The 2020 holiday season is already upon us. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and so is Black Friday which is often considered the formal start of the shopping season. For traditional retailers, the holidays have always generated a significant portion of their yearly revenue. Overall sales volume during the holiday rush has steadily increased over the years, moving in lockstep with the evolution of the internet which has become a central factor in our lives. The near-ubiquitous adoption of the internet has opened up e-commerce, an ever-evolving sales channel that’s eclipsed brick-and-mortar stores of decades past.
This holiday season promises to be like no other holiday season before. Retailers everywhere are faced with the challenge of maintaining their momentum in the face of a resurgent pandemic, not to mention the stress of their normal holiday operations. The face of the retail industry is poised for transformation once again as e-commerce and fulfillment channels are expected to be overburdened with surging demand this Christmas. The question is, where does the relatively new voice commerce channel fit into this historic, chaotic holiday season?
Since March, COVID-19 has dominated our cultural conversation. Every aspect of our lives, from education, to politics, to mental health and wellbeing has been affected by the pandemic. That includes retail and every one of its constituent channels.
Black Friday is known for crowded stores, deep discounts, and an overall sense of pandemonium as shoppers compete to cross items off of their holiday wish list. Quarantines and social distancing rules may very well preclude shopping at brick-and-mortar locations, however. While the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have a profound and disastrous effect on physical retail locations, it’s not all doom and gloom though. The e-commerce channel is expected to more than compensate for flagging retail sales.
According to Salesforce, e-commerce is expected to enjoy a dramatic increase in revenue this holiday season. It’s projected that up to 30% of all retail sales worldwide will come from the e-commerce channel during the 2020 shopping season. What COVID-19 has taken from physical locations, it will redistribute amongst other channels.
The pandemic has also created new logistical considerations for merchants to grapple with this Christmas. With such a dramatic increase in online shopping, merchants should expect shipping and fulfillment methods to be delayed with increased lead times persisting until the end of the year. In response, companies like FedEx are hiring thousands of additional employees to keep up with demand. Physical retail locations can help alleviate shipping problems by converting into smaller fulfillment centers that offer curbside pickup options.
In reality, COVID-19 has already caused a shift in the holiday shopping window. In years past, Black Friday marked the official start of the retail season, but this year, Amazon pushed its Prime Day from its usual time in August until October. As a result, online sales have already begun to see an early holiday surge. Many long-time merchants are counting this year’s late Prime Day as the new start to the holiday rush. The idea is catching on across the e-commerce sphere; according to USA Today, 25% of shoppers are purchasing their holiday gifts early.
We’ve seen an undeniable trend emerge over the last decade, evidenced by the monolithic rise of e-commerce. With each passing year online sales have increased by leaps and bounds. Going into 2020, e-commerce comprised nearly 11%, or $187 billion dollars, of the US retail economy. Millennials have led the charge; they are the first generation to grow up with widespread access to the internet their whole lives. They’ve also directly experienced the evolution of smartphones and mobile devices. Online shopping is second nature to their demographic.
E-commerce has become integrated into daily life through the efforts of millennials, and online shopping and other virtual functions have proliferated to adjacent demographics, like Baby Boomers. The technology involved has become more widely accepted to the point of being considered mainstream. The end result? Companies like Amazon are becoming a $280 billion dollar a year business. With the pandemic’s quarantines and lockdown measures disrupting more traditional sales channels, e-commerce is likely to see an additional spike in growth by the end of the year.
Consumers, again led the millennial demographic, are turning towards voice assistants like Alexa to further streamline their virtual shopping experience. According to Emarketer, nearly 39% of the US population uses a voice assistant to help them perform important household tasks, including purchasing household necessities. According to Statista, there are over 90,000 different devices that are capable of running a voice assistant, and those devices are in the hands of affluent millennials entering the prime of their lives and in many cases the height of their careers.
COVID-19 hasn’t just changed the retail sphere. Younger demographics, especially those with college degrees that work in technology-adjacent jobs, have seen their entire lifestyle radically altered this past year. The Coronavirus has turned their homes into offices, classrooms, and workspaces. According to Pymtns.com, busy, multitasking millennials used voice assistants to make 14% of their purchases while engaged in other household tasks.
Given the fact that COVID-19’s numbers are still surging, the voice commerce channel is positioned to have its biggest holiday season yet. As voice assistants like Alexa become more deeply embedded in our daily lives, a wider range of people have begun relying on the power and convenience of voice-assisted web searches to carry out basic household functions. For e-commerce merchants, now is the perfect time to begin integrating voice shopping functions into your online storefront. With Reps powerful platform you can enable your customers to let Alexa do their shopping for them.
Rep makes the customer experience simple, easy, and intuitive. Customers can ask Alexa to add items to their cart, find product descriptions, locate comparable products, and even find aggregated reviews from around the web. Rep can help merchants provide an outstanding customer experience during a holiday season that promises to be record-breaking. For more information or to request a demo of the Rep platform, please contact us today.