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US Retailers Must Prepare For Q4 Amid Pandemic Disruption


Q4 contributes a significant part of many retailers’ annual revenues and profits. As of mid-Q3, factors like high unemployment, a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, short-term and permanent store closures, and the expiration of the US Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program are making it challenging for US retailers to plan for Q4. We’ve created a collection of research to help retailers and brands plan for the coming months and prepare their stores for both customer and employee well-being.

The Big Picture

Retailers and brands are navigating uncharted waters as they enter the all-important Q4 period. In Forrester’s August 2020 US COVID-19 Retail Consumer Survey, three out of five US online consumers told us that they haven’t even thought about the holidays yet; but as they do look ahead, one-quarter of US online adults anticipate spending less this year than last for holiday shopping, and one in five worry about going into stores due to holiday crowds. For retailers and brands, costs are rising: Shippers like UPS and USPS have announced fees and surcharges for certain holiday shipments. Finally, competition for holiday spend will be fierce, especially as Amazon hasn’t yet announced the date of its much-anticipated annual Prime Day bonanza. As such, in their Q4 planning scenarios, merchants must continually update economic, health/infection, consumer sentiment, and other significant cost and market factors.

The In-Store Consumer Experience

With just two months before November 1, retailers must update their customer and employee in-store experiences — from contactless payments and redesigned physical spaces to employee health checks and store associate enablement tools. Retailers must also think through changing weather conditions, the strain on logistics and costs to meet rising online orders, and crowd management during (normally) some of the heaviest shopping days of the year.

For more insights and advice, read our collections on technology priorities and the employee experience during the pandemic.

Not a Forrester client? Visit our COVID-19 hub for further insight on responding, managing, and leading during a pandemic.



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