Retailers today are preparing for a holiday season like no other, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact consumer trends and behaviours. Craving safety, comfort and convenience, customers have shifted how they shop, what they buy and how they pay over the last few months – and the holidays will be no different.

Traditionally the holiday shopping season is the busiest season of the year, accounting for up to 40% of annual sales*, early predictions for 2020 are cautiously optimistic. According to Deloitte, retail sales should rise 1% to 1.5%* between November and January, totalling over $1.147 trillion. Accessing these consumer dollars means adapting your retail business to evolving customer preferences.

Fortunately, you can make the most of the season and drive sales to help make up for a challenging year with a strategy that puts the customer experience first. Below are some tips to help you plan for a unique but rewarding holiday shopping season. 

1. Upgrade your digital offerings

Today’s customers are doing more online shopping than ever before, as even older generations have recognized the benefits of making purchases on websites and mobile apps. The Visa Back to Business study* shows that this year, three in five U.S. consumers plan to do half or more of their holiday shopping online, including the 32% who plan to shop mostly online.

To attract this growing market of customers, focus on improving your online presence. If you don’t already have an online store, now’s the time to give it a try. Even if most of your business is in your brick-and-mortar location, you can give your customers more shopping options with a simple eCommerce store – there are plenty of shopping cart and payment processing tools that make it easy and secure.

If you already have an online store or mobile app, look for ways to drive engagement and build customer relationships. For example, you can offer special online-only promotions, provide personalized product recommendations based on past purchases or create virtual window displays and gift guides for everyone on their list.

2. Go touchless for payments

For customers who want to make an immediate purchase and visit you in person, creating a memorable in-store experience is essential. This includes helping them feel safe with contactless payment options that are faster and more hygienic.

To prepare for the more than half of Americans who now use contactless cards*, ensure your payment processing device can accept all payment types including NFC (near-field communication) credit and debit cards, mobile wallets and alternative payment methods like Apple Pay and Google Pay. Your employees will also appreciate transactions that minimize customer touchpoints.

3. Embrace curbside pickup

Eight months into the pandemic, some of the most popular shopping methods among consumers combine the best of the physical and digital.

One of these is curbside pickup, which is quick and convenient while minimizing person-to-person contact. Following the coronavirus outbreak, 59% of consumers say they are more likely to use curbside pickup* – and it’s likely here to stay.

Another is BOPIS (buy online pick up in store), which tends to attract an upsell rate over curbside. In fact, a consumer can spend an extra 10 to 15 percent* of the value of the order they’re picking up as they pass by enticing merchandise on the way to the pickup counter. If you only offer curbside pickup where your customer never has to leave their car, your business loses this valuable chance to increase the total spend.  

Together, curbside pickup and BOPIS sales will increase 60.4% to $58.52 billion* this year and account for 20.4% of total eCommerce growth in 2020. Make sure your business seizes this latest opportunity by integrating payment options for curbside pickup and BOPIS into your mobile app and website eCommerce platform. This removes the payment step from the pickup and streamlines the experience for your customers and employees. You can even set up prepayment with online billing and invoicing.

4. Leverage eCommerce intelligence

One of the benefits of the increase in online shopping and solid business analytics is that you can gain more insights and information from your customers. For example, you can find out the average spend per customer, bestselling products by location and most popular shopping days and times.

Use this customer intelligence wisely. Make sure your eCommerce platform is integrated with your inventory system so you can ensure enough stock is available for each store location. Create sales and discounts on slower days of the week and send out marketing emails when your customers are more likely to be online and shopping.

5. Get creative with curveballs

This year, we’ve seen businesses implement years of innovation into just a few months to keep serving customers amid lockdowns and new safety protocols. In many ways, preparing for the 2020 holiday season means continuing this attitude of adaptability and expecting the unexpected.

Whether that means creating a pop-up store in a local outdoor market to attract customers who prefer not to be indoors, offering a month-long Black Friday sale to facilitate social distancing or introducing digital gift cards to enable long-distance gift-giving, you need to stay flexible with solutions that support your customers.

To learn more about how Elavon can help you create exceptional payment experiences in-store, online, via mobile app or a combination of all of the above this holiday season, visit


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