Tips for selling online in the holidays during the pandemic

Nov 11 2020 | PayPal editorial staff

Covid-19 has changed how we live and how we shop. For businesses, there’s a big opportunity to optimise online sales, but you need to prepare for all aspects of consumers’ shift to online. Is your business ready for the new normal?
As the holiday season approaches, even more people will be shopping online and sending gifts to loved ones they can’t visit. The pattern looks set to continue during 2021 as the pandemic continues its uncertain path. That means more online shopping and more gifts sent abroad for Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Eid, Singles Day and every other celebration.

But, how has Covid-19 affected the way you do business? And, how do you make sure your business is ready to make the most of seasonal sales all year round?

Here are some suggestions for gaining growth in the new normal.

5 ways Covid-19 may have changed your business.

  1. More customers are shopping online. Local lockdowns and quarantines, along with concerns over health and hygiene, mean there are fewer shoppers in physical stores. When shopping locally, more shoppers are using click-and-collect and contactless payment options to reduce health risks.1 When shopping online, shoppers are increasingly confident in shopping across borders, finding new products they love from other countries. Even in 2019, before Covid-19, shoppers spent an estimated US$412 billion on cross-border purchases.2
  2. Customers are increasingly value-conscious. As the economic future looks uncertain, many shoppers are looking for bargains or lower-priced alternatives to their usual brands.3 For example, nearly half of shoppers in India and Korea, and a third of shoppers in China, say they are changing to less expensive products to save money.4
  3. …And sticking with the new brands they try. Over 4 out of 5 global consumers plan to stick with the new brands they tried during lockdown.5
  4. Many ecommerce businesses have suffered logistics problems. The sudden surge in online buying, coupled with staff shortages through illness or isolation, has left 86% of ecommerce businesses saying logistics and supply chain are their top challenges.6
  5. …contributing to unexpected problems with customer relationships and reputation. In a recent survey, nearly two-thirds of ecommerce businesses had experienced issues and nearly all businesses surveyed had seen an increase in customer complaints.7
With these considerations in mind, how do you make sure your business is ready for success during the holiday sales?

10 ways to enhance your customers’ experience

One thing to consider is ensuring your business has the capacity to serve a higher volume of customers while still delivering the experience that keeps them coming back. Businesses need to be mindful that an increase in online sales can also mean an increase in complaints and disputes if not managed carefully.
  1. Review your site for errors. A poor experience knocks shoppers’ confidence, so walk through your site like a customer searching for broken links, missing images and spelling mistakes.
  2. Provide full and fair product descriptions. No-one likes being disappointed, so make sure you give accurate descriptions of the products you sell. For example, what functionality does the product offer, what size is it (include international sizing for clothing), what fabric is it made of, etc.
  3. Streamline your checkout. Make it quick and simple for shoppers to check out, especially on a mobile device. Remove unnecessary and potentially frustrating steps such as asking people to sign up for your newsletter or create an account during the purchase process. Using solutions like PayPal can help enable a simple checkout for customers buying from abroad which means that customers don’t need to keep typing in personal and payment details.
  4. Display signs of trust on your homepage. Help new customers feel safe when buying on your site. Display the PayPal logo or checkout buttons on your homepage or product page – about 57% of online shoppers are likely to purchase if PayPal is visible.8 Other trust signs include security badges (such as SSL certification), membership of professional bodies and third-party endorsements. These signs are helpful in boosting shoppers’ confidence in a seller they have not heard of when purchasing abroad.
  5. Always provide accurate delivery times on your site. Make it easy for shoppers to find the shipping and delivery information they need. Clearly state if shipping times will vary for deliveries to different countries and be conservative – don’t over-promise on delivery times. Remember that during busy buying periods, customers will want things quicker, while your carriers are likely to be busier, so set realistic expectations to avoid complaints. Aim for your international delivery times to always be less than 20 days.
  6. Use reliable delivery services. Internationally known brand names like DHL, FedEx, UPS etc. will give confidence to your customers, especially those buying or sending gifts from different countries. If these are too expensive, be sure to check the credentials of the shipper you choose. For example, which well-known brands do they work with, how many packages do they ship internationally each year, etc. Consider building relationships with two or more couriers so that you can always provide a reliable service to your customers.
  7. Always use tracking IDs. Whichever shipping service you use, always ensure you have enabled a tracking ID when you ship goods. If the shipping service offers online tracking, it’s good practice to share the ID with your customer so they can follow their parcel’s progress. A tracking ID also allows you to respond to any query, complaint or a claim for late (or failed) delivery with information on where the package is.
  8. Have a great process for returns and refunds. Try to prevent complaints and payment disputes with a great returns process. Many businesses now offer a “no questions asked” returns policy, often with free return shipping, and promoting this sort of policy on your website can help give customers the confidence to buy. Set up a process so that customers can easily return goods and receive a credit, exchange or refund. A well-handled complaint can often result in increased customer loyalty.
  9. Handle complaints quickly. Some businesses put off dealing with complaints until they have time to handle them all at once. However, a prompt and courteous response can minimise chargebacks, claims and disputes that can damage your reputation. Always respond quickly to any messages on the PayPal Resolution Centre.
  10. Have a dedicated customer service team. Make sure you have enough people to quickly handle any customer service issues, however busy you get. Make it easy for shoppers to find your contact details and consider offering online chat as an easy way for customers to raise issues with you. If you are unable to have a dedicated customer service team, then make sure can deal with any requests in a timely manner. Set auto-replies on emails, web contact forms, chatbots and social media informing customers that you will respond within a certain timeframe, if you’re unable to reply immediately.
These ideas should help you to make the most of seasonal sales during the pandemic by delivering a better shopping experience to keep your customers happy. To understand more about how PayPal can support your business, visit PayPal Business.


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1 Nielsen (2020), How Americans are shopping during COVID-19,
2 PayPal (2020), PayPal Borderless Commerce Report,
3 McKinsey & Company (2020), Consumer sentiment is evolving as countries around the world begin to reopen, (a study of consumer sentiment across 42 countries, June 2020),
4 McKinsey & Company (2020), Consumer sentiment is evolving as countries around the world begin to reopen
5 Bazaarvoice (2020), Behavior that Sticks,
6 PayPal (2020), Hong Kong Merchant Survey. An independent study conducted by Edelman Intelligence on behalf of PayPal Hong Kong.
7 PayPal (2020), Hong Kong Merchant Survey. An independent study conducted by Edelman Intelligence on behalf of PayPal Hong Kong.
8 Ipsos MORI Conjoint Research (2018). Methodology: Online survey conducted across seven markets (UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, US, Australia, Brazil) with 1,500 respondents per market/10,500 total respondents (boost in Brazil to ensure 500 PayPal users), including 6,930 PayPal users. Respondents were online shoppers who have made a purchase in the last month.
The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. The information in this article does not constitute legal, financial, IT, business or investment advice of any kind and is not a substitute for any professional advice. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, IT and legal advice before making any business decision.

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