2016 Holiday Shopping Forecast: Good News for Ecommerce Retailers

U.S. consumers are gearing up for the 2016 holiday shopping season—and ecommerce retailers have reason to celebrate: More Americans plan to shop online this holiday season than ever before.

Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) of consumers in this year’s Rubicon Holiday Consumer Pulse Poll say they plan to shop online. In fact, 22 percent of shoppers overall — and 28 percent of Millennial shoppers–say they don’t plan to shop in a brick-and-mortar store at all this holiday season.

Given the dominance of online shopping, it’s no surprise that Cyber Monday is becoming more important as a shopping day than Black Friday. Some 47 percent of survey respondents say they will shop on Cyber Monday, compared to the 42 percent who plan to shop on Black Friday. Millennials and parents, in particular, are gearing up for Cyber Monday: Almost three-fourths say they love this shopping event.

Clearly, the 2016 holiday shopping season presents huge opportunities for ecommerce retailers. To make the most of it, follow these steps.

  1. Plan ahead. Nearly one-fourth of Americans (22 percent) Rubicon polled started researching Cyber Monday deals in August. That’s a substantial increase from the 12 percent who got an early start on Cyber Monday last year. A survey by RichRelevance found consumers are becoming more accepting of “Christmas creep” — that is, holiday marketing that starts before Thanksgiving or even before Halloween. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed started their shopping by Labor Day. Among Millennial consumers, the percentage is even higher: Rubicon reports that 39 percent of this age group has already made some holiday purchases.
  1. Reach out to convenience-oriented, time-crunched consumers (in other words, parents). Parents in the Rubicon survey plan to spend more on the holidays than any other age group — an average of $1,711, up substantially from $1,383 last year. They’re more likely to make purchasing decisions online and on a mobile device than other consumer groups. They also get started earlier — almost half of them have already started holiday shopping. You don’t have to sell toys to benefit from parents, either. Remember, they’re purchasing not just for their children, but also for other family members and friends. Online advertising on websites that parents frequent, pay-per-click ads or ads on Facebook are good ways to reach this demographic while they’re researching holiday purchases.
  1. Get your shipping and fulfillment in order. With the Saturday before Christmas (typically a huge shopping day) falling on Christmas Eve this year, consumers will be even more time-crunched than usual. The weekend before Christmas (December 17-18) will take on greater importance for small ecommerce retailers who can’t offer same-day shipping. Use email and social media marketing to alert customers about this year’s unusual holiday calendar, have shipping deadlines prominently displayed on your ecommerce website, and plan how you will handle rush shipping.
  1. Think mobile. More than one in three of consumers who plan to shop online for the holidays say they will shop on a mobile device (Millennials are especially mobile-dependent). It’s essential to make sure you have a mobile-friendly ecommerce website. Don’t forget that your holiday email marketing messages must be mobile-friendly as well. Make sure that they load quickly and display cleanly, and that any links or buttons are large enough to click easily. Finally, have those links lead to mobile-friendly landing pages so that your email recipients can take the desired action. Otherwise, they’ll just get frustrated.