3 Predictions for Holiday 2016

The 2016 Christmas holiday shopping season is well underway. The key storylines of this year’s peak season are growth, breadth and mobile. How do we know? My team has analyzed the shopping activity of more than 500 million shoppers and three billion site visits over the last three years.

Here are our predictions for holiday 2016, along with some tips gleaned from years of experience to ensure you, your brand and (most importantly) your customers, have a great peak season.

Digital Commerce Bigger Than Ever

This shopping season, we expect to see year-over-year revenue growth reach its highest level of the calendar year, at 22%. What will drive that growth? Traffic. With 23% more shopping visits across digital, this will be the biggest peak season ever. Also, shoppers will return slightly more this season too, with 18% of orders coming from buyers making multiple purchases during the peak season, up from 17% last year. These are both signs of a healthy market, with more room to grow. The slightly longer period – 2 more shopping days between American Thanksgiving and Christmas Day – will help to bolster an already strong outlook.

Tip: With traffic at its highest levels, retail brands need to be over-prepared to handle the load. They should be very mindful of pipeline runtimes, striving for 500 milliseconds or less, ineffective caching, which creates a drag on performance, and third-party integrations, ensuring that an external vendor’s technology can handle the stress. In our experience, these are the three primary reasons retailers experience site problems during peak periods.

Busy Shoppers = More Mobile

Mobile will be the device of choice. Globally, we expect traffic on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day will be mostly mobile, as 63% of all visits will come from phones. Overall, 55% of traffic and 33% of orders placed during the season will come from phones. Overall, 55% of traffic and 33% of orders placed during the season will come from phones. Shoppers will be a bit more balanced in their shopping on the biggest shopping days – Cyber Monday and Black Friday, with traffic more equal between phones and computers.

Tip: Mobile site design and functionality must cater to the unique needs of mobile shoppers including large and persistent search boxes and leveraging geolocation to suggest the nearest store. With mobile, the fewer clicks the better, so be sure to link to phone numbers and other contact information, and use zip code lookup to minimize required fields. Usability is key to conversion, so give users the option to check out as a guest, and provide at least one alternate payment type.

More Options Please!

Shoppers will go wide this season, buying 13% more products across the catalog, as digital once again provides an endless aisle of products to choose from. This is a blessing and a challenge for retailers; wider catalogs and unique product offerings help capture shopper attention and differentiate brands, but of course come with the risk and weight of carrying a wider assortment.

Tip: Make products easy to find by curating sets; mittens, hat, etc., that match a ski parka for example. Feature these sets in content slots or top level categories. Launch a holiday gift guide targeted to themes (beach bum, skier, etc.) and price point. Launch product recommendations and feature them in emails. Retailers should tune their site search results, adding the most common misspellings to dictionaries, and review weekly during the holiday season.

Rick Kenney, Head of Consumer Insight at Salesforce Commerce Cloud

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