It's not too late: How brands can still increase eCommerce sales this Christmas

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With nine out of ten shoppers admitting they will spend the same or more compared to 2015, the 2016 festive season could prove more lucrative than ever for brands that are in tune with their customers. But as technology empowers consumers to shop in more ways than ever before, understanding the evolving purchase journey is crucial.

UK data from the HookLogic Exchange, the world’s largest pool of online shoppers (190 million) and online browsers (91 billion) has revealed a new wave of consumer shopping trends that will make brands and retailers rethink this year’s Festive Season campaign strategies.

We also asked consumers about what they bought last year online, and what they expect to do this year.

The aim of this research was to arm marketers with the insight they need to make the best of their campaigns, and drive traffic and sales when it matters most. So which path will the festive customer journey follow in 2016?

Shift from Black Friday to Cyber Season continues

Although hearing a festive song in a department store as early as October may be downright annoying, the reality is that shoppers begin to think about festive preparations around this time.

For children, it is even earlier as they eagerly await what for them is the biggest day of the year. For the past decade, Black Friday has marked one of the busiest pre-Christmas shopping days of the year, and consequently, is an opportune moment for brands to take additional steps to promote sales on retailer sites.

However, according to our data, shoppers are now spreading their purchases over the entire festive season.

We’ve seen, for instance, that cart sizes in a category like 'toys and gaming' are largest the first two weeks of November as busy parents lock in trending items so as to not disappoint on the big day. The importance of Black Friday may be diminishing as retail giants like Amazon, Argos and Walmart now start their deep discounts the first week in November.

Post-Boxing Day purchases – which extend into the New Year – are also increasing as consumers use their new mobile phones and tablets, and spend their holiday gift cards.

We constantly reiterate to our brand clients that they need to rethink retail seasonality with ecommerce and have enough spend to spread out what has become a three-month period.

Next-day delivery forces retailers to innovate

With brands such as Amazon offering free next-day delivery to its Prime members in the UK, the online marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive and brands are striving to find innovative ways to ensure they do not lose customers at the point of sale.

Businesses that find it impractical to offer next-day shipping are increasingly offering alternatives such as Click & Collect.

I’m sure you’ve seen – or used – the lockers at British rail stations as well as the convenience centers that Tesco operates. It’s not all about getting it delivered to your home.

By understanding more about how people shop, especially as they prepare for the festive season, brands will increase loyalty

For many, picking it up yourself solves the issue of not being home – or not having purchased online the day before.

Mobile evolves from a research tool to purchase tool

The involvement of mobile in the customer journey proved to be one of the key trends of the 2015 Festive Season period, with consumers using their smartphones largely for research and price comparisons before making purchases on another device or in-store.

In 2016, however, consumers are actually purchasing products using their mobile device, with almost two-fifths (39%) choosing their smartphone over a laptop at home, and 16% using their mobile device to make purchases while in a physical store.

With this is mind, retailers have already started to optimise content for mobile, but there is still some way to go to meet consumer expectations for a seamless journey between devices.

To avoid losing customers at the pivotal moment of purchase, retailers should offer free wifi in-store, as well as considering mobile-friendly native product placements within search results that are based on an individual’s shopping requirements to pique interest in relevant products.

The importance of festive-season first-party data

During the festive period, consumers are not only shopping for themselves but also for friends and family, which means that during this time their customer profile will appear different to the rest of the year.

Having access to high-quality first-party data – which relates directly to the festive season purchase journey – will help marketers optimise their campaigns to deliver the most relevant messages.

With the help of geolocation technology, as well as sophisticated predictive cross-platform tools which actually aggregate data across the world’s largest retail sites, marketers are able to target their customers much more efficiently.

The race to the checkout is on

The length of time from initial consideration to final purchase is decreasing as consumers instinctively juggle their devices as part of their daily lives. For brands, being able to analyse data, shift marketing budget and adjust campaigns in real time will prove invaluable in keeping the customer focused on relevant products and move them from shopping to buying.

Retaining the attention of today’s shoppers can be challenging, but by understanding more about how people shop, especially as they prepare for the festive season, brands will increase loyalty and ensure that their products are under every tree and on every table in the weeks to come.

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