5 Holiday Lessons From 2013 That You Can Apply This Year
What can last year's holiday shopping trends tell us about the 2014 holiday shopping season? Columnist Jordan Elkind explores.
There may not be a crystal ball (or snow globe) that can predict what will happen during the 2014 holiday season — but marketers need look no further than 2013 for a guide to the most significant e-commerce trends likely to take shape in the coming weeks.
Throughout last holiday season, The Custora E-Commerce Pulse tracked the US e-commerce industry based on aggregate data from over 100 US retailers. Here are the five most surprising stats of the 2013 holiday season — and what they mean for marketers.
1. E-Commerce Was The Shining Star In A Lackluster Holiday Retail Season
While overall (online and offline) US retail growth during the holiday season was estimated to be 4.1% over 2012 according to the US Department of Commerce, e-commerce sales grew 12% year over year.
What It Means for Marketers: E-commerce growth shows no signs of slowing down. Take advantage of the trend by equipping yourself with a comprehensive holiday marketing plan to acquire new customers, drive repeat orders from your existing customer base, and keep your new shoppers coming back after the holiday rush.
For omni-channel retailers in particular, holiday time represents a great opportunity to flex your dual-channel capabilities: best-in-class omni-channel retailers are taking competition to the next level by offering in-store redemption of online offers, store return of online orders, and more.
2. The Season’s Growth Wasn’t Uniform Across The Country
Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska led the charge with 18% average revenue growth over 2012. Mature markets grew at a slower pace, with California sales growing only 6% vs. 2012, and New York revenue actually shrinking 2% over last year.
What It Means for Marketers: With the biggest year-over-year regional growth, the Midwest is an important battleground for e-commerce marketers.
Geotargeted advertising, smart regionally-driven merchandising, and strategic fulfillment and shipping policies can help marketers win the Midwest this time around.
3. Share Of Mobile Purchases Grew By 50% The 2013 Holiday Season
Almost one in three purchases was made on a mobile device (phone or tablet) during the 2013 holiday season, up from one in five in 2012.
What It Means for Marketers: For marketers looking to sweep the 2014 holidays, mobile is no longer an afterthought. (For proof, look no further than Black Friday of 2013, when almost 40% of purchases were made on mobile devices — compared to only 25% in 2012.)
A robust mobile app, a site fully optimized for mobile web, and seamless brand experience across device types are now the table stakes for e-commerce marketers. And those leading the pack will be looking to capture shopper demand with mobile notifications, in-app exclusives, and mobile search and display advertising.
4. Email & Search Are Key To E-Commerce Success
Google is still the gatekeeper to online shopping, with over 40% of e-commerce orders originating on Organic Search (26%) and Paid Search / SEM (15%). Email Marketing accounted for 16% of e-commerce orders.
What It Means for Marketers: Make sure you’ve got a solid SEM plan for the holiday season, bearing in mind that the gap in cost and performance of paid search across desktop, tablet, and mobile is rapidly converging. (Consult this guide for more tips.)
The holiday season is also a great time to roll out email segmentation. Whether you’re promoting different offers to high- and low-spend customers, testing out cross-sell strategies, or tailoring creative to different customer segments, holiday — when most retailers are simply aiming for email quantity over quality — is a great time to reap the benefits of a major targeted approach.
5. Social Commerce Isn’t Happening (Yet?)
Social networks (including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram) generated less than 2% of e-commerce sales during the holidays shopping season, same as in 2012.
What It Means for Marketers: Just because social isn’t driving conversions doesn’t mean that it’s not playing a valuable role from an awareness and branding perspective. Just don’t look to social to drive significant revenue — at least not yet.
While the 2013 holiday season can help illuminate the trends likeliest to shape the coming weeks, e-commerce marketers will be keeping a close eye on channels, categories, and promotions over the coming weeks. Here’s to a record-breaking, not-too-cold 2014 holiday season.