Top 6 Holiday Ecommerce Predictions for Small Businesses in 2014

Learn the lessons we've gathered through throughout 2014, the predictions we've developed from those lessons and the ways you can prepare for the busiest sales season of the year.

2014 Ecommerce Predictions

1. Traffic and sales from mobile devices will increase, particularly tablets

Volusion merchants experienced a 23% gain in mobile sales during the second quarter of 2014, with growth expected to continue into the holiday selling season. In terms of device-specific habits, the majority of smartphone users are browsing and researching products, whereas tablet users have longer times on page and higher conversion rates in terms of making a purchase.

For SMB merchants to make the most of their mobile presence, they should:

2. Smaller retailers will face heightened challenges in competing with big-box retailers

The National Retail Foundation projects a 9-12% growth in online holiday sales over 2013, whereas eMarketer predicts a 15.5% increase. While this number is indeed impressive, the majority of this growth will stem from existing market leaders, like Amazon and other top-tier retailers. Despite this continued shift to larger brands, smaller online businesses still have a large opportunity to experience increased sales during this busy selling season.

For SMB merchants to better compete online against big-box retailers, they should:

3. A shortened selling season leads to more frantic shoppers, heightens expectations for customer service

The 2014 holiday season is shorter than most years, with only 26 days existing between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. This means that shoppers will have a tighter window to find deals and will be crunched to make last-minute gift purchases. To provide a stellar customer experience to hurried customers, it is paramount that customer service channels are adequately staffed and shipping deadlines are strategically planned.

For SMB merchants to best serve customers during a shortened selling season, they should:

4. Not only will Black Friday and Cyber Monday again break records, they will be lengthened and extended

In 2013, Black Friday and Cyber Monday shattered previous records, with comScore reporting sales of $1.2B and $1.7B, respectively. As shoppers continue to skip the malls to enjoy the convenience and deep discounts offered immediately after Thanksgiving, expect to see even higher sales on these major shopping “holidays” in 2014. More importantly, retailers will be pressured to extend and lengthen these selling days, offering Black Friday style discounts throughout the entire week of Thanksgiving, and particularly on Thanksgiving Day. Cyber Monday will experience a similar extension, with several online retailers extending those discounts further into the week following Thanksgiving, as an additional effort to maximize an already shortened holiday selling season.

For SMB merchants to capitalize on consumer interest in the days before, during, and after Black Friday/Cyber Monday, they should:

5. Ecommerce growth and sales are no longer a given, must now be earned through data analysis and segmentation

In previous years, increased sales for SMB merchants during the holidays were expected based purely on seasonality, but as competition increases, retailers will be required to act strategically to experience sales growth during the 2014 season. Part of the challenge in achieving additional growth across the industry is due to sheer volume – as sales figures continue to climb, achieving double-digit gains becomes increasingly difficult year over year. Because of this development, online sellers will need to more heavily rely on data analysis, segmentation, and personalization tactics to achieve similar gains as previous years.

For SMB merchants to better optimize, qualify, and segment audiences to achieve larger holiday sales growth, they should:

6. Security becomes a heightened point of concern for wary online shoppers

With increasing media coverage surrounding internet security incidents, including the Target data breach, Heartbleed case, and recent news of Russian hackers stealing over a billion passwords, shoppers are much more aware of online security issues and will require additional reassurance to complete a purchase.

For SMB merchants to instill a sense of security and confidence with online shoppers, they should:

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