The holidays are fast approaching; it's crunch time. As you make your final preparations it's good to take another look at what to expect.
As someone who does a lot of forecasting, I like to look at historical information about holiday sales to identify trends. We can then make assumptions about what to expect over the next three months.
I’ve found examples of this from leading research, analyst, and industry firms. From this information, these are the top six trends that e-commerce should expect in 2017.
1. Holiday Sales Will Continue to Climb
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail sales in November and December will increase 3.6% to 4% over last year. If this projection holds true it will mean the continuation of a nine-year streak!
2. Black Friday and Cyber Monday Won’t Be As Distinct
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been significant and distinct days for holiday shopping, but that’s changing. The continued growth of online shopping paired with multi-day sales is creating a more flat revenue experience for retailers. Going beyond 2017, retailers should expect something more like Cyber November.
Forbes Magazine contributor, Steven Barr commented on the consumer side of this trend saying,
For consumers shopping during Thanksgiving week, only 35% of them will do the majority of their shopping on Black Friday, compared with 51% last year and 59% in 2015. When we probed further, we found that consumers who used to shop on Black Friday are now spreading out their shopping fairly evenly throughout the week because they have a variety of other options for sales and discounts.
Source: PwC 2017 Holiday Outlook
3. Mobile Shopping Is Officially Significant
According to Adobe Digital Insights, mobile e-commerce traffic eclipsed all other sources during the primary shopping days of the holiday season. Consumers are gaining more trust for shopping on mobile devices and using them even when in-store to compare prices and read reviews. This year, retailers should expect customers to use their smartphones before, during, and after shopping online and off.
4. Consumers Expect Personalized Shopping Experiences
Leading consultant firm, Gartner, has been spreading the word about personalization. Even their Instagram account mentions “By 2020, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase their profits by up to 15%.”
You’ve probably heard a lot about creating personal, optimized experiences for shoppers in order to increase lift or improve other key marketing KPIs. Personalization is all about creating a better shopping experience for the customer. It’s no longer an optional feature for an e-commerce site to have—it’s an essential part of the business. Surveys show that a shopper is at risk to leave a retail e-commerce shop over bad personalization just as they might for uncompetitive pricing or poor shipping deals.
5. Shipping Should Be Free Rather Than Fast
In a Deloitte survey, customers responded that free shipping was by far the most important element when shopping online, and 9 in 10 shoppers prioritize free shipping over fast shipping when shopping online.
The NRF reported in the 2017 Retail Holiday Planning Playbook that "nine in 10 shoppers said something convinced them to make a purchase that they may have been hesitant about (either in-store or online). Of those who said they were swayed, 64 percent said it was by an offer of free shipping."
*Graphic from NRF 2017 Retail Holiday Planning Playbook
6. More Online Retailers Will Adopt Machine Learning
Machine learning technology is increasingly essential for retailers to compete in e-commerce. Traditionally, this kind of technology has been left to technology companies. But today, machine learning is more accessible and has more commercial applications in e-commerce.
What this means for the 2017 holiday season is that winners and losers will be chosen based on their adoption of machine learning in their e-commerce strategy. For example, winners will use machine learning to expedite A/B testing at scale; losers will manually perform a limited number of A/B tests. It’s the difference between traveling by car or by foot: machine learning will drive retailers much farther, much faster than those who don’t use it.
You can use machine learning to segment and target holiday shoppers with converting messages. Request a free consultation to find out more.