Earlier shopping, ecommerce sales growth, improved email marketing, and mobile commerce will be among the most important ecommerce trends during the 2015 Christmas shopping season, which lasts from the end of October through December 24.
Holiday ecommerce sales are important for many online retailers. In some cases, small business owners might see a significant portion of total annual sales in just a couple of months. Understanding what to expect in terms of growth or trends may help with planning your holiday season.
What follows are four 2015 holiday shopping predictions for ecommerce.
1. Many Shoppers Will Purchase before Halloween
The holiday shopping season will start long before Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In fact, at least 25 percent of holiday shoppers in the United States will purchase a Christmas gift before Halloween.
Often these before-November sales are not even tracked with holiday spending. But they will, nonetheless, happen.
This prediction is not earth shattering. Rather it is a continuation of a trend, since Google reported that one in four American shoppers bought a Christmas gift before Halloween last year. And some 48 percent of shoppers had done the majority of Christmas shopping before Cyber Monday.
2. Online Retail Sales Will Grow 13.9 Percent
Year after year, online retail sales outpace retail sales overall, and 2015 will be no exception. But regardless of where a product is sold, it will be a good year for retail.
Research firm eMarketer suggested that overall U.S. retail sales in November and December could grow 5.7 percent compared to last year, reaching, perhaps, $885 billion. If that happened, 2015 would mark one of the best increases in total U.S. retail sales in several years.
As a subset, online retail should grow 13.9 percent to more than $79 billion or about 9 percent of all holiday retail sales. While this is a slightly lower growth rate than ecommerce enjoyed in 2014, it is growth from a larger base, and is still very positive for the industry.
3. Email Marketing the Best Promotional Tool
While this one will be a bit hard to measure, expect email, which is already the dominant holiday marketing vehicle, to become even more important in the 2015 Christmas shopping season.
Consider that a MailChimp survey from last year found that 100 percent — that is, every single one — of marketers surveyed planned to use email as part of their holiday promotions. Even companies that did not regularly send promotional emails planned to use the tool.
Two things will make email even better this holiday season.
First, expect to see more companies automate email messages, so that when shoppers make a holiday purchase they will see follow up messages that are designed to make additional sales and retain those holiday customers all year long.
Second, email marketers are getting better at segmentation and personalization, which, in turn, should make an already effective marketing vehicle even better.
4. Mobile Commerce Will Reach 25 Percent of Total
During key 2014 holiday shopping days — like Black Friday — mobile commerce accounted for nearly 28 percent of ecommerce sales. For the 2014 holiday season overall, almost one-in-four ecommerce transactions took place on a mobile device.
Three factors will continue to push growth for mobile ecommerce.
First, even more sites are responsive and mobile optimized. Having a responsive website is not a competitive advantage in 2015; it is a competitive requirement.
Second, as smartphone screens get larger, mobile ecommerce becomes easier. The Samsung Galaxy S6 is 5.65 inches tall and 2.78 inches wide. The iPhone 6 Plus is 6.22 inches tall and 3.06 inches wide with a 5.5 inch HD display. On devices like these, it is simply easier to shop.
Third, mobile payment options are improving, again making it easier to shop from a smartphone.
Last Year’s Predictions
In 2014, I offered up a list of four holiday predictions. Depending on how you grade me, I was, perhaps, spot on for two of these. I also predicted growth in mobile commerce, which did happen, although I overestimated how much growth there would be.
- “Mobile Commerce Will Account for 33 Percent of U.S. Online Holiday Sales.” According to the IBM Experience One U.S. Retail Online Holiday Shopping Recap Report 2014, mobile commerce accounted for just 22.56 percent of online sales in November and December of 2014. Mobile commerce also accounted for 21.99 percent of Cyber Monday sales and 27.91 percent of Black Friday sales, again according to IBM.
- “Free Shipping Offers Will Be Ubiquitous.” The Reuters news agency reported in January of this year that “for top U.S. retailers, free delivery is now the norm. …During the just-ended holiday season, outlets from Target to Wal-Mart to Amazon expanded their free-delivery options, adding more items eligible for free shipping. They also did away with minimum spending thresholds to qualify for the perk.”
- “Brick-and-click Stores Will Encourage In-store Pickup.” In a March 2015 article about ecommerce fulfillment, eMarketer reported, “The 2014 holiday season saw a big increase in stores offering in-store pickup. It proved popular this holiday season as a way to avoid the crowds during the Thanksgiving weekend.”
Earlier, in a January post, Adobe said that “retailers offering their customers the choice of either home delivery or in-store pickup fared far better than competitors that were limited to online stores only. In fact, in-store pickups on Black Friday rocketed by an astounding 40 percent compared to the average business day.”
- “Video Will Begin to Play a More Important Role.” This one proved a bit more difficult to measure. Adept reported that about 80 percent of shoppers watched product videos and video reviews, but it was not clear if that increased during the holidays.