6 online holiday shopping trends for ecommerce success

It’s the most wonderful (ecommerce) time of the year: the holiday season. The holiday season continues to bring in the big bucks. Last year, shoppers spent $125.9 billion in November and December. That’s an astounding 15.2% increase over the previous year. We know what last year’s holiday season looked like, but what does this year entail for ecommerce sites?

christmas ornaments

With the holiday season right around the corner, we decided to explore this year’s online holiday shopping trends. What trends should retailers consider as part of their last-minute preparations and longer-term strategies? Here’s our take:

1. The shopping Holiday Season is being stretched out

In previous years, Holiday Season shopping was relatively fixed. The shopping season began after American Thanksgiving and lasted up to Christmas, encompassing the famous Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

More and more, however, we’re finding that shopping isn’t limited to this timeframe. A RetailMeNot study found that 54% of shoppers plan to start shopping before the traditional Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Almost half of shoppers (45%) plan to begin shopping before November 1st. In fact, shoppers who begin early are likely to spend $200+ more on average than those who start shopping in November before Black Friday.

How can your business use this trend to run seamless seasonal sales?

Because the traditional timeline is shifting, online retailers need to get ready for potential surges in online traffic anywhere throughout the extended shopping season, from October all the way through December. Retailers can’t be entirely sure when they’ll hit the traffic jackpot, such as when marketing campaigns will be an unabashed success or a product will be featured as a new favorite by an influencer or media source.


2. Ecommerce goes cross-cultural

In the same way that the Holiday Season isn’t being bound to the traditional timeline, region-specific shopping days are not being confined to the same areas.

Although Black Friday has its foothold in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and other countries, the day is becoming increasingly popular in China. In particular, American brands and products are seeing a popularity surge among affluent consumers in some of China’s biggest cities. Top-selling products include cruelty-free cosmetics, health supplements, and mom and baby products.

Because Black Friday is not as well known in China as the more ubiquitous Singles’ Day, online retailers can use the day to draw attention to their brand and products, and create a loyal following in a market worth many billions.

On the flip side, Singles’ Day is picking up steam outside its original Chinese market. Not only has Double Eleven expanded well into Southeast Asia, it’s also gaining traction in western Europe. Many big-name European online retailers have started implementing Singles’ Day into their seasonal retail campaigns to positive results.

How can your business use this trend to run seamless seasonal sales?

Online retailers need to think outside the box and consider new seasonal sales as part of their Holiday season arsenal. Not only can the payoff be big, but they can potentially reach new shoppers in the process, creating long-term followings and demand outside their original markets.

chinese open air market

3. What’s old is new again

Online holiday shopping trends are not only expanding geographical and time boundaries, but also ideas about gifts. According to PWC’s 2019 Holiday Outlook report, 75% of shoppers now consider sustainability when shopping seasonal sales.

We’ve seen rental, resale, and sharing models grow in other industries. Now, they’re making their way into online retail. According to PWC, over a third of millennial shoppers will look for resale items for themselves and for others this holiday season.

The resale market is growing fast, expected to double in size to $51 billion in 2023 in just 5 years. Apparel rentals services are growing by 20% annually. Because of their popularity, many traditional retailers including Macy’s and Urban Outfitters are announcing similar subscription rental services. Meanwhile, other retailers have buy-back programs for their used products.

How can your business use this trend to run seamless seasonal sales?

There’s serious money to be made as customers increasingly emphasize sustainability in their shopping choices. It’s up to the savvy online retailer to find methods to integrate this demand into their business and marketing campaigns for the holiday season.  

white pickup truck thrift shop sign

4. Customers prize company values

Part of every online retailer’s holiday season campaigns include marketing promotions and advertisements. However, we also know that consumers are subject to many ads from like-minded businesses, especially around the holiday season. In fact, American consumers are exposed to up to 10,000 ads a day.

So how does an online retailer stick out from the sea of holiday season ads? By promoting brand values. It’s frankly not enough to highlight price as a stand-out point. The holiday season sales are built around discounts and lower prices are a factor consumers are used to seeing and even expecting.

Brands like Patagonia have gotten positive press for their decision to donate 100% of their Black Friday profits to grassroots environmental groups. REI has famously opted out of Black Friday sales since 2016, although they continue offering Cyber Week discounts. 

How can your business use this trend to run seamless seasonal sales?

Leading with brand values helps create trust in a company. Brand trust, more than other factors, influences 70% of customers’ buying decisions. And when a brand can create a feeling of connection, they can form a potentially long-term relationship with customers.

Consider what values your business wants to emphasize and how you can implement them within your seasonal sales and promotions.

white and blue table tennis balls

5. Online vs. offline: where are the customers?

At this point, we can hardly say online shopping is a trend. Last year, online holiday shopping reached a new high of $125.9 billion. Almost half of baby boomers and Gen Z shoppers will do most of their shopping online. A third of millennials plan to do most of their shopping via mobile.

The big question is: has online shopping completely surpassed the offline experience? Not entirely.

Rather, the two experiences are being fused together. We see this with the rise of buying online and picking up in store (BOPIS). This year, more than 40% of shoppers say they plan to purchase goods online and pick them up in-store. According to research by Adobe Digital Insights, retailers with both online and offline stores have seen a 50% increase in click and collect.

How can your business use this trend to run seamless seasonal sales?

For retailers with both an online and offline presence, it’s important they integrate the online and offline shopping experiences for a seamless customer journey. However, more flexible buying options means retailers can see shoppers delaying purchasing until the last minute before major holidays like Christmas. That might mean extra strain on your website IT infrastructure, which you should monitor closely.


6. Where online sales happen, IT outages follow

We continue to see big-name retailers crash every holiday season. Not only do crashes have the short-term effect of lost revenue and more orders on competitor websites, but long-term effects on brand reputation.

Unfortunately, IT outages remain a staple in online retail. According to a recent LogicMonitor survey, 96% of global IT decisionmakers have experienced at least one outage in the last three years, despite the fact 80% of the same decisionmakers reported IT performance/availability was their biggest concern. What’s more, over half believing these outages were avoidable!

How can your business use this trend to run seamless seasonal sales?

During the holiday season, website downtime often occurs because of traffic surges. In the moment, these surges can seem like the dream for an ecommerce website manager. However, the situation can quickly become a nightmare if websites are not adequately prepared for traffic.

Most articles on traffic-related website crashes don’t discuss the topic beyond a shallow approach. But if you don’t really understand the problem, how can you avoid it?

Want to learn more about how high online traffic can bring even the biggest ecommerce websites down? Check out our blog on the subject.

Don’t let web traffic surges sink your sales