How Retailers Can Capitalize on an Extended Holiday Shopping Window

Consumer expectations for shorter delivery times have put some retailers under pressure to compete, but a new study by digital commerce platform Episerver suggests that this has also extended the holiday shopping window. With more time to capture sales, 2019 could be a big year for holiday revenue — if retailers can capitalize on it.

Despite sales and promotions like Black Friday, 35% of consumers choose to wait until December to begin their holiday shopping. Episerver experts correlate this with the similar number of consumers (31%) who expect two-day shipping to be available for online purchases. The peak shopping period is Dec. 1–15 (21% of shoppers), suggesting that retailers that can’t guarantee fast shipping might miss out on the biggest wave of consumers.

While shipping speed is a known priority, providing tracking was also found to be important in a crowded holiday market. Most respondents expected to be given tracking information, with it ranking as the second most-common expectation after free shipping. Retailers that cannot offer faster times might be able to appeal to customers by providing clear communications throughout the shopping journey.

Amazon, one of the leaders in shipping, is still expected to account for all or most holiday purchases for 32% of consumers, according to the study. However, 47% of respondents said that they would buy none or only a few of their gifts from the e-tailer.

This creates an opportunity for other retailers, particularly in the apparel space: 43% of apparel shoppers visit a brand or retailer’s website first, in comparison to Amazon (30%) or Google (29%). And once a shopper is searching on the website, there is more than a 200% increase in the likelihood of conversion than at other shopping periods in the year.

“Shoppers turn into bargain hunters around the holidays, using retailers’ on-site search tools to find the right product quickly,” said the report. “Retailers need to optimize their on-site search before the holidays to ensure relevant search results for a shopper looking for quick finds, despite nuances like misspellings.”

Recommendations for optimized search include adding more synonyms to the search database; introducing page redirects for common non-product searches, such as store locators or return policies, and adding product recommendations to error pages or searches with no results. Episerver also suggested utilizing paid search opportunities, which will account for over $13 billion in advertising spend from U.S. retailers this year.

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