What The 2015 Holiday Season’s 3 Biggest E-Commerce Surprises Mean For Marketers In 2016
Columnist Jordan Elkind discusses some lessons learned from the 2015 holiday shopping season and how marketers can apply them to this year's strategy.
For many marketers, the beginning of a new calendar year means the annual holiday marketing push has come to a close. It’s a welcome relief after months of hectic planning and last-minute campaigns, offering a chance to reflect on the previous year and reset for an exciting one ahead.
But as we know, there is no hitting the brakes in the world of marketing — there are always reports to compile, meetings to schedule and plans to make.
Keeping this in mind, the beginning of the year is an important time for marketers to learn from the recent months past. This holds especially true for e-commerce marketers, as we found that the past holiday season (November through December 2015) saw US e-commerce revenue grow 12.1 percent over the same period in 2014.
Here are three e-commerce surprises from the 2015 holiday shopping season and what they mean for marketers in 2016. (Note: The stats below come from the Custora E-Commerce Pulse, a tool that tracks real-time online transactions from more than 200 US online retailers, 500 million online shoppers and more than $100 billion in transaction revenue. Full disclosure: Custora is my employer.)
1. Shopping Procrastination Is “In” For 2016
We’ve all been there: You put off gift shopping for a few days, then days turn into weeks, and next thing you know you’re scrambling to make sure you have the perfect gift in your possession in time.
Luckily, the advances that shipping technology and logistics have made in recent years have made it possible for shoppers to place orders within days (and for certain services, within hours) and receive their purchases in a timely manner. This trend was apparent in the recent holiday season, when last-minute online Christmas shopping, particularly orders placed on December 22 and 23, experienced the biggest daily year-over-year gains of the entire season.
This trend of procrastination and consumer expectation of a quick turnaround will be important to keep in mind in the coming year. Consider last-minute shopping ads or promotions for holidays such as Valentine’s Day, graduations, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and so on.
Shoppers have come to expect last-minute deals and shipping incentives, and in 2016, you’ll want to be there when they come searching.
2. Mobile Made Strides In 2015 & Will Continue To Do So In 2016
During the 2015 holidays, nearly a third of online purchases were made on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). While it may be easy to attribute this to the explosion of new tablets on the market, this increase comes mostly thanks to a rise in smartphone shopping.
There was a significant rise in the prevalence of smartphone shopping this year: It jumped from 14 percent of orders during the 2014 holiday season up to nearly 20 percent in the last two months of 2015.
There’s no sign of this trend slowing down, so marketers should be increasingly aware of this when designing campaigns that span channels. An ad or its copy may come across crystal-clear when viewed on a desktop computer or a laptop’s large screen, but the same can’t necessarily be said of mobile devices (although the size of mobile phone screens is on the rise).
It will be increasingly important to optimize marketing efforts by channel, so pay special attention to your ad’s creative and copy when setting up your promotions this year.
3. Social Media Stalled During Holiday 2015
Despite the hype surrounding social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others), the 2015 holiday season was another miss for social, as it did not drive a substantial number of orders for online retailers. Throughout the holiday season, social media drove only 1.8 percent of all e-commerce orders, which is similar to the previous year, when it drove 1.9 percent.
Although social is definitely an important tool for retailers — for brand building, customer support and more — you should take the time to assess the return you’ve gotten from it in recent months. If it turns out your ROI for social isn’t high, consider reallocating resources to channels that tend to drive a high percentage of sales, such as search or email marketing.
The holidays offer their own gift to marketers by giving us a glimpse into the trends of the coming year. Now is the time to unwrap all of the insights gleaned at the end of 2015 and apply them to our marketing efforts in the months ahead.