What the 2014 holiday shopping season has in store for retailers: Top 3 predictions

     

Lightwell Omnichannel RetailThe holiday shopping season is quickly approaching - in some cases, retailers have already begun offering special merchandise and discounts just for this time of year. It is during the next two months or so that many merchants make the bulk of their profits for the year, and thus focus a great deal of effort on making the next few weeks count.

When preparing for the holiday shopping season, it is helpful to look to expert predictions, not only to know what to expect, but to be ready for anything that might come up during this time of year. In this spirit, let's take a look at some of the top expert forecasts for this year's shopping season, and how retailers can plan ahead.

1) Omni-channel commerce: Rise in mobile commerce

Numerous e-commerce experts agree that mobile will become even more important this season. In fact, IBM predicts a record rise in mobile holiday shopping this year. Nearly half of all Web traffic - 48.2 percent - during the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday will come from the mobile platform. Overall, mobile sales are expected to comprise 24.4 percent of all online sales this season, representing a 9.5 year-over-year increase. On Thanksgiving alone, 53 percent of all online purchase will be made via a mobile device, a 23 percent year-over-year rise.

"Mobile Internet is faster, hardware is better and it's common to use a phone or tablet frequently and in more settings," noted predictive analytics platform provider Custora.

With more consumers leveraging their smartphones, tablets and other devices to make purchases, having a robust omni-channel commerce strategy in place is key.

2) Online to in-store

Practical Ecommerce contributor Armando Roggio also predicted that physical retailers with an online presence will increasingly encourage customers to shop on their websites, but pick up items in their brick-and-mortar locations. This website-to-store approach makes a seamless omni-channel system even more critical. In order to fully provide for customer needs, vendors need to be able to meet demands not only in the physical space, but in the virtual realm as well. And if these two aspects can be combined, it is all the better for the consumer and the brand.

3) Shorter shopping season, boosted demands

This year, the holiday season includes only 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, meaning shoppers have less time to purchase gifts. The Ecommerce Authority noted that this will likely lead to more distressed consumers, as they feel the time crunch and hurry to complete their shopping lists. With this in mind, there are a few things retailers can do to help alleviate stress and improve their relationship with customers, including:

  • Consider deploying an order management system to ensure that every transaction is completed and customers receive their items in time for the holidays.
  • Utilize supply chain management software to keep all links in the system prepared and working efficiently in collaboration with one another.
  • The Ecommerce Authority suggested setting earlier deadlines for holiday shipping, and communicating these clearly to help customers receive their items on time.
  • Maintain order management and supply chain management systems even after the holidays - this is when many consumers will return or exchange gifts.

Overall, in order to make the most of this holiday season, retailers should ensure that no matter what channel customers choose to shop, the business has an adequate presence and can provide for their needs. This means preparing not only the online shop, but readying the supply chain, warehouse and order management strategies as well.

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