With fall officially here and the 2016 holiday season quickly approaching, online merchants are gearing up to push revenues to historic levels.
This year’s holiday shopping season is expected to be the biggest on record — and for consumer electronic brands the pressure is greater than ever. According to research from Rubicon Project, 60 percent of all millennials are planning to buy technology-related items this holiday shopping season.
What e-commerce strategies can brands put in place to get ready for this online shopping rush?
Deepen the customer relationship (think subscriptions). The days of one-and-done purchases are falling by the wayside. Wall Street and consumers alike are placing increasing value on subscriptions. Consider recent news about the Dollar Shave Club’s acquisition by Unilever, and Uber’s latest move to test a subscription-based service across a half dozen markets. Driven by shoppers’ growing interest in product access versus ownership, as well as the desire for more value-added services and convenience, we believe that this shift to subscriptions will continue to gain traction.
To deliver on consumer expectations, some CE brands have already made the digital shift, offering subscription services to complement their latest physical gadgets or automatically replenish consumable items. For instance, one manufacturer is pairing subscription-based video monitoring services with home security cameras, and another is offering subscribers ink-cartridge refills with printers.
The end result? Deeper ongoing relationships with their customers and new recurring revenue streams for their businesses. There is no better time to make these shopper connections than during the holidays when the propensity to purchase is high. By investing in subscription-based service models now, CE brands can experience revenue pay-offs that extend well beyond this season of giving.
Respect the experience. In addition to addressing consumer preferences, brands also must elevate the online shopper experience. As consumer expectations around convenience, quality and personalization rise, good purchase experiences are no longer good enough. Everything matters — even page-load times can impact buyers’ decisions to shop on one site over another. Anything that complicates the buyer’s journey, including cumbersome check-out processes, can cause cart abandonment.
Another way to enhance the online shopping experience today is to support a customer journey that seamlessly spans across multiple screen sizes and devices — from smartphone to tablet to desktop and back again.
Recent research points to the importance of this multi-channel approach. According to William Blair and Co., during Holiday 2015 mobile commerce increased nearly 60 percent compared to less than 10 percent desktop growth. Despite the rising demand for mobile, however, 84 percent of e-commerce dollars still occur on the desktop device. Smart branded manufacturers are relying on responsive design to fill this gap. Brands don’t need to win on price if they can win on the overall buying experience, and that holds true not only during the holidays but anytime of the year.
Go global. With each passing season, the boundaries between international online holidays continue to blur. We saw in 2015 that the single biggest online shopping day was neither Black Friday nor Cyber Monday, but Singles Day (Nov. 11), when Chinese shoppers spent a staggering $14.3 billion. This new world record put a spotlight on the global online shopping opportunity and the importance of cross-border commerce.
To build on this momentum and reach global audiences seeking the latest high-tech goods, brands need to embrace promotional schedules that consist of a melting pot of global holidays versus events that were once defined by physical borders. Today, European shoppers expect promotions during Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S., while American shoppers seek deals on China’s Singles Day.
Set your brand up for success. Signs of the holidays are already here. Eager shoppers are already exchanging wish lists with family and friends, and some even began their buying sprees over Labor Day weekend. With the forecasted spending on tech gifts expected to set records during this season of giving, it is not a moment too soon to start preparing for an influx of shoppers. Is your business ready?
Brad LaRock is MarketForce VP at Digital River, a global provider of commerce-as-a-service (CaaS) solutions. Digital River’s technology connects B-to-B and B-to-C digital products companies and branded manufacturers with buyers across multiple devices and channels, and helps companies grow their online businesses.