These 6 Trends Will Impact The 2015 Holiday Shopping Season. Are You Ready?

These 6 Trends Will Impact The 2015 Holiday Shopping Season. Are You Ready?
featureIt’s the most wonderful time of the year for retailers! But is your ecommerce store ready for an increase in traffic and demand from mobile devices? And how can you add an extra personal touch to your customers’ holiday shopping experience?

To help you stay ahead of the trends that could impact your online sales this year, I’ve put together a list of what some industry experts are recommending for the 2015 holiday shopping season.

Make sure to check it twice to ensure your business ends up on your customers’ nice versus naughty list.

1. Capitalize on the Growth of Mobile Sales

Overall, 2015 will be a strong year for holiday retail sales. In fact, a recent eMarketer article reveals that

“the months of November and December 2015 will increase 5.7% year over year, reaching $885.70 billion. That’s an upward adjustment from the 3.2% growth rate predicted earlier this year—and the highest since the 6.3% rise in 2011.”

Image via eMarketer

As the chart above indicates, ecommerce sales (as a percentage of overall retail sales) are expected to remain flat at 14% this year. But the big news, according to eMarketer, is that 2015 mobile holiday transactions will rise 32% year over year – more than double the ecommerce prediction.

Likewise, eMarketer data indicates that smartphones will be the most popular way to shop via mobile 

“as consumers become more comfortable buying on their phones—which, on average, have larger screens than those released just a few years ago…and by the end of 2016, 25.0% of all retail ecommerce sales in the U.S. will take place via mobile devices.”

Image via eMarketer

To stay ahead of this trend – not only for the holidays but into 2016 and beyond –  it’s important to have a website that customers can access on any mobile device of their choosing. Likewise, the experience on each device should be as easy to use and view as via a desktop browser.

So, if you don’t already have a mobile responsive website, it’s time to start building one because themes are optimized for any screen layout or resolution.

2. The 2015 Holiday Season Is Prime Time to Test Social Commerce

Over the past year, many social networks, including: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube have begun introducing “buy” buttons that make it easier for consumers to purchase directly from these platforms – on any device.

With the holidays just around the corner, now is the time to start testing out social buy buttons because activity on social networks is expected to increase significantly online – especially during heavy purchasing days like Cyber Monday. And since you likely already use social media to engage with your customers, you can now sell in real-time as you interact with them online.

In case you weren’t aware, Shopify has recently inked deals with Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to allow merchants to begin using buy buttons. So, you can now help your customers to discover and buy your products without ever having to leave their favourite social networks.

Everything that you need to publish your products, accept orders, and manage your business on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest is provided by Shopify.

To add the buy buttons to your ecommerce store, visit the “sales channels” section within your Shopify account settings and simply click “add channel.”

To help you develop your social buy buttons strategy, here’s a handy infographic that breaks down the sales impact from each social network.

3. High Volume Shopping Days Will Increase Demand on Your Website and Inventory

From Black Friday, to Cyber Monday, Green Monday and Boxing Day in Canada, there are a lot of days leading up to Christmas where consumers will be shopping for deals online.

As the chart below from IBM Digital Analytics indicates, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest online shopping days leading up to the holidays in 2014. In addition, IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark Data shows that “Cyber Monday had the strongest shopper engagement with the longest average session length, highest new visitor conversion and lowest bounce rate” for U.S. retailers last year.

Image via IBM Ecommerce Holiday Retail Readiness Report

Likewise, consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier and earlier than ever before. In fact, many experts now refer to Black Friday as “Gray Friday” instead because retailers started offering Black Friday discounts online well before the actual day.

While you need to have a plan for offering and promoting deals to customers on Gray Friday, Cyber Monday or any other significant holiday shopping day, you also need to ensure that your website and inventory can handle an increase in demand on those important dates.

Last year, even big box stores like Best Buy were vulnerable when an influx of online traffic – much higher than they anticipated for Black (or Gray) Friday, eventually crashed the website. Not only did Best Buy lose out on sales that day, but they also had to handle a major PR crisis.

So, it’s important to ensure that the ecommerce platform that you use can handle an increase in visitor traffic and/or any major customer security issues that may arise during this peak traffic season.

You should also to pay attention to how fast your website loads across various user devices (like laptops, smartphones and tablets).

The latest research shows that customers are only willing to wait up to 3 seconds for a page to load before leaving your site for one of your competitors. And if the mobile experience is sub-par, they will also likely ditch your site and shop for the same or similar products on a more user-friendly website.

