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‘Tis the season to think differently: Five ways to reimagine holiday retail in 2020

The 2020 holiday shopping season - like pretty much every other moment this year - will feel quite different.

As the world continues to adapt to the necessary changes brought about by COVID-19, many retailers are looking at this season as a pivotal opportunity to reclaim lost sales and reinstate some of the festivity and joy that typically deck the halls of brick and mortar stores. With expertise in the world of in-person experiences and activations, Set Creative has recently reintroduced moments of consumer connections for both LEGO® and Nespresso. We are confident that opportunities abound for retailers to create safe, engaging in-store and retail activations and brand experiences that deliver results and create meaningful connections.

We’ve put together a few thought starters that foster connection and add value to the in-person shopping experience this holiday season.

1) Lighten the sleigh’s load

As online shopping continues to explode in popularity, there is a real risk of packages not being delivered on time for the holidays this year. A recent article by Salesforce predicts that ‘Last-Mile Delivery’ could run out of capacity, leading to potentially 700 million undelivered gifts. Physical retailers should lean into this in a few different ways:

  • Act as fulfilment centres: let customers choose to pick up their gifts in-store, or via curbside pick up to avoid the need for delivery services. Incidentally, this pick-up can be another opportunity for small surprise and delight moments, like a warm hot chocolate.
  • Use online sales to drive people in-store by offering incentives for pickup, like free gift-wrapping or special offers.

Consider unconventional delivery partnerships: in the UK, we helped cosmetics brand Benefit partner with food delivery app Deliveroo to have makeup (and a delicious surprise) shipped to customers via their fleet of scooter and bicycle messengers.

2) Holiday pageantry

Department stores have known for decades the pulling power of a theatrical window display during the holidays. From AR to motion-sensing components, from analogue installations to digital content screens, there are so many interactive tools to make your retail windows not just a location, but a destination. E-Commerce will struggle to compete with the magic of discovery by foot.

3) Lean into family holiday traditions

The 2020 holiday season will be made all the more difficult by a loss of normality: many people and families will not be heading home to see their loved ones, and therefore missing out on all the traditions that go along with this annual pilgrimage. These moments are special, and retailers can step in to bridge the gap via thoughtful in-store experiences. For example:

  • Offer seasonal comfort food and beverages: from hot chocolates to decorate-your-own-cookies, egg-nog to candy canes, consider how you can use little seasonal surprise and delight moments to increase dwell times. But remember: think single-serve, recyclable packaging, socially distancing and personal safety above all.
  • Create experiences that can be enjoyed across generations: moments that both parents and grandparents can share with their children and grandchildren.

In 2019, we created the “Run Merry” photo installation for Brooks, to celebrate the launch of their ‘Ugly Sweater’ Christmas sneakers. This activation brought full-sized, interactive snow globes into stores to let families capture the perfect holiday photograph to share with loved ones: a powerful gesture going into this holiday period that can bring generations together.

4) Save Santa a stop and treat yourself

While out and about shopping for friends and family, consumers should be encouraged by retailers to adopt a ‘one for them, one for me’ mentality. This could take the form of BOGOF type promotions, ‘bundled’ collections of goods, or even complimentary gift sets: imagine buying your partner new running shoes, and picking up a pair for yourself at a discount. Personalization can play a key part here too: we helped Converse create pop-up holiday stores across four cities where teens could decorate and personalize a pair of classic Chuck Taylors. Our space featured curated brand kits, customized patches and working counters where young consumers personalized their Chucks alongside brand ambassadors - one pair for you, one for me.

5) Maximize outdoor (parking) spaces

The pandemic has seen a massive rise in ‘in-car’ experiences, spurred by the social distancing and safety consumers feel when experiencing something from the safety of their own vehicle. This presents a fascinating opportunity for retailers with space to spare to introduce drive around shopping (think mall or big box parking lots). Take the logic of the traditional aisle based shopping experience, and scale it up, allowing guests a playful shopping experience where they drive the aisles, have assistants pop the items in the trunk, and then pay on the way out.