It’s no secret that the holiday season is a busy time, particularly for retailers. With the advent and growth of the Internet, online shopping has become a vital part of the holiday season for most shoppers. Now that the dog days of summer are behind us, this presents businesses with an excellent opportunity to gear up for a potential influx of traffic for the holidays, and also makes sure that any changes to your product lines, order fulfillment processes or website are developed well in advance of the holiday season. The last thing that any business wants is to be left scrambling in the weeks leading up to the holiday-rush, leaving then unable to provide the best possible experience for your customers.
Most merchants find that the fall season is their most profitable. Early Christmas shoppers and those looking for back-to-school supplies begin shopping in the early fall, and that trend continues on an incline through the holiday season.
E-Commerce Holiday Season Growth
The rush that online retailers experience during the holiday season has been well documented since the early 2000s. What may come as a surprise to most is the fact that holiday Ecommerce growth continues at such a brisk pace. According to eMarketer, total Retail Ecommerce holiday seasonal sales grew more than 16.8% in 2011. 2012 saw a slight dip, posting 15.2% growth. The 2013 holiday season is expected to record a total growth rate of 15.1%, dipping only 0.1% compared to the previous year in the US.
During a three year period, holiday ecommerce sales will have gone from $46.6 Billion to an estimated $61.8 Billion in the United States. Even though the growth rate has slowed (although only slightly based on estimates for 2013), the rapid growth suggests that the ease-of-use and wide product selection supplied by online retailers continues to lure consumers that previously may have preferred the in-store experience. As older generations continue to become more familiar with Ecommerce and the Internet in general, and younger generations enter the work force, you can expect Ecommerce to continually increase the role it plays for retailers during the holiday season.
Mobile Commerce During the Holidays
Tablets have risen rapidly in popularity since the release of the original iPad. In the 2nd quarter of 2013, mobile eCommerce had seen growth for 15 consecutive quarters, and 11 of those quarters saw growth of 10% or more. Tablets have become increasingly user-friendly, and with many companies jumping onboard the tablet bandwagon, many reasonably priced solutions have become available to consumers in recent months. The growth seen in mobile Ecommerce is also seen during the holiday season. Mobile devices have seen rapid growth as a tool for online purchases, growing in the double digits year over year.
With these numbers in mind, it is quite easy to see that mobile commerce will play a huge role in Ecommerce in the coming years. In 2013, according to eMarketer, mobile commerce will account for 16% of all Ecommerce. This number was adjusted up from 15%, which the research firm had estimated earlier in the year. This adjustment was attributed to tablet manufacturing numbers that had surpassed early estimations, along with an increase in ad spend for those companies.
In 2011, mobile commerce accounted for only 7% of all ecommerce sales, bringing in a total of $13.57 Billion. Estimates by eMarketer show that number could inflate to a total of $113.57 Billion by 2017. This will account for more than 25% of all ecommerce purchases, only $30.66 Billion of which will come from smart phones with the rest from tablets.
With mobile commerce clearly about to become such a large chunk of the overall Ecommerce market, it is important that businesses optimize their mobile sites for the holiday rush, taking both the viewer’s software and hardware into considerations during the process to ensure that you provide a seamless experience no matter what device your website is viewed on.
The Q4 Jump
According to a recent research study conducted by comScore, the first three quarters of 2013 have seen revenue totals of $58.1 Billion, $60.2 Billion, and $60.7 Billion respectively. During those quarters, Ecommerce has maintained a more than 16% growth rate over the previous year. However, from Q3 to Q4, revenue totals will jump from nearly $60.7 Billion to $83.2 Billion during the holiday season, resulting in more than 37% growth from Q3 to Q4.
Of course, the 37% growth is highly dependent upon a variety of factors including a business’ brand, industry and overall web presence, but most businesses can expect a significant jump in traffic during the holiday season.
For online retailers that are worried about dealing with the holiday surge in traffic, there are a number of steps that can be taken in order to ensure that you are able to handle the uptick in business and still provide users with a simple and seamless purchasing experience.
Estimate the sales that you are expecting during Q4 2013. Keep in mind that Ecommerce as a whole is expecting a 15.1% growth over Q4 2012. Look at data from previous years, and compare your own year-over-year growth data to that of Ecommerce as a whole to get an idea of what you can expect for this holiday season. This will help you to have a rough estimate of what changes you will need to make to your inventory, and get into contact with suppliers who help you to ensure you do not run out of a fast selling product too early in the holiday season.
Prepare Your Marketing Now
Are you planning on developing some in depth marketing campaigns during the 2013 holiday season? It may be in your best interests to plan early and plan often. Make sure that you have your creatives and landing pages designed, required development completed and tracking solutions installed so that you can roll out your seasonal advertising efficiently when the time comes.
Fulfillment operations are especially important during the holiday season. Make sure that you have the appropriate amount of staff, and hire more if need be. Go over your shipping costs in depth, and gain an understanding of how you can arrange your shipping process so that it is as smooth for you and the customer as possible.
The holiday season is a particularly busy time for online retailers. The sudden jump in traffic and searching patterns that are unique to the season take many businesses off-guard. However, those that have an understanding of what level of growth to expect and also plan early for that growth are able to take advantage of the season and grow their business as a result.