Digital Commerce 2020: Is Your Data “Holiday Shopping- Ready”?

1.	This customer doing their holiday shopping online illustrates why retailers must be able to "meet" their customers wherever they are, whenever they are ready to buy. | Informatica

For most retailers, 2020 has been affected by unpredictability and uncertainty. The global pandemic has led to volatile consumer behavior, preferences, and demand along with very unpredictable global economic circumstances. And retailers have been challenged as never before: to fulfill customer demand, dealing with lock-down situations, struggling with logistical issues caused by closed borders or intensified border controls, trading restrictions, out-of-stock issues, and so on.

However, although there was the COVID-19 uncertainty on one side, there was also a significant acceleration of the push towards ecommerce and digital channels, which in turn provided a huge opportunity for retailers that were digital-ready. Meaning that even as some gained even more market share, others struggled to handle the new customer expectations due to missing digital commerce capabilities.

According to a Salesforce study from August 2020, 88% of customers expect companies of all kinds to accelerate digital initiatives due to the pandemic, and 83% expect retailers to provide flexible shipping and fulfillment options, such as buy-online-pick-up-in-store.

Safety, Convenience, and a Digital-First Mindset are further boosting digital commerce

So, what will the holiday shopping season—including Black Friday and Cyber Monday—look like this year?

The holiday season has actually already started, earlier than ever this year. Ecommerce giant Amazon even warns holiday shoppers to ‘order early this year’ in order to avoid last-minute orders and delivery delays.

One thing is sure: Black Friday won’t happen as we know it. Many retail chains have already announced they will be closing their stores during Black Friday to avoid crowds and the risk of losing control over physical distancing and to ensure maximum safety for their customers and employees.

The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a shift in consumer priorities. Trust, safety, and convenience are top of mind and ultimately have created a digital-first mindset for most shoppers. Retailers have to ‘meet’ their customers where and when they feel comfortable. This fact is also influencing holiday shopping behavior this year.

The role of product data for successful digital commerce

Feeding digital channels—including marketplaces, mobile apps, ecommerce websites, and more—with the right product content is a key enabler for a successful 2020 retail holiday season. The more detailed and comprehensive information that retailers are able to provide online, the more they will sell, the easier it will be for consumers to find the products they want to buy, and the less they will have to deal with product returns.

Imagine a furniture retailer selling a sofa online: what would be the chance of selling a large, bulky item like a couch if they offered only one image, with missing product details, dimensions, or descriptions? Online shoppers require much more detailed information than in-store shoppers. They expect several high-quality images from different perspectives, zoom-in functionality, a video or AR capabilities, and relevant, trusted, and rich descriptions so they can make an informed purchase decision.

This is why retailers who want to successfully sell online need a strong data strategy to effectively manage product content and automate product information management (PIM) to boost their omnichannel commerce capabilities. Digital commerce teams must ensure they provide all information their customers need across their digital touchpoints to deliver the connected and informed holiday shopping experience they expect.

Retailers must avoid missing, incorrect or incomplete product information across digital touchpoints

Agility to respond to volatile consumer behavior and changing market requirements

In order to remain agile and flexible and responsive to unpredictable changing market and consumer behavior, retailers need to continue to focus on and invest in their digital strategies and digital commerce capabilities. They need to be prepared for the ‘unexpected’.

One way to anticipate potential supply chain disruptions or delivery delays is to adopt Amazon’s approach and to ask customers to order early. Knowing the supplier network and having a 360° view of suppliers and the products they provide is also becoming is equally important—and maybe more crucial—than ever before. Retailers that are able to quickly onboard new vendors and find alternate suppliers easily are better positioned to avoid disruptions in their supply chain and remain agile. A supplier information management solution can help manage the entire supplier network more efficiently and being prepared to react to unpredicted situations.

To learn more about how you can increase your agility and engagement through the holiday season and into the new year, sign up now for our webinar, “It’s Now or Never: Unleash the Full Potential of Your Digital Commerce Capabilities with PIM.”