Each year, e-commerce companies predict the new technology shopping trend for the holiday shopping season. In years past, it’s been the rise of the iPad/mobile shopper, or the expansion of major spending online beyond just Black Friday or Cyber Monday. This year is not different, with eBay and Amazon weighing in on the big trends for the 2013 holiday season.
One thing worth noting is that this year’s holiday season is shorter than years past. This year there are only 27 days for retailers, compared to 33 days of the season last year. While a few days doesn’t seem like much of a difference, these days can mean millions (or even billions) in sales for retailers. Adobe says that online sales are still expected to grow by 12%, but the shorter season will represent a whopping $1.5 billion in potential online sales from retailers.
As Adobe predicts, the shorter season will “mean a more frenetic, distracted shopper — one who will need a highly personalized marketing offer to capture their attention. Retailers will be able to offset those lost days and drive online sales by focusing on special holiday apps, innovative social media campaigns, free express shipping for last minute shoppers, and early promotions well before Black Friday.”
With that in mind, the first trend that e-commerce retailers are noticing is around fulfillment and shipping. The transition between e-commerce and fulfillment is becoming more seamless, and shipping is becoming part of the commerce experience, says Steve Yankovich, VP of Innovation and eBay. For eBay, the company has been working on expanding its click-and collect option, and its same-day delivery option, eBay Now, both in the U.S. and abroad. eBay also recently acquired Shutl, the UK-based marketplace that uses a network of couriers to deliver local goods within a couple of hours.
And eBay has expanded eBay Now relationships with a number of well-known retailers, including The Home Depot, Target, Macy’s, GNC, Walgreens, Best Buy, Toys R Us, Office Depot, Urban Outfitters, RadioShack and AutoZone.
WHile online shoppers would previously have had to wait a few days for gifts to be shipped, a user can be shopping on a phone in a coffee shop or at work, and either have the gift held at the store, or delivered to their location within the day.
A spokesperson for Amazon Marketplace tells us that faster shipping is at the top of Amazon users minds this holiday season. As we heard, Amazon is working with the U.S. Postal Service to deliver packages on Sunday, starting in the Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas. Amazon Prime members, who receive unlimited, free two-day shipping on millions of items, can now receive their packages on Sunday in these areas. Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service plan to roll out this service to a large portion of the U.S. population in 2014 including Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix.
This year, Amazon users can even gift Prime memberships to friends and family, which allows users to access Free Two-Day Shipping on more than 15 million items on the marketplace. Amazon is continuing to ecpand its same-day delivery programs, and even Wal-Mart is getting into the mix with sam-day delivery.
Mobile is still becoming a go-to platform for shopping, and we’re seeing mobile purchasing continue to rise. As Amazon tells, “mobile purchasing is definitely a significant and growing portion of our business. In fact, tens of thousands of new customers make their first ever Amazon purchase via mobile devices every day. Last holiday season alone, Amazon customers purchased more than one toy per second via a mobile device.”
While the majority of commerce purchasing, especially around the holidays, still happens in-stores; more people are using phones in the store to either engage with retailers or price-check items. Amazon caught onto this early with its Price Check app that gave users discounts if they use the app to purchase an item in a store while checking a price.
As Yankovich explains to us, “There is no question that this holiday season, more people are going to be discovering products in a physical store, and using their mobile phone as a companion.” He says that what’s different from years past, is that more consumers have a reliance on their phones, and eBay is aiming to help engage consumers when they are in-stores. One of the biggest drivers of in-store sales on eBay and other retailers is the company’s scanning app Red Laser. But he adds that Red Laser has evolved into more than a scanning mechanism–you can also search for items, see whether a retailer carries an item in-stock close to you and more. This local information will become even more important this season.
eBay recently debuted an expansion of its connected glass initiative in San Francisco that allows users to shop touch screens on digital storefronts in a local mall for specific retailers. Users can make purchases of items via the glass, pay with PayPal or a credit card on their phone, and have the items shipped to them. Yankovich says that eBay wants to provide the same frictionless consumer experience for physical retail that on-demand transportation app Uber has been able to give riders.
Deals and promotions have been a ubiquitous experience every holiday season but this year, Amazon is likely to be pushing more deals via its marketplace, perhaps as a way to make up for some of the lost days for sellers. This season, Amazon started allowing third-party sellers on offer holiday deals that will be featured on the Amazon holiday deal pages. Part of this is helping these sellers drive more traffic during the season, so Amazon will be promoting these third-party seller deals on the marketplace’s high-traffic spots like the Today’s Deals page, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deal pages, and category holiday pages. Amazon is also pushing its Black Friday deals earlier this year.
With the shorter season, eBay will be using promotions and deals in the context of the omnichannel experience, says Yankovich. eBay is seeing the consumer transition between screens (computer, iPad, mobile) depending on the time of day, and he says that providing these deals and promotions across all screens (vs.offering mobile only deals) is going to be key.
comScore is forecasting double-digit growth in both desktop e-commerce and m-commerce spending, so we’ll see if eBay and Amazon return in January with strong, and potentially record-breaking numbers.