Shoppers to make the most of festive downtime by going online

The Christmas and New Year’s break is one of the few times when everyone has a chance to unwind. But as shopping online has become more convenient it is likely to become a popular activity during this year’s festivities, bolstered by more attractive and earlier sales from retailers.

The surge in e-commerce activity over the Black Friday weekend highlighted what retailers got right in terms of the online consumer experience, but also highlighted some fundamental learnings. With Christmas on the horizon, retailers must now focus on capturing the hearts of shoppers still on the hunt for a festive bargain.

This year’s Black Friday was the biggest online shopping event ever in the UK – with our data from Big Data Labs showing a 16% rise on last year. However, the online traffic was overwhelming for certain retailers. John Lewis’ site crashed, as it was unable to handle the massive demand, resulting in a two-hour outage. Capacitas estimates this could have cost the retailer £2.8 million in potential revenue. Whilst ever-extending sales periods like this can be hard to predict, simple performance testing could prevent retailers experiencing these outages again.

Black Friday also provided clear evidence that shoppers are increasingly shunning the high street in favour of sofa surfing on mobiles, so it’s critical that your website is delivering a website that is easy to navigate and fully optimised for use across devices ahead of the Christmas period.

Retailers must not only prove willing to be flexible with their digital strategy but also the traditional retail calendar. The success of the Black Friday weekend, where we observed a staggering 270% increase in online shopping compared to a normal day, could bring the festive sales forward. Retailers could see a slump in trading in the run up to Christmas, so we’re expecting that the Boxing Day sales will come early to inject some last minute revenue before the big day. Retailers including Marks and Spencer, Argos and Debenhams are already offering significant discounts in order to help shift seasonal stock after a particularly mild winter.

Shoppers now have the freedom to buy right up until the final hour, with many expected to take advantage of late order delivery times and click & collect services. In fact, Amazon Prime Now customers can leave it as late as 9:45 on Christmas Eve to order. For any retailers that can offer next day delivery on the 23rd, be prepared for a final rush – do not ignore the purchasing power of last minute shoppers.

From observing our historical data, Christmas Day itself has quickly become a prime opportunity for retailers to boost revenue and conversions. We have seen a peak in traffic just before the Christmas lunch was served and then again in the evening, between 8-10pm. We’re expecting to see an even bigger surge of online shoppers this Christmas Day, particularly from mobile devices.

Throughout the crucial Christmas rush, it is important that retailers observe consumer spending habits and adapt to their behaviour. To capitalise on impulse shoppers, retailers need to focus their efforts on reducing friction in the checkout, enabling customers to select and pay for their goods as quickly as possible regardless of the channel they use. By bringing sales forward and extending deals into Christmas Day, retailers will be able to have their turkey and eat it for that all-important end of year boost.

Jamie Turner is co-founder and CTO of PCA Predict

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