How to create a festive experience during a COVID-19 Christmas

04 September 2020, 09:02 AM
  • Christmas 2020 may look different, but it could provide independent retailers with the perfect opportunity to be create a memorable shopping journey for customers
How to create a festive experience during a COVID-19 Christmas

Glistening lights and over-sized baubles hanging from the rafters, staff decked out in Santa hats, Merry Xmas Everybody playing over the speakers – it’s a familiar scene in many a food shop throughout the UK come winter. But 2020 won’t quite be a conventional Christmas. While we’re still expecting the traditional soundtrack – because there’s nothing like a bit of Wham! and Wizzard to lift the spirits – the impact of coronavirus means things may play out a bit differently this year.

With many of the multiples already announcing their festive ranges and John Lewis launching its online Christmas shop early due to customer demand, some retailers are making it perfectly clear to their customers that Christmas isn’t cancelled. And as a retailer or foodservice outlet, there’s certainly no reason you can’t spread good cheer despite the unprecedented year we’ve all had – in fact, quite the opposite.

So how can you create a festive atmosphere and magical experience for your customers this Christmas?

Deck the halls
Christmas often offers a sense of ‘escapism’ for people, but this year even more so, as many consumers may finally be spending time with friends and family, and treating themselves to a few comforting, traditional treats. As an independent retailer, it’s a great opportunity to help make Christmas extra special, particularly during a time when a growing sense of community is bringing people together.

Though business and consumer confidence are still making a comeback after lockdown, the festive period is likely to see consumer spend increase. As people become accustomed to wearing a face mask and pumping out hand sanitiser as they enter a shop, we may see plenty of people visiting their local retailer to stock up on Christmas treats and edible gifts as well as essentials for the big day.

For customers that do shop in-store, creating a festive environment will make their shopping experience with you that much more enjoyable. As with most years, retailers may jazz up their shop with the customary wreaths, create promotional Christmas posters and maybe even don red aprons and Santa hats. But this year, why not go one step further to put a smile on your customer’s faces – festive themed face masks, perhaps?

As with the previous months, your customers will also be looking to ensure you’re keeping customer and staff safety and hygiene in mind. Whilst it’s unknown what measures may be in place in the lead-up to Christmas, it’s likely that social distancing will still be important, so a safe and smooth customer journey is key. This could also present opportunities for retailers to get creative, perhaps by incorporating a Christmas journey with a one-way system throughout your shop: an express sleigh-ride from entrance to till.

The shopping experience goes beyond the atmospherics though, so consider the items you stock: you may consider creating a Coronavirus Christmas Box, featuring luxury treats for people to enjoy with friends and family.

Joy to the world wide web
You’ll no doubt be stocking up on exclusive products for the festive period, so remember to make the most of marketing and communications to showcase these items and inform your customers about what’s available. The way you engage with your customers will be hugely important to their festive experience this year, particularly for those who won’t be shopping in-store.

We know that online sales have been a lifeline for independent retailers since lockdown, and this sales channel will prove to be fruitful during the holiday season, too. You may not be able to give online shoppers the full-on experience they’d enjoy in-store, but that’s not to say you can’t create a magical journey online. Consider adding festive design elements to your website, adding new seasonal banners to promote exclusive products, and setting up a separate Christmas section in your e-shop. Visuals like this can go a long way in creating a more memorable shopping experience for your online visitors.

Christmas is often a stressful time, so many people may be looking for the convenience of home delivery as well as a click-and-collect service. For retailers that haven’t already done so, now could be the ideal time to set this up. Aside from offering home delivery of customers’ orders, you could also offer food hampers and care packages that customers can gift to friends or others in the local community, lovingly wrapped and hand-delivered to people’s doorstep.

Utilising social media and digital forms of communication like emails and newsletters will also add to your customer’s Christmas shopping experience. Make the most of these platforms while relaying messages around your Christmas stock, offers and services. Share details of any exclusive products you have in store with updates on when they’re likely to arrive or if stock is running low. Share personal thoughts on what makes your Christmas special. Or why not share family recipes for people to try at home, while incorporating products you’ll be stocking for the season?

This is also a great chance to communicate the story behind the brands that you sell, as they too may be doing something special for Christmas that may help you promote their products. What’s more, teaming up with brands you stock or suppliers you work with on social media is a great way to support other small businesses, help customers to become more connected with the products they’re buying, and reach potential new customers – it’s all about spreading good cheer!

Christmas 2020 brings with it a chance for celebration and a welcome relief from what’s been a whirlwind of a year. But as independent retailers prepare for a festive period that will be a far cry from normal, there are a host of opportunities to make this year’s Christmas shopping experience more magical and memorable than ever.

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