The 2020 Holiday Shopping Season Will Set Long-Term Precedents


As Andy Williams famously sang in his seasonal classic of the same name, the year-end holiday season is considered the “most wonderful time of the year.” However, the year 2020 has sung a different tune thus far from every other year — and as many businesses that closed during the first wave of the pandemic still struggle to recover, it’s yet to be seen if this year-end holiday season lives up to Williams’ iconic lyrics.

The restrictions forcing people to work and shop from the confines of their homes accelerated an already advancing e-commerce market that was years in development. As a result, the pandemic has created a case study for e-commerce and retail of the 21st century. Moving forward, this holiday shopping season will likely witness one of the next major shifts toward a different future in retail.

From the Shop to the Laptop

It’s been well documented in the retail industry that during the last decade e-commerce has encroached on brick-and-mortar sales.

In 2019, for example, consumers spent US$601.75 billion online, compared with $136.4 billion in 2007, according to a Digital Commerce 360 report — a 77 percent increase.

Not only have total sales skyrocketed, but so has the e-commerce share of total retail sales. Brick-and-mortar shops might not be out of the game quite yet, but the evident growing demand for the variety of items and convenience of buying online certainly looms large.

Fast forward to Q1 of 2020. The pandemic created a unique scenario whereby e-commerce sellers sold in record numbers. With much of the population relegated to staying at home during the peak of the first wave, consumers went on their devices at home to shop. During Q2 of 2020, consumers dished out $200.72 billion for online purchases with U.S. retailers, an increase of 44.4 percent from the $138.96 billion spent in Q2 of 2019.

This year, retail e-commerce sales totals will depend largely on the eagerness of shoppers to spend large amounts on gifts if they’re facing reduced disposable income — not to mention fears about being in crowded spaces.

Despite these concerns, Salesforce predicts that up to 30 percent of global retail sales will be made through digital channels this upcoming holiday season. Meanwhile, Deloitte estimates that holiday e-commerce sales will reach between $182 billion and $196 billion, which is a 25 to 35 percent increase from 2019’s $145 billion.

Attention to Logistics

As COVID-19 drives more e-commerce sales, retailers must make new considerations to prepare accordingly, which translates to new logistical considerations, ranging from site infrastructure to last-mile delivery.

For retailers looking to cash in during the opportune holiday shopping season, it’s imperative first to review the existing retail infrastructure and assess its preparedness for a larger volume of consumers.

During the last few years, retailers have invested significantly to improve the customer experience and cater to the growing e-commerce demand. Walmart is one example of a big-box retailer that has successfully expanded an infrastructure now capable of offering quick delivery and a wide variety of products on a platform vying with Amazon.

Although most retailers don’t have the financial capacity to upgrade their e-commerce platforms to the extent that these giants are able to, finding solutions for sustaining uptime, ensuring fast pages load times, and protecting consumers will all be especially critical for the anticipated increase of the 2020 holiday shopping season. Shopify, which saw enormous revenues in Q2 of 2020, remains the e-commerce platform white label leader, and will likely be the crutch on which many proprietors depend in the coming weeks.

Some e-commerce businesses may also consider invisible technologies like virtual reality and automation processes to enhance the online shopping experience. Or consider social commerce to promote their products — a growing e-commerce channel.

On the delivery side of logistics, e-commerce sellers have some considerations to mull over regarding the cost of shipping, which has risen significantly for air and last-mile delivery. While many sellers spent time and money upgrading their last-mile delivery during the last two years, the pandemic has posed some new supply chain challenges.

Last-mile delivery, which is already considered the most inefficient part of the fulfillment process, will see much more demand from consumers this season — and questions remain if the disrupted supply chains will be able to keep up.

The cost of shipping by air and sea rose by several percentage points during the summer. These increased costs could trickle down to the consumer in some cases, but could also end up as costs that sellers will need to absorb in order to appease shoppers.

Looking Beyond the 2020 Holiday Season

How e-commerce sellers respond to the COVID-19 challenges will dictate what’s to come. Because the pandemic could last well into — and perhaps beyond — 2021, the 2020 holiday shopping season will likely set important precedents both in the market and logistically.

Brick-and-mortar stores may not disappear from our lives entirely, but their slow demise could be hastened by the prolonged imposition of social restrictions brought on as a result of the pandemic.

Before COVID-19, brick-and-mortar stores experienced a gradual decline that matched the increase of e-commerce sales. So with a sustained pandemic, we will likely continue to see the sharp acceleration of e-commerce, where consumers of all generations grow more accustomed to online shopping.

Even recurrent shopping for groceries in the U.S. has now become a booming segment in e-commerce. As this trend continues, logistics will have to adjust, which means predominantly brick-and-mortar retailers will shift their real estate holdings from physical shops to distribution centers for their e-commerce infrastructure.

Only time will tell what happens with the 2020 holiday shopping season, but the developments in e-commerce during the last few years are now blossoming to a greater degree because of the conditions forced by the pandemic.

