Holiday Digital Marketing Trends

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It’s that time of year again. Sure, the decorations have been on sale at your local Target since before pumpkin spice latte season began, but now it is finally time to start getting down on your holiday digital marketing grind.

How will this year’s commerce and digital marketing be different from last year, on both the physical and digital fronts?

The year 2014 will see another predicted rise in retail and ecommerce sales over last year, especially since the holiday season is one day longer than it was in 2013. But there was an interesting and unanticipated development this past week after Thanksgiving. Instead of Black Friday sales rising as predicted, sales were down a whopping 11 percent. This decrease in shopping could be explained in several different ways: a general aversion to Black Friday shopping, easier online shopping or anticipated craziness in store that drives away consumers. Black Friday is just one day in the twenty-six day long holiday shopping season, so retailers and businesses need not worry yet.

The drop in Black Friday sales is just another statistic supporting the idea that consumers spending habits are changing and developing over time as they respond to digitral marketing. A few years ago, consumers would go to Black Friday, see how much cheaper something was and then buy it. Nowadays, a consumer could go to Black Friday, see the price on a product and then easily compare it to an online price. If online is cheaper, they will simply add it to their online cart and leave the store without purchasing anything. This is more proof that businesses need to expand and better their online presence and digital marketing to stay in time with consumers.

US retail ecommerce sales for the holiday season—defined as November and December—are expected to reach $61.8 billion, up from $53.7 billion last year. Obviously, with some of the trends we are already seeing, mobile commerce will be a big contributor to the revenue increase. The projected rise in mobile commerce is a bit over 15 percent, according to eMarketer. Tablets are the most popular devices to shop online; last year saw 56.2 percent of mcommerce from this device, with this year having an expected rise to 62.5 percent. Smartphone purchases will be estimated at around 35 percent of mobile sales. It is very obvious that mobile payments (both online and in-store) are going to be all the rage in 2015, and if businesses want to stay in tune with their customers. According to eMarketer, retail m-commerce sales are predicted to reach $41.68 billion this year and by 2017, retail sales made on mobile devices will climb to well over $100 billion.

One highly anticipated trend for retailers this season is the use of digital beacons. Beacons are small pieces of hardware that can be used to send messages to smartphones and other devices in a specific area. But several issues still need to be resolved for beacons to attain widespread usage. To receive a message from a beacon, a consumer must have downloaded a specific app from a retailer, accept location services from the app, have Bluetooth capabilities turned on and opt-in to in-store notifications. The likelihood of a consumer doing all of these things is low, unless a large business can demonstrate the asset of doing so to a consumer. Another trend for this holiday season and 2015 is use of visual search. While the Amazon Fire Phone may have flopped, it appears one of its defining features may become a popular part of marketing to consumers. Visual search is the ability for a consumer to take a photo of a product or barcode and find more information online.

Yet with this increase in online retail, businesses face problems with fulfillment. Last year was notorious for its numerous shipping issues, after a snowstorm in the Midwest and overwhelmed shipping companies after online orders surged the day before Christmas. While many shipping companies are hiring seasonal employees and Amazon is using robots to help complete orders, retailers should be wary of missing their promised arrival dates to ensure they don’t let down their customers.

Since the majority of these statistics are predictions, it will be interesting to see how these compare to the reality. There are many different paths that retailers can take this holiday to provide the best experience for their customers, most specifically in ensuring that their websites are maximized for users on mobile and tablet and that businesses do not over-promise in regards to fulfillment. Let “mobile-first” be your motto for the next twenty-two days.