For as long as anyone can remember the U.S. Thanksgiving Weekend has served as the unofficial kickoff for the holiday shopping season. The retail industry has actually crowned 2 days for marking this transition: “Black Friday” (the day after Thanksgiving) and “Cyber-Monday” (the Monday after Black Friday) and traditionally the biggest online spending day of the year.
The outlook for the 2014 holiday shopping season in the U.S. is very optimistic. The recession is over, unemployment is at a 6 year low, and gas prices have dropped. Last month the National Retail Federation announced that it expects sales in November and December to rise a healthy 4.1 percent over last year.
It’s clear that the holidays represent a sizeable portion of a company’s annual revenue, and increasing amounts of those sales are online and with mobile devices. In its highly anticipated release of holiday spending trends, research firm comScore forecasts that total online retail spending during November and December will rise 16% to $61 Billion. M-commerce, or the process of using mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets to make online purchases, will account for $7.9 Billion, or approximately an eighth of total retail spending. Mobile retail shopping will also reflect a 25% increase over 2013.
Because this is the best time of the year for retailers, business owners need to do everything possible to ensure their store is holiday ready. For brick and mortar firms, this obviously means stocking shelves, staffing the phones, and hiring temporary help to keep customers happy. But it’s also paramount that your website is in tip top shape to handle the increased demands over the next 6 weeks.
Now obviously you can’t devise an effective mobile strategy overnight; this will require a new outlook, skills, and strategy, which is a longer term commitment. But in case you’re late to the game or just struggling to keep up with all the rapid changes in the world of mobile retail, don’t worry! There are some bottom line things you can check off right away to ensure a more pleasant experience for holiday shoppers visiting your website.
Convenience & Simplicity: Customers are increasingly dissuaded from brick-and-mortar holiday shopping because of the hassles of difficult-to-find parking spaces, crowded stores, and long lines at the checkout counter of places like Walmart, Target, or Kmart. One of the major reasons visitors are shopping on your website is convenience. Science tells us that people prefer the path of least resistance to their end-goal. Consider this in terms of the “economy of action” and the balance of benefits vs. costs. Think clearly about how much effort it’ll take for your visitors to get to your website, get what they need, and get out? The key here is to make the consumer experience as optimal as possible.
Price & Availability: The notion that online shops have a greater stock of goods at lower prices may be more perception than reality, but it still works in the retailer’s favor. Make every effort to ensure your stock of merchandise is well supplied and available at the prices indicated on the website. As long as online vendors meet their customers’ expectations in these two categories, they will reap the rewards of the holiday shopping rush.
Website Speed & Page Load Times: People think they’re more patient than they really are. In reality, when it comes to shopping online, folks are much more affected by speed than they realize. This is why there’s a direct connection between web load speed and sales conversions. And expectations are even higher on mobile sites. Consider that 57% customers will abandon a site if they have to wait 3 seconds for it to load. What’s more, findings indicate that a 2-second delay during a transaction results in shopping cart abandonment rates of up to 87%. E-commerce giant Amazon calculated that a webpage load slowdown of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year. Major take-away here: you can’t overestimate the importance of load times for E-commerce and M-commerce shoppers.
Mobile Friendliness: M-commerce is huge, which is why having a Mobile First website is critical to holiday retail success. We’ve already mentioned the M-commerce predictions for November and December. Forrester expects mobile retail transactions in the United States to total $114 billion in 2014. $76 billion will be from tablets, while the remainder will be from smartphones. These same numbers are replicating themselves globally. A 2012 study from Google showed that mobile-friendliness was a key factor in purchase decisions, with 67% indicating that a mobile-friendly website made them more likely to buy a product or use a service. In addition, 61% indicated that a bad mobile experience made them more likely to leave.