4. It’s Not Just Business, It’s Personal

Image via Pixabay

Because consumers can easily navigate over to a competitor’s site with the click of their mouse or swipe of their finger, personalization is the key to making your online customers feel like they are valued and appreciated – especially during the crazy holiday rush when people are in a time crunch to find the perfect gift.

In fact, a recent Traf-Sys survey found that “consumers are more likely to make a purchase if a retailer provides targeted and personalized offers.” Likewise, “50% of shoppers want their personal information to be used to coordinate a better overall shopping experience, and that number continues to rise,” said James Green in a recent Marketing Land post.

And Shopify partner Demac Media argues that “personalization will also help with your retention, and assist in acquiring potential new customers. Brand loyalty is up-for grabs this holiday season, with consumers willing to make a change and buy from a new retailer.”

To make your customer experience personal and engaging during the holidays, here are 3 tips to consider:

  • Customize your email messages by referring to your customers by name and even mentioning a purchase or item that they liked on your site recently. Likewise, don’t overload them with emails all of the time. Make sure that the content that you send them is relevant and not overly spammy.

  • Test and monitor results for optimization. You can try segmenting your email lists and A/B testing different templates to see which one works best for your customers. Likewise, you should closely monitor open and click through rates, plus email opt-outs to ensure that you providing the best possible personalized messages.

  • Add a human touch. Some retailers, like Canadian menswear ecommerce business Frank & Oak include a hand-written note with all of their shipments – thanking their customers for their business. But there are many other ways to show that there are human beings on the other side of a customer’s online order confirmation. So, get creative and use the holiday season as a way to turn a first-time customer into a long-time buyer.

For more trends and ideas about personalizing the online customer shopping experience, check out this recent post.

5. Amazon Migrations and Integrations

In case you haven’t heard, Amazon Webstore owners are now being provided with an easy solution to migrate over to the Shopify platform. And with the holidays fast approaching, now is the time to make sure that everything is running smoothly.

If you are a U.S. Shopify merchant, make sure to check out Shopify’s new integration opportunities with the Amazon payment and shipping services.

Yes, that’s right! You can now allow you customers to pay for your products with their Amazon account. To enable this feature for your customers, go to the payment settings in your Shopify admin.

Likewise, you can now save time and money by taking advantage of Shopify’s new partnership with Amazon’s international shipping fulfillment centres.

Finally, make sure to check back with this blog in a few weeks as we may have further announcements about how to sell your products via the Amazon sales channel.

6. Thinking Offline: Pop-Up Stores Are More Popular Than Ever

Even if your retail business is exclusively online, you may want to consider going offline with a pop-up shop this holiday season.

Recent stats reveal that “in the next 12 months, the industry will grow by 8.4 per cent internationally.” Likewise, U.S. “pop-up businesses now form part of an industry worth $8 billion dollars (US) with an annual growth rate of 16 per cent.”

The reason so many retail businesses are jumping onto the trend is that it gives you an opportunity to get closer to your customers through a new brand touchpoint and to provide a unique customer experience.

The holiday season is a great time to offer exclusive in-store deals and promotions for your best customers – while also giving you a chance to talk to them face-to-face and gather helpful feedback about your online store.

Check out the video below for even more information about how a pop-up shop can help you to grow your business.

Some of the key takeaways from the video include:

  1. Focus on your primary goals for launching the pop-up shop so that you can tailor the customer experience to meet your targets.

  2. Test and experiment to see what’s working well and/or quickly adapt your store to improve the overall customer experience. You could also test in a new market, or try out new brand extensions or new products in an isolated environment to gather data and feedback on whether it will fly with a larger customer base.

  3. Turn your customers into brand evangelists through the unique experience that you offer to them. Your goal is to make such an amazing impression on them that they rave about their recent in-store brand experience to their friends and family.

For even more information on how to set-up a successful holiday in-store experience, check out this ultimate guide to pop-up shops.

Whether you run a small mom and pop shop, or you are a large retailer, customers have come to expect a certain level of service and experience online – across all ecommerce websites, devices and brand touchpoints. So, it’s important to ensure your business is on trend this holiday season in order to wow new customers and keep them coming back in the New Year.

Have a tip or question about 2015 holiday ecommerce trends? Please share in the comments section below.

About The Author

Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who writes about Canadian SMEs, marketing and digital media trends. Follow her on Twitter.