4 data-driven tips for holiday ecommerce success

Adobe’s Digital Economy Index (DEI) monitors the pulse of online retail by capturing and analyzing data from one trillion consumer visits to ecommerce websites and over 100 million stock keeping units (SKUs). September is here, and if historical data from years past is any indicator, this holiday season could be on track to be the biggest one yet.

At the same time, the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic and related logistical challenges mean nothing is certain. Retailers will have to be agile and continue to innovate to increase their chances of success. They will also have to connect their digital experience with their in-person selling experience more closely than ever before.

To help digital retailers get ready, we took a deep dive into DEI insights and data to uncover four promising strategies for the 2021 holidays.

Strategy #1: Improve your mobile shopping experience

The smartphone is the linchpin of today’s unified commerce experience. While mobile phones drive 59 percent of ecommerce website traffic, they’re also essential to in-person shopping. Consumers use their phones to find the closest store location, navigate their way to products in-store, and pay quickly through Apple Pay and other cardless checkout methods. The mobile phone also plays an integral role in facilitating “buy online pickup-in store” (BOPIS) and curbside pickup when shoppers arrive.

According to Adobe research, retailers could grow Cyber Monday revenues from $9.3 billion to $12.4 billion by improving the smartphone checkout experience. For example, retailers might allow mobile shoppers to see inventory online and in local stores. Or they might offer more flexible and convenient payment methods, so shoppers don’t have to input credit card data.

Retailers can also improve the mobile experience by making internal search easier, so consumers don’t have to scroll through endless product listings.

Strategy #2: Start early

Retailers are releasing deals earlier and earlier, and consumers are responding. During the 2020 holiday season, 82 percent of consumers said that they intend to start shopping on or before Black Friday, compared to 77 percent in 2018.

Consumers also tend to shop earlier because they are concerned about shortages and a continuation of COVID-19-related disruptions to the supply chain. In other words, they don’t want to risk missing out on the season’s hottest items. And those risks are very real. Shipping and delivery services may be stressed by high volumes of seasonal orders.

The bottom line: you should start planning your offers and marketing strategies early and include email in your campaign mix from day one. Our research found that email-driven revenue increases 12 percent on Cyber Monday compared to the rest of the holiday. Adding deep linking to your Cyber Monday emails can help increase conversions by sending shoppers to specific product content rather than a generic landing page.

We also recommend using social media long before Cyber Monday to build awareness. Today’s consumers tend to use social media primarily for research and inspiration in the very earliest stages of their journey. Together, social networks and display ads account for 10 percent of visits to ecommerce sites but less than 5 percent of digital revenues.

Strategy #3: Stay focused on Cyber Weekend

Although holiday shopping will start early this year, Cyber Weekend still reigns. According to our research, 18 percent of holiday spending happens in the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday. In fact, the most critical window every holiday season for you and your online customers is between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. PST on Cyber Monday. These “golden hours” bring in more revenue than one average day.

We also see more and more retailers closing their stores on Thanksgiving Day. Moreover, if the Delta variant does not subside, consumers in certain areas may opt to stay home and shop online. For now, it’s too early to tell.

Strategy #4: Actively manage logistics

Shortages remain a major issue. Consumers see the “out-of-stock” message five times as often compared to before the pandemic. If you’re dealing with stockouts, you should ensure in-stock items are promoted and out-of-stock items are demoted in both product recommendations and search results. You should also make it convenient for customers to find alternatives. For example, you might display a grid of options on the out-of-stock notification page.

Another potential challenge is rising shipping fees. In 2020, they increased 12 percent YoY during Cyber Week. Not surprisingly, orders shipped for free dropped from 70 percent in 2019 to 64 percent last year. But we still recommend you offer free shipping, if you possibly can. The number one reason people shop online is free shipping. And the main reasons consumers choose one brand over another are convenience, trust, and price.

Finally, buy online-pickup in store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup will remain a key customer draw, especially in the latter half of the holidays. Last year, BOPIS and curbside orders grew 40 percent YoY during the holiday season and peaked on December 23. Therefore, it is crucial that any logistical snags be smoothed out prior to peak shopping season, and we suggest focusing intently on promoting BOPIS and curbside pickup in the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

Have a cheery and profitable holiday season.

Following these recommendations will leave you well-positioned for success this holiday season. And we invite you to download the full DEI report from September 2021 for more ideas and insights.