Editor's Note: Happy Holidays!
While jingle bells and hot toddies may be the last thing on your mind this summer, the fact remains that the holiday shopping season is quickly approaching. And, like 2013, it's a shorter period than most years. There are 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas this year, compared to 25 last year. For comparison, there were 31 days in 2012. The short holiday selling season spelled trouble for many unprepared retailers last year, with downed websites, out-of-stocks and late deliveries fueling customers’ anger.
Last year's mistakes means it's more important than ever to have your holiday plans in place now (or soon after you read this). To help you out, this issue's cover story is a how-to guide to omnichannel success for the 2014 holiday season. You'll find a plethora of holiday tips on subjects such as website optimization, shipping, customer service, fulfillment and more. Each section is written by experts in these areas, so you can be sure the advice is spot on.
For more information on what to expect this holiday season, I took a look at IBM's recently released Seventh Annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report, which analyzes holiday shopping data from 2013 in an effort to predict trends for this year. Here are three trends from the report that stood out to me:
1. Consumers will spend more money online. For the past two holiday seasons, shoppers spent more online — both in terms of average order value and items per order. To capitalize on this trend, "retailers will need to rely on personalization and cross-sell recommendations to further strengthen customer relationships and wallets," the report says.
2. Consumer attention spans are on the decline. During the 2013 holiday season, the average time consumers spent on a website was 7 minutes, 40 seconds, a low average, according to IBM. Furthermore, the bounce rate — i.e., the percentage of site visitors who leave after viewing just one page — rose to 34.5 percent in October 2013, a new high. "Ultimately, shoppers have little tolerance for poor customer experiences — if they can't find what they need, they're moving on," the report says.
3. Mobile will be hot. Sales on mobile devices reached a high of 19.1 percent of all e-commerce sales in December 2013, up threefold from December 2011, according to the report. IBM forecasts that in November 2014, 20 percent of e-commerce sales and more than 43 percent of site traffic will come from mobile devices. "To succeed this holiday season, retailers will need to pay attention to both device type and operating system to better focus their mobile app and analytics investments, while at the same time ensuring a flawless customer experience between devices and operating systems," the report says.