, this creates a problem in planning for the various shopping seasons such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and of course Christmas. In turn, planning ahead for the upcoming Christmas season – with a solid COVID proof contingency plan in place, is more important than ever in 2020.
What will the 2020 Holiday season have in-store?
The year in general has been ‘unorthodox’ to say the least, to think the holiday shopping season will be any different is short-sighted. While many people are still looking forward to the holidays, enjoying the experience of the holiday shopping season, routine trips to over-crowded malls, and exchanging gifts with large groups of family and friends may be off the table, as online shopping, virtual gifts and zoom “celebrations” more likely to prevail. As experts continue to predict a worldwide second wave, the likelihood of jam-packed malls and Christmas joy being spread throughout the streets is less and less. For brands and consumers, it’s a good idea to start thinking about what’s in store this season and create a multi-ended plan that takes into account this year’s uncertainty.
6 Steps to Prepare Your Incentive Plans for a Very Different Holiday Shopping Season
Step 1 | Go Virtual. Get online. Have a backup plan.
While shopping has declined across most sectors, one format that has stood the test of “lockdown time” is online sales. Amazon reported more sales in the first month of October than all of last year’s shopping season, coincidence? I think not. This is one of the most critical decisions brands can make, with the threat of COVID-19 still looming, brands must take their products online and so too should their promotions and incentives.
Our Take: Adding an online promotion or incentive helps provide a future-proof means of catering to evolving consumer preferences. Having a contingency plan in place could mean the difference between life and death due to store closures or even store-openings, that were not foreseen.
For this reason, we recommend a multi-channel promotion strategy during the 2020 holidays. Prepaid stored-value cards, in particular, provide an easy to use incentive that can be sent, spent and promoted in-store or online providing a seamless experience no matter what uncertain outcomes arise. In the case of virtual cards, recipients can receive incentives instantly – whether it be before, after or even during the sale. The great part is, both provide a pleasurable digital experience while promoting important COVID-19 health and safety measures.
Step 2 | Start early. Incentivize around uncertainty.
While I’m sure you’re saying “how is this different from any other holiday season” this year’s ‘early start’ points to a flood in competition, with a dose of avoidance planning. Consider, despite worldwide financial unpredictability, a survey by Rakuten revealed that 87% of consumers are not planning to reduce their budget for Christmas spending in 2020.
This is great for brands, as the market will be flooded with eager shoppers. However, at the same time, it means that there will also be a drastic increase in competition for business. As usual, the best way to prepare for uncertainty is to get ahead of the sales season, to try to attract early buyers, beat the crowd, and prepare for the onslaught of delayed delivery times.
For this reason, we recommend starting your incentive plans early, whether for your employees, corporate clients, vendors or end-consumers. First, ensuring your frontline staff are well-compensated for going over and above using a performance-based structure that is easy to use and understand, will be key. One un-sanitized work station can mean the difference between, store-open and store-closed, creating immense headaches for you and your business.
Next, ensure your end-consumers are targeted properly with incentives that help do more. Whether it be referring another client, sharing their experience, or value on additional purchases – turning one purchase into three, is the new loyalty. Finally, timing, timing your incentives (we did say early!) will be key – A recent study by Deloitte suggests that, consumers who start shopping post-thanksgiving, spend an average of $400 more than those who wait. Offering incentives to buy early can also help you beat competitors – an especially important point when considering the flood of competition, we are sure to see. Also consider incentive flexibility, the ability tailor incentives and promotions on the fly can help safeguard businesses against stiff competition.
All in all, brands should start exploring their incentive plans now, while they still have some room to breathe – the right incentive at the right time, can make all of the difference.
Step 3 | Customer service in the “new norm”
Whether you run a physical store or eCommerce store, it’s beneficial to communicate to your customers not only the steps that you’re taking to keep them safe, but that you truly appreciate their business. COVID-19 Christmas for many people, will be particularly difficult. As we all adapt to the “new norms’ it’s important that your employees be up beat, helpful and above all safe.