Charles Darwin famously said it best: “Survival of the fittest.” As the limitations we face pave the way for the dominance of e-commerce, it’s the retailers who can best adapt to the changing logistical and consumer demands that will lead the industry this holiday season and for years to come




This article first appeared on E-commerce Times on October 8th, 2020:

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Prepare Your Q4 mCommerce App Campaigns With These Tips


With user acquisition being a major cost for most m-commerce apps, here are some helpful tips to get you into the end of the year, holiday season.

As the holiday season is approaching (it’s never too early to start preparing), tens of thousands of businesses begin to prepare for their busiest time of the year. If you run an eCommerce business or you are a developer of an eCommerce mobile app, chances are you’re already planning a creative campaign to attract more customers during the busy holiday season.

Although it is true that the upcoming holiday, Nov-Dec season provides a huge opportunity to increase sales, it is crucial to prepare in advance and establish a well-defined strategy to approach their audience in a timely and effective manner. While successful campaigns have turned some mobile apps into million-dollar businesses, misread market analysis or poorly constructed strategies can lead to a waste of money and a missed opportunity for app owners and retailers.

The following tips will help you build a solid Q4 mCommerce strategy so your business can maximize its sales potential this season.

Keep the Key Dates in Mind (2022 update)

While Christmas and New Year are especially famous for their preceding shopping sprees, there are a few other days in which online sales reach record numbers. Although some of these dates are busy mostly in the United States, they represent a great opportunity for app owners and other online business owners:

  • October 31st — Halloween Day marks the beginning of the holiday season and is one of the busiest days for online purchases all around the world.
  • November 11th — Single’s Day or Double 11 – is a shopping holiday popular among young Chinese people that celebrate their pride in being single. What started as a local holiday quickly expanded to singles worldwide celebrating big promotions on Chinese e-commerce sites mostly.
  • November 25th — The “Black Friday” following Thanksgiving in the United States is the busiest shopping day in the country since 2005.
  • November 28th – Cyber Monday – Perhaps the most important date for app developers, as this “Cyber Monday” is considered the busiest day of the year for online sales.
  • December 18 – Super Saturday, as the name suggests this is the Saturday before Christmas and that’s when people tend to do their last-minute shopping. AKA “Panic Saturday”
Give Away Freebies and Discount Codes

It should come as no surprise that during the busiest period of the year for both online and traditional business competition gets fierce. Freebies and giveaways are great strategies to attract new customers and reinforce brand loyalty among existing ones. All advertisers are out there trying to fight for those engaging users. Kids get a higher allowance as gifts during this time- and that’s when they want to spend it- on new games- or upgrading existing ones.

Use technology in your favor and make sure to publish any special deals or discounts extensively across all social media platforms. While special deals are always effective, publishing them in advance can help you stay ahead of the competition even before the end of the year approaches.

Time to Get Creative

If you are planning to attract new customers, you need to put creativity at work and produce innovative marketing campaigns. Although it is true that Q4 is a great time for mobile apps, you must consider that your competition will also try to take advantage of it.

Go beyond the regular marketing tactics and don’t be afraid of innovation. Gaining attention is key in these times, so following the common patterns is hardly a good idea. Plan ahead and brainstorm all ideas regardless of how crazy they might seem.

We know that coming up with ground-breaking marketing campaigns is much easier said than done. If the nature of your app is suitable for it, don’t be afraid of adding a little holiday-themed fun to your apps and sites: snowflakes, Santa hats, and Christmas trees are a great way to start.

Prepare for Traffic Peaks

Just like any other eCommerce business, app developers must prepare to see a significantly higher number of downloads and user activity during peak holiday seasons. Weeks spent in the development of effective campaigns can become useless if you are not technologically prepared to deal with a sudden increase in the number of new users.

Keep in mind that the mobile app is only a part of a larger business which commonly includes support websites and sometimes even phone helplines. Make sure to have everything ready for these secondary components to escalate as your app’s downloads keep growing.

Update Your App For The Latest devices and Operating Systems

Just as application developers, large mobile phone manufacturers commonly release their new products before Q4. Your job is to gather as much information as possible on the product specifications of these devices and optimize your app to run smoothly in them.

If you are planning to optimize your app before the holidays, make sure to do so at the right time, as virtual stores such as Google Play or the Apple App Store have special holiday categories where you can be featured.

Spend Your Budget Wisely

If you are considering paying for an advertising campaign on a social media platform or a traditional media outlet, it is important to have a clear image of your target market and be a realist about the goals you want to achieve. While a Facebook campaign might work well for some specific applications, the investment might not be worth it for others.

Take into consideration that many of your competitors will also engage in paid advertising campaigns, and try to think about alternative ways to reach your potential customers. Go wide as possible, your target audience isn’t just in one place, they have multiple apps being used daily, use several social media outlets (are you in the TikTok game?) and don’t forget to measure everything that you do. The only way to go up is to learn from the things that work best.

Have a happy m-commerce holiday 🙂

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