For better or worse, preparing for Christmas has become a big part of our Thanksgiving season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now annual holidays of a sort, and Internet sales are taking an ever-larger chunk of the season’s gift sales.
VIEO Design has extensive experience building and maintaining ecommerce sites for our clients, and we’ve witnessed ecommerce become more and more prevalent among small and mid-size businesses as well as large retailers.
With the most important day of the year for online sales coming up, we wanted to explore the changes that have been taking place and point out a few opportunities for businesses with ecommerce branches.
Read on for our top 3 takeaways from recent trends in ecommerce, especially around the holidays!
1. We’re still buying most things in stores – and that affects our online purchases as well.
In 2013, online purchases made up only 5.2% of U.S. retail sales , though the number rises to 13.1% of sales if you exclude gas, groceries, and automobiles.
However, economists are increasingly realizing that Internet sales aren’t as separate from physical retailers as they had previously thought.
For mainstream products that can be purchased from a number of sources, the presence of local retail options has a big effect on online sales overall.
In other words, if you have a Macy’s in your community, you’re more likely to choose to buy from Macy’s online store over, say, Gimbel’s (It’s almost Christmas, why not throw in a little Miracle on 34th Street reference?).
2. Smart businesses embrace multiple sales platforms.
Perhaps the above trend is why so many brick-and-mortar stores are redefining themselves as “omnichannel” retailers. In fact, Macy’s is among the best at this, offering a mobile app that helps shoppers find nearby locations and scan QR codes in the stores for product information.
Online sales continue to rise rapidly - in the US, internet sales are projected to rise to $327 billion annually in 2016, a 45% increase over sales in 2012 and a 62% increase over 2011.
For retailers of all sizes, it’s no longer safe to assume that having a storefront is enough – but that doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Whether you sell online or not, you need to consider your online presence an extension of your physical location.
Customers will be visiting your website for product information, promotions, customer service, store hours, and more, and everything you can do to improve their experience online will make them more likely to choose your business, whether they buy from you online or in your store.
3. Invest in ecommerce now, before it’s too late.
This holiday season, FedEx is preparing to ship about 22 million packages on December 2nd – Cyber Monday – an 11% increase over 2012 and double what FedEx reported in 2007.
As consumers choose to shop online more frequently for more products, all businesses with an online sales element need to reexamine their ecommerce technology.
Research conducted in 2008 found that retailers invest in technology at a much lower rate than other industries – an average of 2% of revenue compared with 4-6% in other sectors.
While retailers like Walmart have relied mostly on their physical locations and operated clunky online stores, Amazon.com has steadily improved its functionality and the range of products it is able to offer. Today, Amazon.com’s annual sales is $60 billion, six times the amount of Walmart’s online sales – though Walmart’s net sales for 2012 totaled $443.9 billion, so they’re hardly suffering for it among their primary customer base.
While we have yet to see the ultimate results of adopting these different models, it’s a gamble to assume that your storefront will carry you through if your ecommerce is weak.
If your business has an online sales element, planning ahead for the changing economy may be what sets you apart from your competitors.