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Oct 28 2020

The Holiday Season & The ECommerce

Karanvir Gupta

Senior Manager - Product Marketing

It's that time of year!

Yes! It is that time of the year again! We all are prepping for the holiday season! The Starbucks red cups are out! The picturesque Fall'20 has taken over Instagram handles. People across the globe have started applying for their annual leaves and other time off to be spent with families. The pandemic has kept the strings pulled throughout the year, but we are all set to rejoice with our loved ones during the holiday season in a close-knit affair. While things go slow for every sector and vertical, eCommerce witnessed a lot of action during these 3 months. And this year, it is even more action-packed for eCommerce retailers – thanks to the world pandemic!

Going by numbers, eCommerce sales have already exceeded the Black Friday and Cyber Monday figures in the first 2 quarters of 2020. According to the Q2 report of the U.S. Census Bureau (covered in Techcrunch), U.S. retail eCommerce reached $211.5 billion, up 31.8% from the first quarter and 44.5% year-over-year. ECommerce also accounted for 16.1% of total retail sales in Q2, up from 11.8% in the first quarter of 2020.

This only adds insurmountable pressure on digital commerce, marketing, and merchandising teams of online retailers and eCommerce stores. After all, the Holiday Season of 2020 is expected to break all records!

Holiday Readiness is the one thing that has everybody's attention in the eCommerce ecosystem. So each team is being given a sermon to 

Be Holiday Ready!

ECommerce Trends, this Holiday Season

Every year, retailers across the globe rely on this holiday season to meet their annual revenue targets. So no wonder it becomes imperative for online stores to have a full-proof system in place and not lose any money on the table. 

And just so that you are fully equipped to handle what's coming your way, we have curated a list of top trends that are expected to shape up the holiday season this year:

1. Larger potential audience 

This goes without saying. In 2019, in-store sales decreased by 6.2%, while online shopping grew by 14%, according to ShopperTrak. Nike saw 30% of its sales coming from digital channels in 2020, a target set for 2023. The digital transformation has already accelerated 5 years in time due to the pandemic. This implies more shoppers will be planning to buy products online this holiday season. While GenZ and Millennials were thought to be the key drivers of the online shopping landscape, GenX and Boomers are expected to join the frenzy this holiday season.

2. New Shopper profiles 

With Gen X and boomers joining the race to purchase online, this means a lot of preparedness to undergo shopper personas that will be coming online for the first time to buy stuff. Under such circumstances, it will be important for online stores to ensure that buying experience and discovering products are intuitive enough for shoppers who have never shopped online before. From the language of the website to the display of the products, checkout procedures, payment options to return/refund policies will have to be shaped up to ensure a seamless shopping experience for these first-time online shoppers. Convenience is next to none – especially for the digital natives.

3. Omni-channel adoption 

With stay-at-home orders and unanticipated lockdowns, more shoppers will buy online. Naturally, this implies that your online retail store becomes the epicenter for all the action of the holiday season. However, the people's desire to go out and have same-day delivery is going to make BOPIS (buy online and pick up in-store), curbside, or drive-through pickups popular options among shoppers. So much so that Magento Commerce, in its Magento 2.4 update, has already released an in-store pickup option called BOPIS fulfillment. eCommerce stores can set pickup hours and locations in the administration settings. This trend will put a precedent for unifying the in-store and online buying experiences, bringing a drastic shift toward how we think and perceive digital strategies for tomorrow.

4. Discovery Commerce 

This is the cool stuff you and other retail stores need to know! Let the product find the shopper before the shopper even thinks of buying the product! Yes! Showing relevant products and recommendations to the shopper even before they land on your website. Using information like top-selling products in geography (read Pincode) to understand the trending searches and popular products for the upcoming holiday season, location-based targeting to connect the right product to the right shopper! This will help establish a frictionless shopping experience and acquire new shoppers, thus resulting in shoppers' delight – leaving them coming back to you because they feel you know and care about them – more than others. 

