Attracting last-minute shoppers: the mission of retailers | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Attracting last-minute shoppers: the mission of retailers

4 April, 2021

The retailers need more preparation for a festive shopping season than any other time in a particular year. This was the common and familiar opinion of retailers until the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020. Since then, the pandemic has dominated the globe creating many hardships to the communities around the world. The gravity of the pandemic remains the same as yet, despite the emergence of several vaccines. Hence, it is no surprise that the impact will affect the coming festive season in Sri Lanka. 

The pandemic has altered almost all aspects of consumers’ existence. Everyday activities were restricted, travel restrictions were imposed, schools were closed, and in-person events were canceled with many other restraints that came into effect in the country. This, in turn, heavily affected the buying behaviour of customers; how they spent money, and what they spent it on. 

Even though the spread of coronavirus is satisfactorily controlled in the country as per the daily figures, the danger is still looming around. The restrictions imposed through various gazette notifications and the guidelines by the health authorities will be effective for a considerable period into the future. Everyone now knows that the virus is extremely dangerously contagious and can surface anytime and anywhere if people drop the guard.  

As a result, the shoppers are likely to move into holiday shopping even earlier than usual. The idea seems practical as both the retailers and shoppers may be looking forward to tackling their shopping experience safely. 

After missing two consecutive shopping seasons, consumers are keen to tap into the good feeling of brick-and-mortar shopping. Although e-commerce has taken a step forward during the height of the pandemic, the typical Sri Lankan customer prefers to visit retailers for their needs, particularly for holiday season items. 

Factually, even though the chances of engaging in shopping as they have done during pre-covid-19 are thin, almost everyone is looking forward to having a firsthand experience in retail stores in the coming season.  An international survey has revealed that 81% of the buyers will shop in physical stores during holiday seasons around the world.    


However, retailers will face  a situation where the customers will likely spend less overall. Also, they are likely to visit fewer retailers to purchase. Therefore, value is going to be the key factor this season for retailers. Nevertheless, value does not mean discounts, incentives, or free add-ons this season, but for many shoppers, convenience, efficiency, and safety will be important elements. 

A covid-secure shopping experience will be a must for physical retailing this season. Along with the constant and consistent warnings and reminders through the media, there is no doubt that shoppers will be looking for safety.  Hence, the focus will be on buying their needs in the safest and the most efficient manner possible. 

In Sri Lanka, many retailers have already built safety processes including the wearing of masks, social distancing inside stores, hand washing facilities, and offering hand sanitisers for the incoming foot traffic. However, the issue is that at times consumers who shop in retail stores disregard social distancing although they adhere to other safety measures. A vast majority of the public at least wear masks in public places even if they are not that much concerned about washing hands or maintaining physical distance. 

One of the best things retailers can do to improve consumer footfall in the coming season is to instill confidence in their customers. Almost every customer who walks in will be concerned about the health and safety measures of the store. By clearly communicating the health safety measures taken even before stepping into the premises through any communication channel will be extremely effective. Displaying guidelines in multiple locations inside the store can be a simple but effective method. 

Full swing

It is the first Sunday of April and the shopping is likely to be heightened from now on. As everyone knows, customers purchase their gifts and other holiday needs usually before the 12th of the month. Hence, the coming week’s shopping will be in full swing, making a big chunk of shoppers flocking to retail stores. This is the best for almost every retailer who gets a chance of making more sales revenue.

Here are a few practical tips to assist retailers to attract and convert customers:

Speed and efficiency of the floor staff is critical to converting a last-minute customer. Customers themselves are aware that time is running out and they may not be considering a second shopping trip due to the prevailing health situation.  Therefore, retailers must make sure that they remove every friction point inside the store that can slow down the shopping experience. 

Store navigation and staff efficiency are crucial for last-minute selling before the season ends. Signage and  fixtures must be arranged in the best way possible. These arrangements do not cost much for a retailer, but they are exceedingly effective to make customers happy about the arrangements. The purpose is to make customers find their requirements quickly and easily and check-out as fast as possible.


Training your employees to clearly point out where customers can locate their gifts or other necessities can make customers more satisfied. When the efficiency of the staff is evident, it is more likely that they visit the store repeatedly even during the off-season as well.

Grouping items by category, but not by brands is another important tip for retailers during the last period of a season. Retailers have to display and make shelf-arrangements by giving priority to best-selling items rather than any other criteria. In other words, the retailer must identify which items drive the sales in the season and group them close. 

Most often customers do not patronise a retail store with a specific product in mind. They usually arrive in a store with a ballpark idea in mind and select the specific product after seeing an item in that category. Therefore, offering them all options make them happy and also convenient to the customer and the store equally. 

Creating a ‘grab and go’ section is a good strategy for festive time selling. A display of well-thought-out, low-cost gift items or everyday needs perhaps with a special price or a discount can bring-in additional revenue for the store. Usually, the area near the check-out counter is used for this display. Currently, almost every supermarket chain is practicing this strategy successfully. 

Finally, a customer-convenient check out process of the store must be developed by the retailers. Invariably, during rush hours in a festive season, a bottleneck is created at cashier counters, inconveniencing customers. The last thing a retailer needs is the customer getting agitated at the last minute. Regrettably, many retailers do not pay adequate attention to the issue. A frustrating check-out experience could lead to losing a customer forever. Therefore, the retailer must devise a proper system to increase efficiency at check-out points. 

There is no doubt that the New Year season this year is going to be different from previous occasions. As discussed earlier in the article, strict adherence to coronavirus guidelines is extremely important. Also, providing required facilities following health authorities will enhance customer confidence is imperative. Shoppers are eagerly looking forward to patronising retail stores this season after the long lapse. Convenience, efficiency, and value will be key elements for retail selling in this season.