5 Mistakes Retailers Should Avoid this Holiday Season

The 2017 holiday shopping season was a profitable one for retailers, and this holiday season is shaping up to be even more promising due to consumer confidence, low unemployment, and wage growth.

In order for retailers to reap the benefits of 2018’s profitable holiday shopping season, here are 5 mistakes they should avoid:

1. Black Friday Is Just a One-day Thing

With each passing year, the holidays seem to sneak into retail stores earlier and earlier. Black Friday has turned into a week-long—and sometimes longer—event, forcing retailers to readjust their in-store and promotional strategies accordingly.

For example, Marshal Cohen (a retail industry analyst at NPD) points out that during the 2017 holiday season, shoppers bought for themselves (at a discount) early in the season, while saving gift buying for later. That means retailers need to keep their shelves consistently stocked.

“Retailers need to find the sweet spot between over buying and ending up in a position where they sell out too quickly. Because as consumer behavior adapts to the speediness of same-day and next-day delivery, shopping procrastination is only anticipated to get worse.”

Source: Retail Dive 

2. Online Sales Don’t Require Additional Preparation

In 2017, digital sales grew by double digits throughout the month of November, according to Adobe Analytics. Shoppers spent 16.9% more than during the 2016 holiday season. Additionally, mobile drove 54% of visits and 37% of digital revenue during the Black Friday weekend.

Ryan Fisher, a partner in AT Kearney’s consumer industries and retail practice, recalls that one of the biggest problems during the 2017 holiday season was an issue of capacity. “It was a big step change in online growth and many retail sectors didn’t prepare well enough,” he said. The unfortunate result was that many customers didn’t get their digitally-purchased goods when retailers said they would. Plus, a shortage of drivers made the situation even worse.

“E-commerce’s share of retail sales routinely jumps over the holiday period as consumers turn to the online channel for functional ‘shopping-list’ gift purchases,” according to the report.

Source: Retail Dive

As Coresight Research’s holiday preview report predicts, “This year could be the biggest season yet for e-commerce.” In fact, online retail sales are slated to grow nearly 16% year over year. Retailers need to prepare for a surge in online sales and make the necessary preparations to ensure order fulfillment and customer satisfaction.

3. Free Shipping Doesn’t Have to be Fast Shipping

Last year, retailers learned that shipping needs to happen as quickly as possible—down to the hour.

2017 saw Amazon putting pressure on competitors with a move to expand same-day delivery for holiday procrastinators. For more than 8,000 U.S. cities, Prime same-day and next-day delivery allowed for the delivery of holiday orders as late as 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Obviously, other retailers weren’t nearly that fast, or cheap. But Retail Dive strongly suggests they learn how to be. Why? According to public relations firm Walker Sands, over 80% of online shoppers last year said that free shipping is a primary motivator for shopping online more frequently.

A key component in providing free shipping services is keeping delivery promises. In other words, packages need to arrive when retailers say they will. As one might imagine, this becomes particularly important when shoppers are purchasing gifts that are time sensitive due to holiday events and family gatherings.

Retailers should bear in mind that complications with couriers can wreak havoc on the shipping process. For example, last year a surge in e-commerce orders significantly slowed down delivery times for UPS and FedEx who struggled to keep up.

4. Consumers Will Flock to Physical Stores for Holiday Shopping

While digital buying and Amazon get a lot of attention, retailers need to remember that roughly 90% of purchases still occur in stores.

Still, that doesn’t mean competition in the retail industry isn’t more aggressive than ever. Today, consumers have more shopping options to choose from when it comes to where they spend their time and money.

To stay competitive, retailers need to give consumers compelling reasons to visit their stores.

That’s why Walmart hosted 20,000 in-store holiday ‘parties in 2017. These events featured such things as product demos and holiday helpers show shoppers where to find gifts and assist them with check out. While it’s not clear if these parties actually boosted foot traffic, retailers certainly have nothing to lose by experimenting with interactive promotions and activities.

5.  Copying the Competitor’s Holiday Strategies Can’t Hurt

“Every year, shoppers are bombarded by retailer holiday marketing emails, digital promotions and in-store exclusives,” says Retail Dive. That means retailers must come up with ways to make them stand out in a way that Amazon and big-box stores can’t compete.

Smaller and specialty retailers have a great opportunity to meet consumer needs on a more meaningful level by personalizing shopper experiences, along with items purchased as gifts. Online retailers can experiment with physical holiday pop-ups to test how customers engage with their brand at a busy time of year.

From new store concepts and special holiday helpers to in-store parties and personalized shopping recommendations, retailers should plan to do something that sets them apart from other stores in the eyes of consumers.


According to the NRF, holiday sales in 2017 exceeded expectations, reaching nearly $692 billion. “Low unemployment and a healthy economy fueled holiday shoppers in 2017, and retailers can expect those same conditions to motivate this year’s purchases,” says Business.Com.

The site goes on to suggest that the holiday season is an opportunity for small businesses to level the playing field with big box and online retailers, as well as make a positive impact on their local economies.

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Also published on Medium.

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.