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Planning for the 2018 Holiday Season: 10 Ecommerce Trends To Consider

Planning for the 2018 Holiday Season: 10 Ecommerce Trends To Consider

Sep 6th 2018

As you get ready for the 2018 holiday season, it is always helpful to be on top of important trends, new technologies, and potential obstacles you might face. Here, we share 10 important trends in the ecommerce space that you can prepare for as you develop your marketing, sales and operational strategy for Q4.

1. Another strong 2018 retail season is expected. 

The 2017 holiday season was a banner year for retailers, especially ecommerce shops, which were up 17.9% from 2016. Similarly strong growth is forecasted for 2018, with holiday ecommerce sales expected to increase 15.3%! Consider this forecast when stocking up on raw materials, inventory, staffing your operations, preparing your website, and more.

2. Online shoppers now move seamlessly from mobile to desktop.

Customers switch between devices during their shopping journey. Mobile accounts for just 38% of online revenue, but represents 59% of all browsing sessions. Why? Consumers still like the ease and security of entering payment information on a PC, but they often shop, browse and make decisions on the go. Ecommerce sites must be optimized for mobile (read: move beyond simply being “mobile responsive”!) as well as desktop.

3. US trucking shortages continue. Plan ahead!

The US has been experiencing freight shortages for some time. Why? High freight demand, driver shortages (largely due to drivers aging out of their jobs), and increased regulations (such as the electronic logging devices mandate). All of this has resulted in low truck supply, a trend that is expected to continue and become even more problematic during the busy Q4 months. As you plan for inbound and outbound freight shipments, anticipate rising freight prices, delays and potential difficulties securing a carrier.

4. Online Shopping Stretches Out Beyond Individual Days.

Large ecommerce players now dish out deals in the days and even weeks leading up to Black Friday, turning this historically “single sale day” into a “week or month long sale event.” Plan your discounts and promotions accordingly.

This extended sales strategy also means that shopper and “deal” fatigue is a very real phenomenon. How to counteract? Make deals simple and compelling, avoiding bundling or more complex discounts such as “buy something and get X% of future purchases”. Don’t overextend the timeframe on deals. Give shoppers time, but set clear deadlines. And anticipate significant sales drop offs in the week following a deal.

5. The Amazon Effect Has Surprising Advantages.

Roughly half of all product searches now start on Amazon. But most small to mid-sized businesses have concerns about selling through Amazon - tight pricing, risks of showcasing a product directly alongside competitors, fear that Amazon will reject product in the future, etc.

What’s an independent ecommerce shop to do? Many use Amazon (and Amazon Advertising) as a discovery channel for their brand, showcasing a handful of top selling products for which they can afford to take a hit on pricing and margin. These companies ultimately aim to funnel subsequent customer sales through more profitable channels.

Additionally, more and more retailers and brands are piggybacking on thing like “Prime Days” (which Amazon last ran in July) to engage, connect, and drive loyalty among their own shoppers - and finding that the rising tide from Amazon raises all ecommerce ships. For example, outdoor retailer, EMS declared July’s Amazon Prime Day "Mountain Day;" active apparel brand, Rhone celebrated "Lime Day;" and Columbia Sportswear touted its own "Cyber Summer" sale.

6. Addressing Cart Abandonment is a Major Opportunity.

Up to 75% of ecommerce carts are abandoned! Customers abandon carts because they are looking but not ready to purchase (i.e. window shopping), they are comparison shopping, they have shipping concerns, they don’t like the payment options, or are having technical issues with the website.

During the holidays, online shoppers often add items to their cart as part of their gift searching process. During this time, they are more likely to go back and actually purchase those items, once they've finished their research process.

Do everything you can to remind shoppers of your site and products, and bring them back to complete their transaction. Install cookies and pixels on your website to strategically reach out to these potential customers - via emails and targeted advertising on social media.

7. Relevant personalization and strong customer service continue to be key drivers in building trust and increasing conversions.

75% of online shoppers are more likely to buy from a site that recognizes them by name, recommends products, and/or knows their purchase history. How can a small or mid-sized ecommerce take advantage of this phenomenon?

  • Chatbots for customer service
  • Product recommendations based on website and consumer behavior
  • Become an authentic information source, helping customers learn about your product and industry and comparison shop
  • Maintain humans at the center of customer service, even while using chatbots and search automation to support many consumer interactions.

8. Social Shopping Is On The Rise

Social media used to be where a companies brought on followers and established their brand, ultimately directing their community to ecommerce sites to make purchases. Today, companies that have invested in their social media base can and should begin selling and transacting directly through those channels, shortening the link between “search and discovery” and “purchase.” 30% of shoppers say they would want to make purchases directly through social media channels. When building out a multi-channel sales strategy that includes social shopping, consider Instagram Shoppable, Pinterest Buy Now Pins, or accepting payments via Facebook Messenger chatbots.

9. International Sales Cannot Be Ignored

Worldwide ecommerce sales will almost double in the next four years, and consumers everywhere are more and more willing to make purchases from shops outside their country. The top five countries for ecommerce sales include:

  • China: $672 billion
  • United States: $340 billion
  • United Kingdom: $99 billion
  • Japan: $79 billion
  • Germany: $73 billion

International business isn’t always as simple as accepting purchases from consumers worldwide. Some companies open themselves up to international shipping broadly, while others strategically identify a few target markets where they know they can be successful. Then, remember to address in advance the logistical issues that worldwide sales can introduce, such as: navigating local online payment preferences, translating websites into local languages, showing pricing in local currency, finding an international shipping partner, and dealing with local VAT taxes.

10. “Cyber Week 2” is a hidden opportunity.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s, aka “Cyber Week II”, is beginning to rival Black Friday as a sales opportunity - not to mention a way to help move end of year inventory. Shopping carts are just about the same size during this week as they are on Black Friday. During this week, customers are often shopping for themselves rather than for gifts, and are often purchasing items they found and were interested in while they were gift shopping earlier in the season. Retargeting and abandoned cart strategies during this week can be particularly effective.