If reality meets the predictions, the holiday shopping season is going to be a big one for businesses of all sizes. Hopefully you've ordered your products and created your holiday marketing plan. Think it's too soon? According to a report from Experian, 49 percent of marketers plan to launch some type of holiday promotion before Halloween.
Many merchants are concerned about the short holiday shopping season. There are only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas, one day more than last year, but five less than in 2012.
Online retailers are also concerned about getting their orders delivered to consumers on time - last year many shoppers were disappointed by late-arriving packages. To alleviate their fears, 50 percent of Americans are going to shop online earlier this year, according to a recent report from Pitney Bowes.
Once they get to your websites, most consumers expect you to offer free shipping. As I wrote on the Endicia blog: "Last year, free shipping was the No. 1 incentive online retailers offered. In the week before Christmas 2013, more than 60 percent of the top 1,000 online retailers in North America had some kind of free shipping offer."
In its 2014 U.S. Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report, IBM cautions that while consumer spending is increasing, consumer attention spans are decreasing. The Report says bounce rates are rising while the average time spent on websites and page views are declining. The Report attributes this to consumer frustration, saying, "Ultimately, shoppers have little tolerance for poor customer experiences—if they can't find what they need, they're moving on."
The Report also predicts a continued increase in the usage of mobile devices (phones and tablets) for holiday shopping. According to IBM, mobile devices will account for 20 percent of website sales and over 43 percent of traffic to websites this November. This means your site needs to be optimized for mobile viewing.
You'll want to make sure you're ready because the National Retail Federation (NRF) expects sales this November and December to "increase a healthy 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion," which is higher than last year's 3.1 percent holiday sales boost.
Of course you know your sales history better than anyone else, but the NRF says sales for November and December represent nearly 20 percent of overall retail annual sales. In order not to miss out on this sales bonanza, NRF president and CEO, Matthew Shay, says "differentiate your business by stressing value and exclusivity."
Shop.org' s holiday forecast is equally upbeat. Its holiday sales forecast predicts November and December online sales will increase between 8% – 11% over 2013 sales, and could hit $105 billion.