Practical Ecommerce

6 Holiday Online Shopping Trends to Watch in 2014

Understanding online sales trends like the growth of Green Monday, Cyber Monday’s metamorphosis into “Cyber Week,” and similar may help ecommerce business owners and marketers make better marketing decisions and, ultimately, sell more throughout 2014’s sales-heavy fourth quarter.

U.S. online sales are expected to grow about 15.5 percent overall during the 2014 Christmas shopping season as compared to 2013 sales. Small and mid-sized sellers won’t necessarily perform as well as large omnichannel retailers, but should still earn, perhaps, a 9 percent increase in sales compared to 2013. In general, ecommerce sales growth should outpace physical store sales, which are expected to rise between 3 and 4 percent in the United States.

Holiday predictions are not enough to make sales. Rather, online retailers need to find ways to get their piece, if you will, of the holiday sales pie. Usually, this means offering shoppers discounts or other shopping incentives and promoting those offers via advertising, content, email, or similar.

These holiday online shopping trends to watch in 2014 could give some sellers ideas about when to place ads or make offers to maximize sales.

Green Monday Sales Will Soar

Green Monday is the second Monday in December (the 8th this year). It generally marks a second surge in online holiday shopping, when last minute gift buyers hurry to make online purchases that will arrive in time for the holiday without incurring additional shipping charges.

Walmart is already promoting Green Monday on its website.

Walmart is already promoting Green Monday on its website.

When it was first identified and named back in 2007, online U.S. sales for the day had just risen about 33 percent, according to trend-tracking firm comScore. Sales that year were approximately $880 million up from $660 million the prior year.

Last year, Green Monday sales came in at about $1.4 billion, up around 10 percent from $1.2 billion in 2013.

Ecommerce marketers should treat Green Monday like Cyber Monday II to take advantage of this consumer spending trend.

Cyber Monday Will Morph into ‘Cyber Week’

Cyber Monday, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving, lead 2013 online holiday sales in United States with approximately $1.7 billion in retail ecommerce purchases, according to comScore. Those sales represented an 18-percent increase from the previous year, and, with a relatively short Christmas shopping season this year, many expect Cyber Monday to perform even better in 2014.

Cyber Monday sales, however, are not much of a surprise. But what may be a bit unexpected is how Cyber Monday is expanding into Cyber Week. Although Monday will certainly be the busiest day, Cyber Week generated more than $7.9 billion in Internet sales in 2014, up 24 percent from the same period in 2013. If the trend continues, online sellers may wish to extend Cyber Monday offers, introduce flash sales, or otherwise seek to expand the promotions.

Black Friday Is for Online Sales Too

Some marketers may think of Black Friday’s “door busting” sales as being reserved for brick-and-mortar shopping. But that is simply not the case. For years, many retailers with both physical stores and ecommerce sites used both channels to boost Black Friday sales.

As a result, comScore reported that 2013 online Black Friday sales reached almost $1.2 billion in the United States, up some 15 percent from 2012 online Black Friday sales.

This is another trend that could impact online stores, since it may make sense to increase Black Friday promotions.

Black Friday Is Growing Too

I mentioned above that Cyber Monday is morphing into Cyber Week. Something similar is happening with Black Friday too. In part because there are relatively fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, American retailers are seeking to extend Black Friday. In some extreme cases, Black Friday sales are moving all the way back to Monday, November 24.

These early Black Friday sales can take a few forms. Some retailers may only add one day, opening on Thanksgiving. This is the case for major U.S. retailers. Walmart, Target, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, and Kohl’s are examples. As these stores open their physical doors earlier, so too will most offer Black Friday specials at least a day early online.

Other retailers, particularly in specialty market segments, are having sales that begin on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of Thanksgiving week.

Online retailers could, perhaps, benefit from earlier marketing too, especially if shoppers react well to the trend.

More Mobile Shopping

Earlier this year, I predicted that mobile commerce (i.e., purchases from smartphones and tablets) would account for as much as 33 percent of U.S. online holiday sales in 2014. If this proves to be true, it may represent an opportunity for online sellers with mobile optimized websites.

It may also indicate that mobile-targeting with pay-per-click advertising could prove profitable during the 2014 Christmas shopping season.

Shipping Options Are Important

A final trend my be related to shipping speed and shipping rates. Perhaps seven out of ten online orders in 2014 will include free shipping. This is becoming so important that nearly every online retailer will want to make free shipping an option.

Free shipping may also be a way to encourage larger orders.

Finally, look for more sellers to offer free, two-day shipping in 2014. Again, this might be something that ecommerce businesses could use to increase sales overall or to encourage additional sales at checkout.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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