Q4 2020: What to Expect

Ladies and gents, it’s here. What’s here? The most wonderful time of the year!

… Except this year, things are looking a little different. You don’t have to hear it from us to know that 2020 has been a wild ride, the effects of which have spilled over into every major facet of our society — and retail is no exception. In fact, the global pandemic has drastically altered the way we sell and consume products.

As an eCommerce business owner, it’s safe to say that this holiday season will be unlike anything you’ve experienced thus far, which is why we’re here to prepare you for success — think of us as the CliffsNotes to your cram paper.

#1. Crazy High Order Volume

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way: eCommerce, for the most part, is booming. When brick-and-mortar stores closed earlier this year, the world didn’t have much choice but to direct their purchases virtually. At this point in time, online shopping is the safest and most convenient option, which, as you can imagine, is great news for eCommerce business owners. There is a flipside though, and we’ll get into that in just a moment!

#2. A New(ish) Demographic

Of course, crazy high order volume doesn’t just come out of nowhere. While it’s true that eCommerce aficionados have indubitably upped the frequency of their purchases, we’re also seeing a new crop of customers knocking on the digital door — and it looks like they’re here to stay.

Although older generations have tended to be more technologically resistant, being cooped up indoors may have changed their buying habits for good. Without the possibility of making a quick trip to the store, Grandpa Joe and Great-Aunt Susan have been forced to embrace the wonders of online shopping.

All in all, this translates to a potentially wider reach of customers. In order to market to everyone effectively, it’s super important to use clear, actionable language on your store website and make the buying process as easy as humanly possible — that means no extra buttons or confusing pop-ups. And, if you want to get fancy, you can create segmented email campaigns to enhance the post-purchase experience.

#3. More Demand for Certain Niches

Not all niches are created equal. Over the last few months, certain products have experienced a marked increase in demand. Some examples we’re currently seeing are:

  • Face masks
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Cleaning supplies (Bonus points if they’re eco-friendly!)
  • Fitness equipment
  • Bakeware
  • Craft supplies
  • Gardening tools

Now, we’re not saying you should abandon your current niche to peddle trendy wares, as we’re staunch supporters of selling products you’re truly passionate about. However, if you are currently a part of any of these niches, you should expect a likely surge in sales. And, if your niche is in the same vein as the above, it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a few high-demand items in your midst!

#4. More Competition Online

As things heat up in the eCommerce kitchen, more and more entrepreneurs are lining up to get cookin’. If you thought eCommerce couldn’t get more saturated before, you’ll be eating your hat soon enough!

While extra competition is no business owner’s idea of a fun time, don’t fret just yet. At the end of the day, nothing beats a solid strategy with impeccable follow through. You can’t control the eCommerce gold rush, but you can grease up your online business so that it continues to shine bright.

#5. Less Competition Offline

As online competition increases, offline competition decreases. Brand behemoths like Walmart and Target have announced their plans to stay closed on Thanksgiving, which means even more opportunities to convert holiday shoppers. 

And, even with some stores being open, many shoppers will still opt out of their usual routines due to safety concerns. But wait! Don’t get too comfortable — rest assured that industry giants will make their presence known online as well… which brings us back to #4.

#6. Supply Chain Delays

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but all of this exciting growth comes at a cost. To put it simply, there just isn’t enough infrastructure to accommodate the unprecedented spike in eCommerce sales. The truth is that shipping carriers and fulfillment centers alike spend months, even years, planning for peak season. The months of November and December are action-packed, but, in the grand scheme of things, make up a small piece of the yearly pie.

With that in mind, imagine the sheer chaos of having peak-level volumes thrown at you in April and beyond. Maintaining that kind of pace year-round poses a host of logistical challenges, such as securing adequate staffing and enough equipment to process millions of incoming orders. It also poses challenges for you, the business owner, to ensure you have enough inventory to cater to growing demands. In short, facing Q4 2020 is doable, but not without some serious blood, sweat, and tears.

Conclusion

So what does all this mean for you, the eCommerce business owner? We’ve got two words: shipping delays

Although we’d all love to receive our seasonal goodies in a timely manner, that may not always be a luxury we have this year. We suggest dealing with the inevitable head-on by managing your customers’ expectations and keeping them in the loop every step of the way. 

Things aren’t perfect for many of us, but we hope that this quick guide has prepared and encouraged you to make the most out of this holiday season. If you have any questions or feedback, we’d love to hear from you! Just reach out to us here.

Bonus: Want to know more about the quarterly forecast? Then check out our founder and CEO’s spin on the relationship between BCFM (Black Friday Cyber Monday) and eCommerce this year.