If you’re not already planning for Black Friday and Singles Day, then you’re behind schedule. The National Retail Federation reported that online and other non-brick-and-mortar holiday sales increased by 9 percent during the 2015 holiday season, to $105 billion. Compared to the overall 3 percent growth for all of 2015 holiday sales, it’s clear that online shopping played a significant role last season — a trend we expect to see reinforced this year.
What strategies should brands be putting in place now to ensure e-commerce success when the upcoming holiday shopping season is in full swing?
The single largest online shopping day of 2015 was neither Black Friday nor Cyber Monday. Rather, Chinese shoppers set a world record spending $14.3 billion buying goods online for Singles Day on Nov. 11 — four times what U.S. consumers spent online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined in 2014. With online revenue opportunities like these, brands need to be globally minded when mapping their e-commerce plans, fully embracing the role technology and globalization play in today’s retail landscape.
E-commerce has blurred the borders between countries. As a result, smart marketers must plot an online promotional calendar — i.e., a melting pot of global holidays marked by special promotions for both domestic and foreign events. For example, it’s now commonplace for European consumers to look forward to sales on their local sites during U.S. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, while Americans are now hunting for local online deals on China’s Singles Day when their Eastern peers are also cashing in on discounts.
Recent studies show that 78 percent of consumers will readily give marketers personal information during in-store purchases in exchange for more personalized e-commerce shopping experiences. With this in mind, brands should be gathering and analyzing their customers’ data year-round and putting it to work during the holiday season.
One way brands can effectively personalize different promotional offers this holiday season is through optimization efforts. New optimization tools can help brands design sites that quickly identify new and returning shoppers, and understand the type of personalized experiences that need to be created for each shopper profile. Additional optimization can be done upstream of the brand’s site through paid media channels or on-site by variable evaluation, including new vs. returning user status, browser, operating system, geographic location and referring URLs. Brands should continue to optimize landing pages, modifying and tweaking them based on both the verbatim feedback of shoppers and insights from A/B and multivariate tests.
Merchants that can effectively leverage shopper data will find themselves in the best position to meet and exceed shopper expectations. Not only will personalized shopping experiences and offers inspire more sales during the holiday season, but the data generated through these transactions can provide valuable insights long after the holiday rush subsides.
Embrace a Subscriptions-Focused World
Finally, there's a growing trend of on-demand consumerism. Online shoppers are increasingly opting into flexible, affordable subscription services that complement and enhance products or are in lieu of making one-time, up-front investments to own products. Think of video-monitoring services that accompany residential security cameras, or streaming music services rather than purchasing CDs outright.
The end result for brands? Deeper ongoing relationships with their customers and new recurring revenue streams for their businesses. There's no better time to make these shopper connections than during the holidays, when the propensity to purchase is high. Merchants that do will set themselves up for great success not only around the holidays, but all year long.
Make Your List and Check it Twice
To claim their piece of the pie this holiday shopping season, brands should be setting in motion well thought out online strategies. Merchants that are able to think globally, provide a personalized shopping experience and embrace a culture of online subscriptions will be positioned for ongoing e-commerce success well beyond this season of giving.
Brad LaRock is the vice president of MarketForce at Digital River, a global provider of commerce-as-a-service solutions.