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Expectations for the holiday shopping season

November 26, 2014

This year the holiday shopping season is expected to be the biggest ever in terms of e-commerce sales and marketers and retailers are all getting ready for the event.

This year the holiday shopping season is expected to be the biggest ever in terms of e-commerce sales and marketers and retailers are all getting ready for the event.

Strong sales for Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday
Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, according to IBM research, will see record online sales that will grow by 15 percent over last year, reported Forbes. Lower gas prices have resulted in consumers having a little extra cash in their pockets and as per several recent surveys, they intend to spend more than they did last year on holiday gifts.

IBM Smarter Commerce Director Jay Henderson commented that mobile shopping will reach its peak on Thanksgiving.

“Mobile shopping really came of age last year as consumers became a lot more comfortable using their smartphones and tablets to lock in the best deals,” said Henderson, according to Forbes. “But this is the first time we expect to observe more than half of all online traffic coming from a mobile device on Thanksgiving.”

Smartphones will be big this season
The use of smartphones has become a staple for many consumers. Portable devices offer the convenience of browsing products anywhere at anytime. Additionally, recent trends show that customers like to research products online either before they place their orders online or visit brick-and-mortar stores to compete purchases. Retailers are aware of this trend and have started focusing their targeted advertising and promotions at mobile users in an effort to maximize their sales, especially during the holiday season.

The Wall Street Journal reported that J.C. Penney has increased the attractiveness of coupons distributed in stores on Thanksgiving Day. The company has made one out of every 100 coupons worth $100 discount on the value of purchases. Old Navy likewise announced that the first 100 customers to come to their stores on Black Friday will receive a game card with the chance to win $1 million. Both initiatives demonstrate the eagerness of retailers to capitalize on the spending frenzy that will soon take place.

Shopping trends over the five-day shopping period
IBM released its predictions for the holiday season, which highlights several trends that should be witnessed over the next few weeks, reported Forbes. According to the report, over 50 percent of product browsing that will take place on Thanksgiving will be done on smartphones. IBM predicts that mobile traffic will increase by 23 percent and purchases will increase by 9.5 percent – specifically over the coming five-day shopping period.

While most consumers are expected to use their smartphones for browsing, the majority of mobile purchases are expected to be done through tablets. As a result, marketers are working on designing page elements that are tailored to the smaller screens so that customer interest is maintained throughout their browsing and purchasing experiences. The ability to scroll through products and swipe across various screens is being taken into account.

Better site designs and more targeted advertising
Also, in an effort to make the customer experience as enjoyable as possible, according to the IBM report, retailers will reduce the amount of spam content they send out. In a digital world where data is increasingly used to help retailers understand customer shopping behavior patterns, simply sending countless emails of irrelevant content is seen as counter productive. Large retailers use data analytics to create targeted promotions instead that give consumers more interesting options that relate to what they have previously indicated as their preferred items or content. IBM predicts that as a result of less spam, and more targeted advertising, click-through rates will be increased by 10 percent during the five-day shopping period.

Retailers are accordingly advised to take advantage of the fact that they already have a wealth of customer information. Henderson emphasis the importance of analytics playing a role in influencing spending patterns this holiday season.

“Marketers recognize the value of big data and analytics in designing their holiday campaigns, however, the winners this year will be those that can use that insight to make decisions in real-time as trends unfold,” said Henderson. “This is a major leg-up for marketers during the most competitive time of year, where consumers are not only on the hunt for the best bargains, but are paying attention to the marketers and retailers who know them best, personalize offers, and provide a relevant and engaging experience.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, approximately 68 million adults indicated that they will definitely shop this Thanksgiving weekend, as per data from the National Retail Federation. Ultimately, this year should be a good year for retailers and consumers alike with the amount of money and discounts being thrown around. It is curious to see how mobile payment technology will factor into the anticipated e-commerce activity expected to take place. 

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