Holiday shopping season is in full swing and this year the high-revenue-generating period for retailers is expected to grow 5.6% overall from last year with a 13.9% growth in ecommerce. The upward incline of online shopping is not surprising given the vast leaps and bounds made in mobile device technology and the forward-moving momentum towards the Internet of Things. Here are a few of the online shopping trends to take note for the holidays.
Because of the influx in connected technology, mobile devices and improvements in network availability, access to information has never been more prominent. This year shoppers will spend more time researching a product online before purchasing, because they can. The internet and social media have opened up entirely new avenues in the retail market which has translated to added options between competing brands, video reviews and customer feedback on products, causing consumers to do their due diligence before the buying decision.
With online shopping comes delivery (or pick up) of product and this year many retailers are trying to remain competitive in the online space by offering free shipping on all purchases including no minimum purchase requirements. This ultra convenience can be pointed to the effects of Amazon Prime—consumers have had a taste of constant free delivery and the glories of it, thus stores like Best Buy and Target have to cater to these needs to sway Amazon-loyal customers to look elsewhere during such peak retail times. Easy in-store pickup from online orders is also trending upward this season with curbside pickup options so customers never have to get out of their cars (an ideal situation for the winter cold and snow).
Brands are engaging audiences online in different ways aside from blasting them with email coupons. They are building brand reputation through highly visual social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest—both of which have introduced buy button options this year. Being able to buy within the same social sites consumers live on has made the joy of shopping online that much better and easier. Additionally, brands are trying to make the decision of what to buy easier on customers. For instance, T-Mobile launched an interactive holiday quiz so online users could deduce the often-overwhelming amount of gift ideas in cyber world.
For the online savvy shopper, the top buys this year will unsurprisingly be technology related. The world is becoming more digitalized and consumers want to stay with the pace. Be it 4K TV, 3D printer, smartwatch or other digital accessories, any present that gets the consumer in touch with the latest and greatest in innovation is topping Santa’s gift list.
Brands like REI have opted to close their brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday to not only make a point that it values its employees and wants to give them the time off to spend with loved ones, but also to encourage online sales. It’s a statement that, aside from the branding benefits it will certainly reap, shines light on the fact that shop-floor employees are playing a decreasing role as ecommerce takes over their jobs.
Although there is lots of buzz around online shopping, it doesn’t mean shoppers will be avoiding the physical mall during the holidays. Seeing Santa is something that is irreplaceable so retailers are starting to make sure the brick-and-mortar experience can bridge with the online shopping experience smoothly. For example, a store associate who is able to access the online inventory database instantly from a tablet, helps improve the overall customer experience in-store, locating the item they want from the backroom or pointing them to a store that has it in stock (or even ordering it directly online from the warehouse).
Online shopping trends these holidays are worth taking note of. Being aware lets consumers proactively understand what’s in store and ultimately optimizes the online shopping experience.