The Holidays Are Just Around the Corner, Are You Really Ready?

It’s that time of the year again, and ecommerce companies will need to bring their all this season.

The $64,000 question is, are you ready? Most retailers I talk to are cautiously optimistic, because while holiday traditions stay the same, ecommerce is never traditional.

Today’s consumers are making purchases both in-store and online, through mobile devices, on social channels from all over the world, even on U.S. shopping holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  The global shopper expects a more seamless transition between online and in-store shopping experiences this season.

For retailers that means ensuring that the shopping experience keeps up with expectations and utilizing the right technology as an extension of their brand to have significant impact on how they’re perceived in the market.

Think about meeting your consumers where they are. Because no one channel is right for a market or for a consumer. People search for products differently and they shop differently. Some prefer online marketplaces, while others prefer dealing directly with their brands of choice. We recently completed our third-annual Pitney Bowes Global Online shopping survey, revealing that half of consumers surveyed said that their primary route to purchase is via an online marketplace, while a quarter said retailers.

First and foremost, are you sure you really know your consumers?

  • They are cross-border shoppers. With our survey results showing that two-thirds of consumers are now comfortable cross-border shopping, there is less noise about shopper concerns and more opportunities for retailers. Also, when it comes to shopping frequency, it came as no surprise that domestic shopping has greater frequency, with 94 percent of consumers having made an online purchase domestically within the last year, and most often on a monthly (48%) or weekly basis (26%). For those consumers thinking cross-border, most have made a cross-border purchase on an annual (34%) or monthly (24%) basis, with the top countries with monthly/annual cross-border shoppers including Australia (78%), Singapore (77%), Canada (72%), Mexico (71%) and Hong Kong (70%).
  • They have shopped In-store Global, Online Local. We asked global consumers about making an online purchase from a retailer in another country after having shopped in their physical store during their travels and we found that 63 percent of cross-border shoppers have participated in this shopping trend. Brick-and-mortar stores can support not only domestic online presence, but also cross-border online presence. Small changes in how the store operates with the traveling shopper can make a big difference in online demand, especially among traveling shoppers.
  • They are increasingly mobile savvy. Consumers aren’t just utilizing mobile to finalize a purchase. While about a third of global consumers are actually purchasing on mobile, the usage rise can be seen across the shopping journey whether browsing, purchasing and tracking. In the U.S., one-third of shoppers (33%) use mobile for completing a purchase, however mobile usage increases significantly (47%) when tracking an item post purchase.

Retailers who are looking to grow should aim to reach new consumers domestically and internationally, while thinking broader about the consumer experience.  Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Prepare for high expectations from consumers. Consumers want to know when to expect their purchase. They want no surprises, such as an out-of-stock notice or additional fees in the case of cross-border.
  • Look at mobile across the shopper’s journey. Among the countries with the highest mobile usages – we see daily and weekly shoppers. The more mobile the consumer, the more online shopping can easily become part of everyday life whether that is browsing, purchasing or tracking.
  • Getting the basics right still matters from communications to payments and shipping. When asked about last year’s holiday shopping experience, 42 percent of surveyed global consumers had issues with shipping, communications with retailers, etc. When offering cross border shopping opportunities, providing shoppers with multiple payment method options matters around the world. Understanding the payment preferences of each customer depending on the country (i.e. credit card vs. e-wallet, etc.) is key to seeing repeat sales.

It’s time to get serious about identifying consumer expectations and anticipating how they will be shopping this holiday season. Prepping for this holiday season isn’t just about sweeping the storefront or adding holiday cheer to your website.

Gregg Zegras, Senior Vice-President of Global Ecommerce for Pitney Bowes

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