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How to Manage a Second Holiday Season in a Pandemic

It’s hard to believe we are heading into a second holiday season during a worldwide pandemic, but here we are. If you are wondering how to prepare and guide your business through another end-of-year retail cycle, you are not alone. Last year’s shopping habits and behaviors were unpredictable, given the unprecedented events happening globally. Fluctuations with the economy, supply chain and workforce issues and the volatility of dealing with an ongoing global health crisis may allow for continuing market instability. Take the lessons learned from last season and apply them to planning and execution for this year and beyond.


What Happened Last Year?

Looking back at 2020’s holiday retail statistics, sales rose 32.5% resulting in $185.88 billion in revenue. Forecasts predict that in 2021, sales will increase by 2.7% for a total of $1.093 trillion, and 18% of those sales will be from eCommerce purchases.

Last year’s Black Friday eCommerce sales broke records, and forecasts predict a 23% increase in online purchases for 2021. An Adweek survey found that nearly half of shoppers began purchasing prior to typical holiday online sales and continued this pattern through the end of the year. This resulted in a significant 47% increase in eCommerce sales. Additionally, shoppers went mobile. Over half of digital holiday revenue came from smartphones.


Looking at Consumer Spending in 2021

2021’s holiday shopping season is on track to start earlier than ever. Nearly one out of every five holiday purchases were made online last year and 69% of shoppers planned to shop for the holidays early to avoid long shipping times and out-of-stock items. Expect much of the same this year, with the roles of brick-and-mortar stores and digital reversing, as nearly 75% of buyers and sellers prefer digital options for convenience, speed, and safety. Additionally, shoppers are flocking to social media for purchases, allowing for a predicted growth of social commerce to 4.3% of all eCommerce sales this year. Finally, mobile purchases have increased by 61% annually.


What’s Motivating Shoppers?

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Given concerns about health and safety, many shoppers have shifted to the ease and convenience of curbside pickup, delivery services and shipping directly to their homes. More than half of consumers prefer brands that offer both flexible delivery options and delivery assurances. As the holiday season approaches, those shoppers will be looking for deals and free shipping. 49% of U.S. consumers will be expecting discounts for holiday shopping. Brand reputation, product quality and service and personal care are still drivers, and shoppers now expect brands to understand and accommodate their needs during times of disruptive change.

Possible Setbacks

Shutterstock; Photo by Edmund Lowe Photography

As more viral variants emerge, thus extending the pandemic, we must consider how to address lingering problems. Economic issues come into play, as this year there is likely to be less government assistance and possibly continued job losses. Supply chain issues still aren’t rectified in many cases, which leads to fulfillment and shipping problems, as does the dearth of qualified customer service agents to address shopper’s concerns. This offers an opportunity for brands to strategize how to manage setbacks in advance of the holiday season and prepare appropriately, from hiring and training skilled customer service agents to ordering surplus product in order to avoid shortages.


How to Prepare for the 2021 Holiday Season

Use last year’s data and insights to help you prepare more efficiently this year. In 2020, we were adapting as fast as we could to significant changes worldwide. Now with time and experience under our belts, we are more prepared to understand the challenges ahead and adapt appropriately. Here’s some tips on what to consider:


What’s Ahead for 2022 – Predictions

Shutterstock; Photo by AlexMaster

Keep it simple. You want your customers to easily access your products, services, and teams, if necessary. Meet them where they find you, whether that’s on their smartphones, your website, or social platforms. Give them the promotional deals they want and help get their purchases to them on time. Don’t forget that human touch by offering excellent customer service. And finally, be flexible and able to pivot quickly if the market demands it.

With the lessons learned from last year, you have ample opportunity to be more prepared this holiday season. Work with your teams to develop efficient workflows and processes to ensure you give your customers exactly what they need, when they need it. Offer more than they expect, with ease of use, personalization, and promotions, discounts, and shipping deals. There’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic since you now know the drill. It could be your best holiday sales year ever, so don’t waste another minute. Get started today!

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