Having highlighted the top trends this holiday season, the question is how eCommerce stores ensure delivering such a seamless shopping experience catering to the changing trends and demands of the shoppers.

What does it mean for eCommerce stores?

All of this translates to hundreds of things you can change on your website and in your shopping journey – from discovering a product to placing an order and maybe making a return and asking for a refund. But here is a well-thought-out list of the Top 6 things you can look into to ensure that you do not have a disgruntled customer.

  1. Product Discovery and Selection 

Ensure that the shoppers can discover and select the products most seamlessly. With catalog size running into millions with new "holiday-category," self-gifting items, and curated shopping lists added to the feed, finding the right product fast can be a nightmare for a shopper. This can result in a lost sale. The best you can do is to use AI and ML algorithms to fine-tune the search relevancy, fix the category pages on the website, and rank these relevant products higher on the product listing pages to shorten the path-to-purchase and help shoppers make faster decisions. (Watch how!)

Personalized Shopping Experience

 80% of shoppers are likelier to buy from a store that offers a personalized shopping experience. An eCommerce store can use its website to bring the brand to life for its shoppers. Build a personalized shopping experience where you can recommend the relevant products, cross-sell and upsell complementary products to increase the basket size and AOV in much organic fashion. Shoppers love to be treated personally and offer an experience that engages with the shopper at an individual 1:1 level. Curate an experience that compensates for the personal treatment they receive in their favorite retail store.

Slick merchandising options 

Did you know consumers give 0.05 seconds to form an opinion about a site, and 38% of them will stop engaging if the design or the content is unattractive? The key to success is understanding your shopper. Show them the relevant products, run the right merchandising campaigns and promotions, A/B test these campaigns in various geographies, boost the products related to top searching queries, bury the not-selling inventory, and pin or slot the brand's shoppers love to buy from. Let shoppers see the visual products as they type the queries in the search bar (visual guided autosuggest) and bucket the products into Popular, Keywords, Trending, etc., for easier selection. Shoppers love it when they can easily find the products and make shopping decisions fast – especially during the holiday season. This increases the likelihood of them buying from your online store or having them coming back to you to buy more stuff. Get creative about showcasing the right kind of products to your shoppers. Your website should be like a magic wand that brings all the choicest goodies in front of the shopper! Let 'em have their Cinderella moment.

Seamless checkout 

Many eCommerce stores fail to offer a painless checkout procedure. "It's too long and too complex" is what most shoppers complain about. Many shoppers don't trust the website with their personal information for the first time, so it is advised to offer a Guest (Anonymous) checkout. Give your shoppers an option to make payments with a credit/debit card or a wallet. Shoppers are based globally trying to buy gifts for their loved ones from their favorite stores based locally. It is a plus if you allow them to make an international payment in multiple currencies. What's more – enable a single page checkout to avoid any redirects, thereby preventing the shopper from drop-off from the purchase.

Fulfillment/On-Time Delivery 

When it comes to orders placed during the holiday season, this is the #1 fear of each shopper – delayed delivery of the products. The first and foremost thing you can do is to ensure that your process is not broken and that you have an SLA with your 3rd party delivery partners and drop shippers. Having said that, this is as good as it reads on paper. To ensure that you can alleviate this fear, have an active notification system that can be used by the shopper to track their parcel. Provide the shoppers with a dedicated page or hub/contact point to check for delivery of their orders. For shoppers buying locally, online stores can pledge to offer a drive-through or curbside pickup (as mentioned earlier under eCommerce trends). BOPIS is one of the preferred options for shoppers these days. (BOPIS as an option increased by 195% Y-o-Y in May during the pandemic) This not only gives the shoppers the convenience of picking up the order the same day but also prevents you from becoming a bottleneck in the process.