As mentioned before, one un-sanitized workplace or one infection, can mean the difference between success and failure. Ensure your employees communicate effectively and safely. Implementing monitoring tools for both service and sanitation, can help keep everyone accountable, while offering employee rewards for reaching above and beyond these measures will be money well spent.
In addition, #!#& (it) happens. But that doesn’t mean you can’t extend your heartfelt apologize in the form of value to your clients. Again, as we mentioned, competition will be stiff, shipping timelines will be lengthy – so don’t waste any opportunity to turn a disgruntled shopper into a brand evangelist. Offering well timed incentives or “thank you” cards, delivered in a personalized and COVID-19 friendly way, can help keep the spirit of Christmas alive for all parties involved.
Our take: Choose an incentive that helps promote COVID-19 friendly measures, while communicating your brand and message. Prepaid cards in particular have been a preferred option for years as they provide choice and convenience in where, when and how they can be spent and sent. Contactless card options also help clients stay safe, while providing unparalleled choice in reward spending options. According to a new Mastercard global consumer study, 76% of Canadians say contactless payments are now their preferred way to pay when making in-store purchases citing convenience, safety, and cleanliness amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Step 4 | Personalize Offers
The pandemic is accelerating consumer expectations. Brands need to foster loyalty and deliver an experience that shoppers find relevant, no longer will blanked offers work to incentivize clients. Personalized feeds, offers and loyalty is a means of meeting the customer’s needs more effectively and efficiently, making interactions faster and easier and, consequently, increasing customer satisfaction and the likelihood of repeat visits.
79% of consumers admit that as brands personalize their loyalty programs, they are more willing to remain loyal to that brand. The good news, is that 81% of customers are willing to share personal information as long as the experience is personalized.
Personalized loyalty offers and targeted promotions will be key this year in helping create a more rewarding experience. Ensure your products are available for online customers and stay on top of changing trends and customer needs. There are many different options to choose from, so understanding your specific goals will help build a program that achieves desired results. Need help? DCR Loyalty experts can help design or implement a program quickly using our suite of APIs, reward points, unique wallet products, as well as fully-branded and personalized contactless cards.
Step 5 | Go Virtual with your rewards, incentives and CS initiatives.
In helping cater to changing preferences and uncertainty around going out in public, interacting with others and maintaining social distance, brands can introduce virtual reward, customer service and incentive cards that can be sent and spent virtually with a couple of clicks. A great idea, especially during these times, virtual gifts and digital cards give recipients control over what they buy, and you can purchase and send them in an instant from the comfort of your own home. McKinsey suggests that over 70% of Americans don’t feel comfortable going out to partake in “regular” activities, such as shopping, just yet. Providing online options will enable you to generate sales, while also making customers feel safe.
For this reason, we suggest you contact your incentive provider and ensure safeguards are in place to ensure you have the right rewards, delivered at the right time, with a seamless and rewarding experience, that can be delivered no matter where they are.
Step 6 | Reward your volunteers and those who help!
COVID Christmas may be different, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be totally devoid of the Christmas spirit. Many people devote their time over the holidays to a cause, event or happening, that is bigger than themselves. Show your volunteers, helpers, interns, seasonal staff you care by delivering their wages or compensation on a card rather than cheques or cash. We all must do our part to keep everyone safe. Sending compensation funds via prepaid electronic cards, whether delivered via mail or email, helps protect staff and their loved ones while providing an online shopping tool. In addition, the cards provide a “bank-like” experience for anyone without a bank account – granting access to advanced features like interac transfers, bill payments, online shopping, car rentals and more. This season more than ever, we’re all in this together.
As this is the first COVID Holiday Season, businesses all over the world are finding themselves in unexplored territory. Each working to put measures in place to boost holiday sales and generate interest in products and services. The need to plan ahead effectively, sell and promote online, encourage clients to buy before the rush, deliver virtual incentives, reward those that make and impact, personalize experiences, and maintain rewards that cater to changing consumer preferences and customer service initiatives can all be advantageous. Also ensure you keep the lines of communication open, to help showcase the human factor, as this season is not business as usual brands will have to work harder than ever to earn the loyalty of their customers. If you’re looking to rise above the challenges, refer to these tips to ensure your brand stands out.
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