The 2016 holiday sales season has been a particularly kind one for e-commerce businesses. CNBC reported that Black Friday online retail sales set a new record with $3.34 billion while Cyber Monday online sales also set a new record with $3.45 billion—a 12 percent increase from 2015.
Despite fears, the election would have a negative impact on sales this holiday season, both online and brick-and-mortar shopping has exceeded expectations. Results from the National Retail Federation’s 2016 survey found that 99 million people shopped in store on Black Friday while 108.5 million shopped online.
As sales increase each year and e-commerce retailers take an even bigger portion of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend sales, what does all of this mean for online retailers?
Adaptability Is the Key to Holiday Sales Success
As each year passes, consumers grow more confident in their ability to trust online retailers. Moreover, as this confidence grows, they are relying on technology to guide them towards the best retailers and deals throughout the holidays.
Consequently, online retailers now have to deal with the increasing amount of opportunities available whereby they can reach online shoppers. Based on sales trends these past few years, there are three key areas that e-commerce companies should focus their efforts in order to reach this more informed and tech-savvy consumer:
Of course, all this may change as we head into the holiday shopping season next year, but that is why it is important to follow along with consumer demand and growing trends, and then adapt to them. Let’s focus on what you can do now to set yourself up future holiday success.
Lesson 1: Speed Up Your Site
While heavy web traffic on Black Friday and Cyber Monday is ideal, a crashing or slowed website is not. Whether your business is 100 percent online or split between in-person and e-sales, you need a fast, effective website—especially if it is going to handle heavy web traffic on the major sales holidays.
Lesson 2: Optimize for Mobile
Mobile sales were huge this year, with Black Friday 2016 becoming the first day in retail history to drive more than $1 billion in mobile revenue, and up 33 percent year over year, according to Adobe. On Thanksgiving Day, 57 percent of e-commerce visits came from mobile devices, which resulted in 40 percent of all total sales made that day (a total of $771 million).
As e-commerce companies put a heavier focus on optimizing websites for mobile, these online sales numbers have nowhere to go but up as convenience increases for the mobile-friendly consumer.
Lesson 3: Cater to Customer Convenience
As everything becomes more convenient for those consumers wanting to manage holiday purchases online, the overall convenience of the process needs to become more streamlined as well. This means that e-commerce companies should consider:
- Creating sales days outside of just Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
- Streamlining the purchasing process for both web and mobile.
- Sending targeted “insider” emails to customers, so they know about your holiday deals and when they will become available.
Lesson 4: Continue Building Relationships
When that week leading up to Black Friday hits, it is easy to become overwhelmed and to feel like you should only focus on making a sale—any sale—and then moving on to the Cyber Monday push. However, that would be a mistake.
Always remember that your customers want to feel special. Treat both first-time shoppers and loyal customers with personalized attention. Create a separate email campaign to let regular customers know where and when to enjoy special loyalty offers meant just for them. Then create another campaign targeted at those first-time shoppers, enticing them back with targeted promotional offerings.
Lesson 5: Be Active on Social
Nearly half (45 percent) of digital buyers worldwide surveyed by PwC said that reading reviews, comments and feedback on social media influenced their digital shopping behavior.
As with any other marketing effort, this is something you will have to work on all year-round. If you are not active on social media or working on establishing relationships with your consumers online, get started now. Social is an increasingly important channel for e-commerce companies, so anything you can do to spread the word, share social-only promotions, stay engaged in trending topics, and give consumers another way to buy from you will be essential to your future success.
That’s a Wrap
Based on results from this year’s holiday shopping season (thus far, anyway), the biggest takeaway is this:
Adaptability is key.
It is essential that e-commerce companies pay attention to their consumers’ changing preferences and growing demand for flexibility and convenience. Long-term success in e-commerce hinges on these insights, not only for continued profitability during the holiday season but all year-round as well.
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