Despite the fears of many retailers that Christmas might be be cancelled this year, new data has found that the festive season shouldn’t be written off just yet. Even with local lockdowns and social distancing measures in place across the UK, the festive shopping season has actually already kicked off.
Based on analysis on hundreds of millions of eCommerce transactions around the globe, ACI’s eCommerce tracker predicts we will see a 27% increase in online shopping transactions this year. This is alongside a whopping 40% increase in click and collect purchases as consumers remain socially distant and local lockdowns continue.
Fears over availability driving early festive shopping
It’s clear that consumers acting as Santa’s little helpers have begun purchasing presents online even earlier than in previous years to keep the Christmas dream alive.
At the start of the lockdown restrictions in March, consumers and merchants alike were beset by supply chain issues. Many supermarkets were unable to keep up with demand even for basics like flour, eggs and toilet paper, which saw shelves go empty as consumers panicked and bulk-bought products.
Given this early lockdown picture, it is not surprising then that concerns around limited product availability and delivery delays are driving the early start of the festive shopping period. Indeed, this is so much so that we’ve seen online transactions increase by 21% in the four weeks of September, when compared to the same period last year.
While in previous years Black Friday has typically been the starting line for the festive shopping period, this year Prime Day sounded the klaxon. With many consumers remembering the severe delays in receiving purchases at the start of lockdown, they will be looking to avoid any missing presents under the Christmas tree.
Added to this, with large swathes of the UK now under Tier 2 or Tier 3 lockdown restrictions, there’s more time than ever to browse online for presents. Further, many will also be looking to spread the cost of Christmas this year, with finances tight due to the economic impact of the pandemic. The combination of all these factors together has resulted in one of the earliest starts to the festive shopping season.
How merchants can help Santa’s elves meet demand
The festive season is historically the busiest and most lucrative period for retailers. And while we will undoubtedly see a reduction in footfall to physical stores this year, they shouldn’t be written off. This year has seen a huge uptick in demand for click and collect. As consumers spend more time at home but look for socially-distanced ways they can leave the house, merchants should use their stores as valuable real estate by expanding their click and collect capabilities.
Removing the friction involved in online shopping should also be a priority for merchants. Today’s consumers expect to be able to buy online and instore quickly and efficiently, with payments as frictionless and seamless as possible. Merchants should look to serve customers using their preferred payment method ‘ this could range from Buy Now, Pay Later options to in-store credit and seamless mobile e-wallet payment options.
Crucially, this should support a true multi-channel customer journey, with one consistent, seamless payment experience for the customer ‘ whether instore, online or via social media. With this in place, merchants can be confident that they are helping Santa’s elves meet the Christmas Eve present deadline.
The darker side of Christmas shopping
However, there is a dark side to the holiday season kicking off earlier – fraud has continued to increase as criminals take advantage of click and collect options and consumers start to buy higher-value items, like the latest electronics, for presents. In fact, our analysis found that the value of attempted fraud increased from $7 to $9 per consumer this year when compared to 2019.
Added to this, the jump in consumers making digital payments during the pandemic has led to a blurring of payment channels themselves. Where many would have previously paid using cash in physical stores, there’s been a big uptick in the use of mobile phones and mobile check-out to pay for goods inside physical stores.
This digital swing has opened a way to expand merchants’ market reach by enhancing the consumer’s shopping experience. But it’s also created more opportunity for fraudsters. While click and collect and paying via mobile e-wallets in store are major draws for consumers, merchants need to increase their fraud protection measures across all channels to prevent a nightmare before Christmas.
Ultimately, while this has been an incredibly trying year for merchants and the retail industry, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. By creating a frictionless payments journey for consumers and ensuring that their fraud prevention measures are robust across all channels, merchants can take advantage of consumer trends and have a successful festive period.