Last but not least, ensure that your shoppers' data are not compromised. The holiday season is also notoriously called the cybercrime spree time of the year. In 2020 alone, 8 billion records have been exposed, putting high pressure on eCommerce stores to keep security intact. While the hackers cannot make much money, it harms the brand's reputation. That is why online stores need to understand the criticality of this aspect. Ensure that we have a tool in place to regularly track and detect major incidents of a breach in the system, be it magic art attacks, supply-chain attacks, skimming, or form-jacking. In fact, we recently conducted a webinar on the topic: What eCommerce stores need ahead of the Holiday Season – Security and Conversions.

Measuring the success of the Holiday Season

Once you have ensured that you are ready to delight your shoppers this holiday season – be wary of the metrics you will use to measure the success of the holiday season. You might come across a laundry list of vanity metrics available online – but they are useless if they do not really matter to your business. 

For your ease and simplicity, we studied the data from the past and holiday reports that we prepared for our customers and a few sample reports that they shared with us for a better understanding of their business – to put this list together:

  1. Total Traffic
  2. Traffic Source 
  3. New vs. Repeat customers
  4. Desktop vs. Mobile
  5. Desktop Conversion vs. Mobile Conversion
  6. AOV on Desktop vs. AOV on Mobile
  7. Shopper Behavior – traffic, searches, transactions, and conversions happening across Search, Category pages, and Recommendations
  8. Pages with higher bounce rate
  9. Top-performing product queries
  10. Product queries with zero results

These key metrics can help you fix what might be broken on your website during the holiday season and prevent any further revenue loss. But these metrics can vary from organization to organization depending on the business requirements.

Wrapping up – Short Term vs Long Term

"This holiday season will be unlike any holiday season I think any of us have ever seen before." Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh was found quoting CNBC. Walmart and Target have decided to sell online solely during Thanksgiving this year. There is undoubtedly a surge anticipated in online traffic and sales by nearly 25%-35% (according to a report published by Deloitte)

What all the brands are doing right now is to Be Holiday Ready for this season. But with the aforementioned trends and what that means for eCommerce stores – we believe that many of these trends and fixes will last more than just the Holiday Season of 2020 running into 2021!

You and other eCommerce stores can leverage some of these fixes quickly to fix for the imminent times, but it's time to think about the long-term consequences of the pandemic and its impact on shopping behavior worldwide. 

Why only enjoy a one-day jackpot and not have these smashing shoppers from the holiday season keep coming back to you repeatedly!?

Building seamless Digital Commerce experiences is no more a thing for tomorrow. It is something that many online retailers need to consider today. You cannot afford not to be able to showcase the products the shoppers are more likely to buy! You cannot afford not to be able to deliver a personalized shopping experience! You need to ensure that each search a shopper makes on your website has a relevant product mapped to it. Because if not you, someone else will do that for your shopper. You can have each piece right but let us not forget that each shopping journey begins with product discovery and selection!

Building the retail stores of the future!

Holiday Season 2020 will be that milestone in the history of eCommerce, which was supposed to be arriving 5 years from now! No wonder holidays are already here! XoXoXo! 

With more shoppers switching online to make purchases and beyond just the holiday season, online retailers need to devise a digital strategy that can quickly and efficiently cater to the rapidly changing retail landscape!

From understanding shopper behavior and buying patterns, self-optimizing algorithms that can understand shopper queries and intent, enabling voice and visual search capabilities, identifying fraudulent transactions and online thefts, automating customer conversations, and support service to answering customer queries – AI and ML are going to play a pivotal role in shaping up the retail stores of the future!

Watch this panel talk where KFC, Go-Jek, Barbeque Galore, and Unbxd discuss Building the Retail Store of the Future.

When you are done handling the frenzy of holidays 2020 (laughs), feel free to come back and explore how Unbxd can enable a relevant, intelligent and personalized AI-powered site search for your online store and shape the digital commerce experience for your shoppers (for the long term) and help you build your Retail Store of the Future! Else you can request a demo right away!

Happy Holidays!

#unboxhigherconversions #unboxhappiness with Unbxd!

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