Barreling into 2013's holiday shopping season, even the more optimistic expect traditional retail to continue to be near-stagnant. NRF expects sales in the months of November and December to marginally increase 3.9% to $602.1 billion, over 2012's actual 3.5% holiday season sales growth. The forecast outcomes are hit hard by the fact that there are just 27 days between Black Friday and Christmas this year, versus 31 days in 2012. Also, this year has only four weekends, to shop between Black Friday on Nov. 29 and Christmas – unlike five last year.
Online retail sales, despite the short shopping season, are predicted to jump between 13% and 15% over last year, with web sales in November and December possibly reaching $82 billion, according to Shop.org. Of that, 38% of shoppers will spend more half of their holiday gift budget online, and smartphones will influence $36 billion in retail store sales this holiday season. However, according to Google, age does matter. A whopping 88% of millennial smartphone owners will use devices for holiday shopping, compared to 76% of all smartphone owners. One in three millennial smartphone owners will make a holiday purchase on their phone, up 28% year-over-year. The Adobe Digital Index 2013 Online Shopping Forecast predicts that Black Friday e-tail sales will reach $1.60 billion, a 17.6% increase compared with $1.36 billion last year. For Cyber Monday, consumers will spend $2.27 billion online, a 15.2% increase. Mobile optimized retailers will transact more than 20% of their sales via smartphones and tablets, a 47% increase year-over-year.
Many e-tailers are not partaking in the growth of mobile commerce. Though more than half of online shopping access time was via wireless, most online retailers fail to meet shoppers' demand for pages that load in four seconds or less. Google finds the frustration threshold of mobile shoppers is even more stringent, with any wait over one second "breaking the user's flow." Google also found that the average mobile page load time is just over seven seconds, far past the typical user's frustration threshold. For retailers that fail to match their technology and user experience to the new mobile shopper, damage to their relationships with these consumers won't end with this shopping season. Competitors will capture the enduring loyalty of those potential customers and their friends.
Prediction for 2013 Holidays: Win, Place or No Show
Customers' achievements in mobile sales show what is working. Extremely contrasted results are expected during the 2013 holiday shopping season for three separate groups of online retailers:
- No-Shows: E-Commerce sites that for the most part, don't focus on the mobile customer. If they did, revenue would jump 30% to 50%.
- Paddling Hard to Keep Up: Those that are trying mobile commerce, but hit internal roadblocks; change seems too risky, although their status quo avoids any risk of eye-popping success.
- Winners: Those that embrace m-commerce, study the technologies available, and then take the right steps to meet consumer expectations. They will win not just this year, but also capture enduring loyalty and tribal approval, since shopping is so social.
It is interesting to watch as companies don't just get to the Winners group, but also hit the ranks of fastest-growing worldwide. They do not hide their formula for success – rather it's there for others emulate. Close attention is given to the preferences of mobile consumers and the retailers learn from successful m-commerce websites. The high achievers are not always giants. Often, a smaller company is better positioned to move quickly with new technology and anticipate new user demands. Sticking with the status quo carries no risk of great success. Most e-commerce participants must make changes or lose out in mobile commerce.
Shopping in Motion 2013
Mobile commerce is now multi-device, a paradoxical mix of lots of online research and spontaneous buying. It is growing at amazing rate, yet far short of its potential, due to the latency and sparse, frustrating quality of the experience. Winning at mobile commerce demands a dual focus: first, improve technology right now to catapult performance on wireless connections, and second, with faster performance, you are free to cater to the desires and needs of mobile shoppers. It's not which e-commerce players have the most resources; it's which pay careful attention and take action that will profit from m-commerce.
Corinna Krueger is head of marketing for Instart Logic, a new technology approach for radically faster web and mobile performance.