The festive shopping season presents a prime opportunity for eCommerce retailers across sectors to increase brand awareness and boost their bottom line exponentially.
Commonly referred to in the industry as the Golden Quarter, the seasonal shopping period traditionally begins with Black Friday and concludes with the post-Christmas sales.
In our hyper-connected digital age, an increasing number of platforms, mediums and consumer touchpoints offer eCommerce businesses more opportunities than ever to connect with new customers and sell their products and services to an engaged, captivated audience.
Despite the small matter of a global pandemic in 2020, eCommerce sales are showing no signs of slowing down. In addition to the recent surge of online necessity buying seen since March, retailers are already seeing a surge in seasonal eCommerce sales as people begin to buy gifts for their loved ones early.
In fact, DHL Express has seen a 35% spike in online growth during 2020 and is forecasting a 50% increase of shipping volumes from last year. And experts project a 1.5% growth on global eCommerce sales from 2019 (which totalled a healthy $723 billion).
From these findings alone it''s clear that consumers have acquired a ferocious hunger for spending online, something that is now a traditional part of the holiday season.
Speaking on the subject, Jeff Wilke, CEO of Worldwide Consumer, said: "Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to break records on Amazon year over year, which tells us that customers love shopping for deals to kick off the holiday shopping season."
Here we'll explore the seasonal online spending phenomenon in more detail, offering insights and advice that will help you with your future digital marketing campaign efforts.
To illustrate the growing trend in seasonal online shopping across sectors and to highlight emerging industry trends, below are some seasonal eCommerce trends you should know about.
In the digital age, a growing number of consumers work with curated wish lists to help them with their seasonal shopping efforts.
A study conducted in October 2018 showed that those aged 18 to 29 were most likely to use a wish list when they shop, while the majority of those aged 60 and over (72%) tended not to use them in any facet.
Among the digitally native demographic, clothes, textiles and shoes were the most popular wish list items, closely followed by computer-related items and consumer electronics; with similar results for those aged 30 to 59.
Recent studies also show that 40% of consumers feel their online shopping experience is enriched when a brand offers a wishlist, with 63% of smartphone users stating they are more likely to purchase from companies whose sites or apps provide personal recommendations.
It appears that for older shoppers, a disconnection and general skepticism of technology provides a barrier to online shopping while digital natives or those more familiar with online consumer touchpoints are more willing to create wish lists and purchase through eCommerce retailers.
Sending offers and discounts with print communications can be a good way to connect with shoppers of a riper demographic and drive them online in a simple and informational way, helping to broaden your online customer base. Offering a gift card is an effective option as it reduces the decision-making involved for the customer and makes the process simpler and less stressful.
For digital natives, delivering a mobile app or personalized landing page content that allows them to curate and send a wishlist of their favorite products is not only an excellent way of driving engagement, but could also serve to significantly boost your profits over the seasonal shopping period.
For inspiration, explore clothing retailer ModCloth's easy wishlist building functionality.
Broadening the Seasonal Shopping Scope
From Black Friday right through to the post-Christmas sales, there is endless scope to reach out and connect with your audience, promoting your products, services and USPs to a potentially engaged audience.
The evolution of eCommerce has made online shopping more tailored, value-based and widely accessible than ever before, which means that at present, there are profit-boosting opportunities that expand beyond Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year. In fact, in Scandinavian countries, Christmas Eve is the pivotal celebration of the entire seasonal period. In the US, 6.5% of the population celebrate Hanukkah and the African holiday, Kwanzaa, is observed by 1.9% of the population.
To maximize your online sales during the Golden Quarter, it's worth developing deals, content and discounts that focus on celebrations like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa during the holiday season. By creating highly-engaging, personalized content and developing product pages aimed at those celebrating these annual events, you'll encourage engagement, boost brand authority, and increase your online sales in the lead up to Christmas.
"What's dangerous is not to evolve."
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Deals and Discounts
Studies reveal that in Europe and the US, the final weeks leading up to Christmas Day present the most significant online shopping opportunities for eCommerce retailers.
Festive shoppers can take advantage of up to 80% off in seasonal offers, deals and discounts. In fact, data suggest that there were 90% more mobile searches for "best deals" during last year's Cyber Week than the two years previous. And, according to Deloitte, 81% of consumers fully expect to be swayed by holiday deals, discounts, and promotions.
To appeal to deal-hungry online shoppers, particularly those under pressure to finish their seasonal shopping before Christmas, offering tailored deals and discounts through email and social media will prove particularly fruitful.
Giving your customers access to free next-day shipping in the week leading up to Christmas Day and concessions on last-minute eGift options will also help you to maximize your online sales right up until December 25.
Offering targeted deals and discounts to holiday shoppers based on their specific needs and preferences will also encourage more people to sign up to your email newsletter or loyalty scheme, increasing your customer retention rates in the process.
The Shift to Online
Seasonal eCommerce shopping has risen steadily over the past few years and based on existing consumer spending as well as expert industry projections, this level of growth shows no signs of slowing down.
In June 2020, studies from Ipsos revealed that droves of shoppers (61%) were worried about visiting brick-and-mortar stores through fears of catching the virus. As the world embarks on a 'Covid Christmas', this shift to online shopping still rings true due to its safety, convenience, and reliability (especially in nations where consumers are placed in and out of lockdown).
Perhaps 2020 is the year where shopping will see its most significant shift to online yet.
Here are some considerations you should make to optimize your success in gaining seasonal online sales:
- Privacy protection: Most consumers worldwide are aware of the General Data Protection Regulation and the CCPA. To build trust and ensure maximum eCommerce success, protecting the data of your consumers is of paramount importance.
- Consumers now expect an increasing level of value from brands and businesses, and offering personalized, real-time offers is a particularly effective means of maximizing your online sales. Now more than ever, shoppers value personalized communications, attention from brands, and a seamless retail experience. And, 86% of consumers state that being treated like a person rather than a sales figure is vital to their purchasing decisions. If you invest ample time and resources in offering tailored, time-sensitive deals during the Christmas period, you stand to earn a significant edge on your competitors.
- Performance: During the festive season, online shoppers seek a flawless user experience (UX). A delay of even two seconds could prove detrimental to your seasonal sales as pressured seasonal online shoppers are likely to navigate away from a slow website or landing page and migrate to a competitor. Prior to the festive shopping season, you should test the usability, functionality and performance of all of your main touchpoints to ensure you provide your target audience with the best shopping experience imaginable. And, as seasonal mobile spending skyrocketed by 68% in 2019, optimizing your content, websites and landing pages for mobile is a critical component of success this holiday season.
- Prioritizing emotion: In this truly digital-first holiday season, emotional marketing is emerging as a more potent promotional force than ever before. 83% of people are more likely to buy from a brand they feel emotionally connected to - and with increased eCommerce market saturation, creating campaigns and messaging that conjure strong emotions and strike a personal note is likely to win the day.
There's no doubt about it - as the digital landscape continues to evolve and prove its value, seasonal online sales will continue to rise which, in turn, presents a wealth of profit-boosting potential to savvy eCommerce brands looking to expand, grow and evolve with the industry around them.
The holidays are a competitive time for eCommerce brands and digital marketers looking to enjoy their share of the festive sales, but by following these tips and remaining abreast of emerging trends, there is a great deal of sustainable success to enjoy. Good luck.
"Communications is at the heart of eCommerce and community."
Meg Whitman, former HP President and CEO