Online Marketers Must Adapt to Shifting Holiday Shopping

holiday shopping strategies

Historical holiday online shopping patterns are poised to change this year as consumers habits and attitudes continue to shift and evolve.

Over the last decade, internet retailers banked on Black Friday and Cyber Monday as the biggest shopping days of the holiday season. However, according to a new report from Accenture, those major online shopping days may be losing their relevance.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Decline

The report states 52% of consumers are less inclined to shop in-store and online on Black Friday this year compared to a few years ago. And 42% of consumers said they are less inclined to shop on Cyber Monday this year.

This could be troubling for etailers since Cyber Monday 2016 was the biggest day in the history of U.S. e-commerce. Consumers spent $3.45 billion online for last year’s Cyber Monday, according to Adobe Digital Insights.

In a Forbes article, Adobe’s principal analyst, Tamara Gaffney, noted that Black Friday online sales were only $110 million below those of Cyber Monday for 2016, and had predicted that Black Friday 2017 could become the top online shopping day.

But that forecast may not come true, according to the most recent research. Shopping on Thanksgiving Day is also losing its luster, according to the new Accenture report.

Thanksgiving Turkey

In an effort to boost sales over the last few years, many retailers started Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving day. But there has been some high profile push back on that tactic. Some retailers, like REI and Macy’s, opted not to open physical retail outlets for that day.  The Acenture report shows that half of those surveyed were less inclined to shop on Thanksgiving Day than in previous years.

Another recent survey came to the same conclusion. A Market Track survey found only 30% of respondents plan to shop in-store this Thanksgiving. That’s down from the 50% that planned on doing it last year.

The shift in consumer habits centers on avoiding crowds (64%) for in-store shopping. It’s also about the emergence of more big deal/discount days throughout the year (44%). There is some also holiday shopping fatigue as retailers start promotions earlier in the year, sometimes will begin their holiday sales as early as August and September. Additionally, 64% of shoppers said they buy holiday gifts throughout the year. They cited the rise of deal websites and Amazon Prime Day.

Overall Online Growth

But there’s an upside for ecommerce retailers this season. Although some big holiday shopping days could be on the decline, overall online holiday purchases will continue gain marketshare.

US consumers expect to do nearly 40% of their 2017 holiday shopping online, up from one-third just two years ago, according to market research firm The NPD Group’s “Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey.”

Online shoppers said they plan to spend an average of $793 this holiday season. That’s 70% more than the $467 brick-and-mortar-only shoppers expect to spend, according to the NPD Group survey.

Other research shows overall online growth but at a slower percentage rate.Trade group National Retail Federation (NRF) projected digital and other non-store holiday sales, though growing at more than twice the pace of overall sales, will only make up 11% to 15% of total holiday sales this year. eMarketer, meanwhile, previously forecast that holiday ecommerce sales will represent 11.5% of the season’s total retail sales in 2017.

Shopping Patterns

Mobile – Mobile will continue to grow as a preferred way to shop for the holidays. The Accenture survey shows 54% of shoppers are more likely to buy from their mobile devices..

Free Shipping – Getting free shipping is a key factor for consumers in making a purchase. Fifty-three percent of shoppers  want free delivery and are willing to wait for their shipment. Meanwhile, another 21% said they expect retailers to offer free and fast (next day) delivery, according to Accenture.

Drone Delivery – For most consumers drone delivery is more hype than reality. Forty-five percent of consumers said they wouldn’t use drone delivery. Another 22% of the Accenture survey respondents said they don’t understand what it is.

Voice Commerce – This is expected to be the first holiday shopping season where consumers will used voice-enabled devices, like Amazon’s Alexa, to make purchases. Eighty-nine percent of shoppers said they are familiar with the digital voice assistant. But more importantly, 30% of consumers said they are either already using Alexa or would definitely use it this holiday. Another 41% said they are willing to try it, according to the Accenture survey.  

Holiday Etail Strategies

So how do online retailers handle the changing consumer shopping habits? According to a recent Zaius study that considered marketing tactics and strategies for the holiday season, there’s an emphasis on several areas:

The importance of personalization and segmentation – According to the report, biggest marketing priorities this 2017 Holiday Season include 33% of marketers saying segmentation is most important, followed closely by 31% of marketers who are focused on personalization this year. Personalization and segmentation can have a huge impact. Three quarters  of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognizes them by name, recommends options based on past purchases, or knows their purchase history.

The continued domination of email – Despite the growth of many new and exciting options for marketing channels, emails remains the number one choice for ecommerce marketers looking to engage their audiences, says the report. According to the survey, 43% said email campaigns are the first priority for holiday marketing, beating out all other channels.

OmniChannel strategies – Ecommerce players are working hard to achieve their goals of offering buyers a personalized experience across all channels. The report says 94% of respondents report implementing a CRM platform helped effectively execute an omnichannel strategy. That resulted in higher engagement and increased sales.

The report concludes there is a huge opportunity to stand out by building a strong omnichannel strategy. Retailers also need to focus on mobile shopping, and exploring new channels outside of email. By doing something different than the majority of retailers, will find your niche.

The 2017 Holiday Season outlook is bright. However, there are many trends and factors shaping ecommerce marketing this year> And online marketers need to adapt to keep pace with shifting consumer behavior.