By Rieva Lesonsky
Good news for ecommerce retailers: Online shopping is projected to grow by 20 percent this holiday season as compared to 2011, according to a Citi Research study reported by AllThingsD. But before you rub your hands together in glee, know that the reason for the increase is because there are two more days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year—so Americans will have more time to shop.
Of course, that doesn’t mean ecommerce isn’t growing. Citi says ecommerce is seeing significant increases, as more consumer spending moves from offline to online. However, the report did offer a reality check: As of last year, ecommerce made up just 8 percent of overall retail sales, with 90 percent or more of retail sales taking place offline.
While the effect of social media and mobile devices on consumers’ holiday shopping habits is making news this year, Citi’s report reminded retailers that these areas are still growing slowly. For instance, it cites Forrester data that smartphones will account for 3 percent of e-commerce this year, then grow to 7 percent by 2016. Given that mobile and social are still emerging areas of shopping, Citi urges ecommerce companies not to get distracted by mobile and social at the expense of their core technologies.
What should you do to make sure your ecommerce house is in order?
- Test your site. Make sure the nuts and bolts are working and that load speeds are up to par.
- Help ‘em out. Can consumers quickly see how to contact you (by email, phone or chat) in case of a question or problem? Can they easily find shipping rates, tax info and other things they want to know before they buy? Shoppers are busy, so keep it simple.
- Integrate. If you have a brick-and-mortar location in addition to your ecommerce site, make sure the two are integrated. Do consumers see the same prices in-store as online? Make sure your databases sync properly so they don’t see price variations.
- Offer choice. Consumers have myriad shopping options this season, so make sure you offer them lots of choices. Can they order online and return or pick up in-store? Can they search your site in-store for a product that’s not on the shelf, and have it shipped?
A separate Deloitte forecast predicts holiday sales of $920 billion to $925 billion, or a 3.5 to 4 percent increase compared to last year, but warns that rising gas prices could put a crimp in sales. With customers still watching their wallets, the key to retail and e-tail success this season is what it’s always been: Make it as easy as possible for customers to buy from you, not from the other guy.
Image by Flickr user Mae Armstrong (Creative Commons)Google+