6 Online Holiday Shopping Trends for E-Commerce Sales Success

November 20, 2019

It’s the most wonderful e-commerce time of the year. 

The holiday season continues to bring in the big bucks for many retailers. In 2018, shoppers spent $125.9 billion in November and December. This year, U.S. retail e-commerce is expected to rake in $135.35 billion, an increase of 13.2%. 

Holiday shopping trends

What other trends does the holiday season have in store? Read on to get the scoop on six 2019 e-commerce trends, and how your online business can cash in on them:

1. Shoppers are becoming more flexible 

In past years, holiday shopping was pretty fixed, beginning with Black Friday and lasting through Christmas. 

More and more, however, we’re finding that shopping isn’t limited to this timeframe. October is peak research time for holiday season shoppers, and a recent study by RetailMeNot found that 54% of shoppers plan to start shopping before Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. 45% plan to kick off shopping even before Nov. 1—and those early shoppers spend $200+ more on average.

How can online businesses cash in?

Because the traditional timeline is shifting, retailers could consider offering details earlier—Walmart started in late October. 

That being said, there is some guessing involved. Online retailers need to be prepared for potential surges in online traffic or sales at any time throughout the extended holiday shopping season, from October all the way through December. 

They can’t be entirely sure when their marketing campaigns will be an unabashed success or their products will be featured as a new influencer favorite, so staying ready to hit the e-commerce jackpot is important.

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2. New holiday markets are emerging 

The holiday shopping season is no longer bound to region-specific shopping days. 

Although Black Friday first started in the United States, the shopping day is becoming increasingly popular in China. In fact, American companies selling products such as cruelty-free cosmetics, health supplements, and mom and baby products, are seeing a popularity surge among affluent consumers in some of China’s biggest cities.

However, Black Friday is still not as well known in China as Singles’ Day (also known as Anti-Valentine’s Day). Online retailers targeting the Chinese market can use this day (Nov. 11) to draw attention to their brand and products, creating a loyal following in a market worth many billions. 

Singles’ Day is also picking up steam outside its country of origin. Not only has it expanded well into Southeast Asia, it’s also gaining traction in Western Europe. Many big-name European online retailers have started implementing Singles’ Day into their seasonal retail campaigns and seen positive results

How can online businesses cash in?

Online retailers need to think outside the box and consider new sales in their holiday season arsenal rather than just the traditional Black Friday and Cyber Monday offerings. This creates an opportunity to reach new shoppers and create long-term fans outside a company’s original market—just make sure to use payment processing that will work in your new market locations.

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3. Resale is getting more popular

Seventy-five percent of shoppers now consider sustainability when browsing seasonal sales. Rental, resale, and sharing models have been all the rage in other industries. Now, they’re making their way into retail, particularly amongst younger generations—over a third of millennial shoppers will look for resale items for themselves and for others this holiday season. 

The resale market is expected to grow rapidly, doubling in size to $51 billion in 2023, and apparel rentals services are growing by 20% annually. Because of their popularity, many traditional retailers, including Macy’s and Urban Outfitters, are announcing their own subscription rental services. Other retailers have buy-back programs for their used products.

How can online businesses cash in?

There’s serious money to be made on more customers want sustainable shopping choices. It’s up to the savvy online retailer to find methods to integrate this demand into their particular business strategy and marketing campaigns for the holiday season. Resale is a great opportunity to try out green marketing, for example.

4. Customers value connection

Every retailer’s holiday season e-commerce marketing campaign includes promotions and advertisements. However, consumers are subject to many ads from like-minded businesses—up to 10,000 a day—so how does a business stick out in a sea of holiday season ads? By promoting brand values. 

It’s frankly not enough to highlight price as a stand-out point. Holiday season sales are built around discounts, and shoppers are used to seeing (and have come to expect) lowered prices. They crave something more substantial. 

Brands like Patagonia have gotten positive press for their decision to donate 100% of their Black Friday profits to grassroots environmental groups. REI has famously opted out of Black Friday sales since 2016, though they continue offering Cyber Week discounts.  

How can online businesses cash in?

Leading with brand values helps create trust in a company. Brand trust influences 70% of customers’ buying decisions, and when a brand can create a feeling of connection, they can potentially form a long-term relationship with their shoppers.

Listen to your customers and consider what core values your business wants to emphasize and how you can implement them within your seasonal sales and promotions. 

5. Online and offline shopping are integrated

At this point, online shopping is hardly a trend—it’s the cross-generational norm. This year, almost half of baby boomers and Generation Z will do most of their shopping online, and a third of millennials plan to do most of their shopping via mobile

The big question for retailers is: has online shopping completely surpassed the offline experience? Not entirely. 

Rather, the online and offline experiences are being fused together. We see this with the rise of buying online and picking up in-store (BOPIS). In 2019, more than 40% of shoppers say they plan to purchase goods online and pick them up in-store. Retailers with both online and offline stores have seen a 50% increase in this phenomenon.

How can online businesses cash in?

For retailers with both an online and offline presence, it’s important they integrate the two for a smooth customer journey. You need a unified network that gathers your customer journey data and enables a seamless customer experience across all channels and touchpoints. Create value for your customers where they want to meet you using e-commerce data integration and customer experience integrations.

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6. Websites struggle to keep up with traffic

Every holiday season during the biggest e-commerce web push of the year, big-name retailers’ websites crash. Not only do crashes mean lost revenue and more orders on competitor websites, they also have damaging effects on brand reputation. 

Unfortunately, IT outages remain all too common. Ninety-six percent of enterprises have had at least one outage in the last three years. That’s despite the fact that 80% of them reported that IT availability was their biggest concern. What’s more, over half thought these outages were avoidable.

How can online businesses cash in?

The biggest cause of e-commerce website outages during the holiday season is traffic surges. In the moment, these surges seem like a dream come true for many website managers. However, the situation can quickly become a nightmare if the wrong e-commerce website builder was used or the website was not fully prepared. 

If you have the technological savvy, an open-source e-commerce platform will allow you to customize your website to fit your traffic needs. However, for most businesses, regular e-commerce platforms do the trick. Whatever you use, make sure to optimize performance and run tests beforehand to avoid tragedy for your website. 

TIP: Find the best virtual waiting room software for your needs to make sure your customers can make purchases in a timely manner! 

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Make the big bucks this holiday season

To stand out this holiday season for all the right reasons, online retailers need to stay on top of 2019 retail trends and potential technical pitfalls. 

This is the most wonderful time of year, but it’s also a crucial one for e-commerce retail businesses. Those who fail to prepare will be left in the dust of businesses that stay alert and ready to meet shoppers’ needs. 

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