Eggnog and Fruitcake: Holiday Predictions That You Can Stomach

With the holiday shopping season about to begin, I thought this would be the perfect time to share my expectations for the end of the year. After all, planning is all about anticipation, and knowing what to anticipate will help you better prepare for the holidays. Here goes:

More Billion Dollar Days. 2016 saw 57 of 61 days in November and December rake in $1 billion in online sales. This year, I expect to see 60 of 61 days hit that mark. Why not all 61? Everyone needs a day to rest.

More Mobile Sales. Last year, mobile commerce grew nearly 54% during the holidays and accounted for 30% of all online sales. Mobile sales have been increasing year over year, and this trend will continue. Be sure you’re optimized for mobile because I expect it will account for roughly 35% of all online holiday sales.

And Even More Mobile Clicks. In Q4 2016, mobile accounted for nearly 57% of paid search clicks, with 47% coming from smartphones. Expect this to continue. Mobile is no longer a trend; it’s the way most consumers shop – at least some of the time. The smartphone is now the primary device that the majority of internet visitors use to access the internet. And in the not-so-distant future, it’ll be their primary device for buying online.

Promotions and In-Store Sales

Early Sales. Online holiday sales will start in October. Retailers have been discounting earlier and earlier to get a jump-start on their competition, turning cyber weekend into a month-long event that I like to call Gray November. But with Amazon taking in nearly 40% of all online sales last holiday season, and Prime memberships continuing to rise, retailers have even more to lose by not getting an early start.

Exclusions Apply. For the past several years, especially last year, I saw a noticeable trend in holiday sales having mass exclusions. As a heavy shopper during this period of time, I found myself frustrated. But frustrated or not, I expect this trend to continue. You will see fewer “off everything” promotions and an increase in discounts on “select items.” If you plan to restrict sales, be clear as to what is – and isn’t – included.

In-Store Exclusives. You may see a rise in brick-and-mortar retailers offering “off everything” or deeper discount sales for in-store only. This allows a retailer to drive that sought-after in-store traffic, while offering shoppers deeper discounts and no shipping fees. Seems like an obvious win-win.

Re-engineering the Brick-and-Mortar Experience. I expect in-store sales to increase from last year, but not as much as ecommerce sales. You’ll see a large push from multichannel merchants to drive in-store traffic, touting extra incentives for shopping in-store and even discounts for in-store pickup. As 65% of consumers make additional purchases when going in to pick up items, the tactic makes a lot of sense. Expect to see in-store-only Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales (likely all weekend long), as well as some in-store price-matching. While never a long-term model for success, many retailers may find it worthwhile during the holidays.

The Big Shopping Days

Black Friday and Cyber Monday. While no longer the start of the shopping season, these days are still known as deep discount days. Shoppers oblige and spend more online on these two marquee days than any others during the year. But which day is bigger?

  • Both days will drive over $1 billion in mobile commerce.
  • For the first time, Black Friday –not Cyber Monday – will be the largest online shopping day of the year.
  • Of course, the marketing and promotions for these days will start the Sunday or Monday prior.

Thanksgiving Day. This will continue its growth as an online shopping day and cross $2 billion in online sales for the first time ever.

Marketing Tools, Top Gifts and the Obligatory Amazon Mention

Browserless Commerce. Speaking of the Echo, voice assistants will be the hottest sellers of the season. While I predict Amazon devices to be the number-one sellers in this group, Google and Apple will see significant sales in this arena. The age of voice is upon us. “Hey Santa, bring me a new train set.”

Email Marketing. Email will continue to dominate as an online marketing tool during the holidays. Last year, Bronto sent 50% more messages than they did during Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2015, sending more messages in November than ever before in company history. I know my inbox will be busy.

Amazon’s Take. Amazon captured 38% of the online holiday sales last year, and it will once again own a substantial portion of the holiday ecommerce space. With the rise in Prime memberships and adoption of the Echo, I would not be surprised to see this figure inch up to the 45% mark.

Three Even Bolder Predictions:

  • Starbucks will take flack over their holiday cup design. ‘Tis the season!
  • I will once again purchase my tree on Black Friday.
  • Fruitcake, while good in theory, will continue to be a poor party dessert.

What could go wrong? Apart from the hostility of rogue nation states, what else could throw holiday shopping into a tailspin? How about fallout from the Equifax data breach? Potential widespread credit card fraud resulting from this breach could put a major wrench in holiday spending and shopping habits. Credit cards could be frozen due to fraud, consumers could lose trust in online security when purchasing, and it could over-inflate online sales data if fraudulent sales are racked up. There have already been reports of a 15% increase in fraud as early as August of this year. This lack of trust in security might wind up benefiting major, name brand retailers, as many consumers tend to put more trust in them.

What do you think you’ll see this holiday season? I plan to watch my inbox, shop my exclusionary sales online, and sip my coffee from a ridiculed Starbuck’s cup, all from the comfort of my living room. Just don’t be a scrooge and charge me for shipping!

Greg Zakowicz is a Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst at Bronto Software

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