The holiday shopping season is just a few weeks away. All retailers, including you, will be immersed in the gigantic preparations to make this holiday season a real treat for your customers. But all those preparations may fail to yield great results if they are not in line with what customers actually want and which trends are expected to hit the e-commerce industry. That’s why we’re laying out the most important holiday retail drivers for 2016.

1. Holiday Retail Drivers for 2016: Higher Budgets

Due to better economic conditions or growth in job creation, according to PwC’s new Holiday Shopping survey, this year’s holiday spending will be increased by 10% as compared to the last year. Besides, consumers with annual household incomes less than $50,000 will increase their percentage expenditure levels even more than the overall consumers. But it’s also important to note that 42% of holiday spending will go towards travel and entertainment, leaving 58% for gifts. And that 58% is the sector where e-commerce retailers will have to focus. Naturally, they’ll have to compete with smaller, independent retailers and local artisans who are offering consumers unique and personalized products.

2. Holiday Retail Drivers for 2016: Flash Sales During the Holiday Season May Disappear

Time and again, it has been proven that customers who seek out “flash-sale” deals fail to deliver long-term value.  According to research by Retention Science, Black Friday shoppers churn 274% faster than other customers. Frankly speaking, it’s not at all shocking. Through these sales, retailers are utilizing their customers’ current need to shop. But they don’t understand that the shopping season can be used to nurture and extend the buying habits of these shoppers beyond the holiday period. What it means is it’s always logical to get associated with them as completely and as personally as possible instead of having a mere need base association. Thus, we may see that retailers will start viewing their Thanksgiving customers as “holiday shoppers”, and consider this period as their first engagement with holiday shoppers.

3. Holiday Retail Drivers for 2016: Mobile, Once Again, Becomes More Important

M-commerce is hardly a new thing now. It has dominated holiday seasons for last few years. But its grip will become even tighter. With stats like 43% of mobile shoppers in consumer electronics have purchased products on their phones while looking at those products in the store, it’s not even a question whether mobile will hold a key in holiday sales. The question is how much impact it will exert on holiday shopping. I am not just talking in terms of plain buying and selling activity. I am considering how mobile plays an important role in promoting your products and deals via ads and how “anywhere, anytime” shopping access that mobile guarantees affect the buying decision of a customer. The following chart will show a relationship between phone and shopping decisions during the holiday season. 1   Due to apps, beacon technology, SMS, mPOS, and click-and-collect, this holiday season will see an unprecedented rise in m-commerce.

4. Holiday Retail Drivers for 2016: Visual Content Reaches a New High

Shoppers who used to go through oversized catalogs looking for gift inspiration are now turning to the internet. It’s time-consuming to go through various thick books, which will always be limited when compared to the internet. That’s the reason why YouTube has become the prime destination for getting gift ideas. According to a June 2016 study by Google/Euromonitor International, 64% of smartphone shoppers turn to YouTube for ideas about what to buy in the Home and Garden industry. I won’t be surprised if we see more and more retailers will come up with more and more content on Facebook Live, Snapchat, Instagram, and so on, which might help buyers in deciding what to buy.

Visual Commerce on merchants’ sites will also become crucial in inspiring shoppers during this time of the year.  Sellers should use their visual galleries to merchandise items based on different categories, like gifts for men, women, fashionistas, frequent travelers, parents, children, pet lovers, and so on. For more ideas on how to best implement and display your Visual Commerce, check out our best practices ebook, A Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words!

5. Holiday Retail Drivers for 2016: Unification of Online and Offline Data Collection

Today, customers don’t interact with your products through only one way. There are multiple channels available for customers to explore your product range and it is true for both online and offline modes. This shopping season will see more and more retailers are investing in analyzing online and offline data together. By doing it, retailers will be benefited immensely as they will have a clear cut picture of their buyer’s journey.

Nordstrom just launched a new omni-channel feature, for example, in which mobile shoppers are allowed to reserve and try on clothing, shoes, and accessories in brick and mortar locations before purchasing them. Other sellers are going all-out with their data tactics. JC Penney recently invested in buy online/pick up in store, a new mobile app, and mobile POS, among other technologies. While the chain is still struggling, total sales during Q2 2016 grew 1.5%.

6. Holiday Retail Drivers for 2016: A Craze for the Best

Today, holiday shopping is more than just choosing between the red or white scarf. The customers are overwhelmed by the immense heaps of items and various varieties of the same item.  Amazon sells roughly 225,000 scarves. Once customers know what they want to buy, they filter their choices by searching for the “best” products. According to Google, searches related to “best” products have grown by more than 50% in the last year (May 2015 v May 2016). And naturally, it will be at an all-time high during the holiday season as customers don’t just look to shop for themselves only. They also want something nice to gift their near and dear ones.

You can easily take the benefit of this trend. You can brainstorm with your content team and come up with blogs like “Best Gift For Parents” or “Give The Best Gift To Yourself In This Holiday Season”. Understand that by doing this you are not just promoting your products, but you are giving a reason for your customers to buy from you.

In A Nutshell… If you closely look at the above-mentioned trends, you will realize that most of the trends deal with three main things: Use of technology, customer journey and ways to find a connection with customers which go beyond the holiday season. And that will differentiate a retailer with a successful holiday season from someone with a failed one!

Note: We understand how much importance the holiday season has for retailers like you. We’ll help you discover what millennial holiday shoppers are looking for this year. We have also documented The Biggest Holiday 2016 Retail Trends here. 

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