6 Holiday Shopping Predictions for Small Business Owners

We combed through the most up-to-date data-driven predictions for the 2018 holiday season, so you can be prepared.
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This year, more orders will be placed from smartphones than from any other device. (Photo: Stanisic Vladimir/Shutterstock)

How’s your holiday prep going? To make sure you’re fully prepared for the upcoming shopping season, we combed through the most up-to-date data-driven predictions for 2018:

Mobile will prevail.

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Armando Roggio, marketing and ecommerce professional (Photo: Armando Roggio)

This year, more orders will be placed from smartphones than from any other device. In 2017, sales from mobile phones performed exceptionally well, and there’s no doubt we’ll see the same trend continue this year, said Armando Roggio, director of marketing and ecommerce for a multichannel retail chain.

Related: 5 Ways to Win Over Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers

“A shopper wants to take advantage of Black Friday deals, which will start around noon on Thanksgiving Day,” he explained. “But that same shopper has to have three Thanksgiving meals — one at her mom’s house, one at her husband’s mom’s house, and one at the house of her pushy friend, who won’t take no for an answer. All of that feasting cuts into shopping time, so she’ll make purchases from her phone when she has a spare minute or two.”

You won’t pay shipping.

There are so many retailers offering free shipping right now, it’s giving shoppers every reason to avoid the extra cost. That tendency is only going to strengthen in the next few weeks. “With holiday shopping starting earlier, a large portion of those shoppers might find they are eligible for free (slow) shipping since the orders should still have plenty of time to arrive before Christmas,” Roggio said.

Related: How to Make Holiday Returns as Painless as Possible

A.I.-based product recommendations will make big gains.

Product personalization – those A.I.-generated ads on your social media feeds and emails that know exactly what you’re looking for – are really hitting consumers where it counts. According to Rick Kenney, a consultant on digital retail trends, 35 percent of all revenues will be driven by shoppers who tap or click on an A.I.-based product recommendation. That’s a 25 percent increase over last season.

“Retailers must leverage machine learning and natural language processing to deliver proactive customer service based on tone, sentiment and buying behavior experience,” said Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist for Salesforce and author of “The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence.”

The second Cyber Week – right after Christmas Day – is a sleeper hit for impulse buys.

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Rachel Eng, consumer data analyst (Photo: Rachel Eng)

Cyber Week II, between Christmas and New Year’s, is when shoppers flood back in market to take advantage of online deals, gift cards in hand. According to consumer data analyst Rachel Eng, 57% of shoppers said they are more likely to shop impulsively during the holidays compared to other times of the year.

For those spontaneous shoppers, Eng suggested displaying an assortment of stocking stuffers and last-minute items close to the point of purchase, “whether it’s near the checkout line in your physical stores or via product galleries and carousels on your website.”

Experiences are the new black.

Nearly one in three shoppers plans to give meaningful experiences as gifts this year in addition to material items, Eng said. Craft-related gift experiences were the most popular (47%), followed by food-related (45%) and travel-related (41%) experiences.

Related: Track Your Charitable Donations with NCR Silver

Eng advised targeting promotions and campaigns to this category, particularly to millennials, who would likely respond well to these campaigns. “Almost half indicated that they plan to purchase experiential gifts during the holidays,” Eng said.

Don’t rely on foot traffic, and make online shine.

‘Tis the season for … never leaving the house? According to eMarketer’s U.S. Holiday Shopping Preview 2018, foot traffic in US retail stores fell 7.5% in November and December 2017, continuing the longer-term trend toward ecommerce and away from traditional retail.

Related: 7 Ways to Make Your Store Stand Out for the Holidays

To make sure consumers are still getting into the holiday spirit while shopping online, Eng said, think about curating a holiday-themed playlist that consumers can download, showcasing inspiring gift guides or allowing shoppers to celebrate the season of giving by donating to a charity at checkout.

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