At this point in the year, you likely haven’t given your holiday shopping much thought. For retail stores across the country however, Black Friday is already top of mind.

A couple of weeks ago, Walmart announced it would close its stores on Thanksgiving Day to give its employees a break from the stressful year and that it would release its Black Friday plans shortly. Not long after, Target, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods and more joined the movement and shared their plans to close for the holiday as well. There is no doubt that this year’s kick off to holiday shopping will look very different. And frankly, the change shouldn’t be surprising.

Consider the notorious imagery of Black Friday: The blitzkrieg of shoppers clamoring through store entrances, the struggle between customers as they jostle for the last tv on the shelf — these scenes make for great YouTube videos, but probably aren’t the wisest of endeavors amid a pandemic. Such festivities would be an optical nightmare for the stores involved and put essential employees at an even greater health risk than the one they currently face.

What comes next?

So how will these megastores quell the crowds?

There are some options that don’t involve shutting down physical shopping entirely. Limiting shopping hours, imposing limited store capacities and enforcing social distancing via increased security are all possible approaches, as are curbside pickup options. However, the most feasible approach might be to expand the window for holiday deals. This year, Target shoppers will be able to take advantage of holiday deals before Halloween, and it is likely that Target’s competitors will follow suit. Coincidentally, Amazon Prime Day also is expected to occur this October after it was pushed back due to the pandemic.

Regardless of which approach these megastores take, e-commerce will be embraced by all.

Online shopping has skyrocketed in 2020 thanks in part to the pandemic. Online sales in June were up 76% year over year compared to June 2019. Although this boost in e-commerce is expected to dip slightly as stores reopen, it will undoubtedly have a huge impact on holiday shopping this year. It is important to recognize that although COVID-19 has fast-tracked the rise of e-commerce, it didn’t create this trend. Last Black Friday, more shoppers made their purchases online than in physical stores, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

How can marketers prepare?

Now is the time to give your online shopping experience a rigorous review while being conscious of an impending increase in web traffic. More customers will be flocking to your online shopping spaces than ever before, and you can’t afford to turn anyone away for maintenance.

If you advertise on platforms like Facebook, be prepared for a drastic increase in competition. This year will arguably be the most competitive season yet for online ad spending, and although a variety of large brands have taken a hiatus from Facebook advertising, it is doubtful that they will hold out through the holiday season. Be prepared for increased competition and costs as rising demand hikes up the price of ad spending.

Brands will look back on the 2020 holiday shopping season as an outlier in many ways, but don’t expect next year’s holiday season to return to normal. Personally, I don’t think we will ever see the physical shopping madness of Black Friday return to full form (which might be for the best). As shoppers familiarize themselves with online ordering and become accustomed to the streamlined e-commerce process, e-commerce will only build upon its meteoric rise. In-store shopping will undoubtedly return, but as we emerge from this pandemic, some things will never be the same.