The retail ecommerce sector enjoyed a banner holiday season, with year-over-year sales performance surpassing that of brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, year-over-year online sales also increased by nearly 20% for every holiday promotional event, including Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday, and Free Shipping Day.

For those of you who like to get good news in a visual format, check out our infographic—The 2011 Ecommerce Holiday Season in Review—in this post that reviews some top ecommerce stats from holiday 2011.

So, one of the factors powering this rise in online shopping is consumers’ increased use of smartphones and tablets—especially the latter, as these devices are holding down add-to-cart and conversion rates that are similar to those of desktops. And with the Pew Internet & American Life Project reporting that tablet ownership nearly doubled during holiday 2011, this emerging consumer segment will only add to the ecommerce sector’s numbers.

To get perspective on what these findings mean for omnichannel marketers, we reached out to Debra Arbesman, senior associate, retail and consumer products, at digital marketing insights and services firm Compete, who also shared some ideas for how to leverage these developments to your advantage in 2012.

Holiday Trend #1: Ecommerce sales outpace those of brick-and-mortar stores.
Insights & Ideas: “Consumers are increasingly turning to the web for their holiday (and everyday) purchases. Brick-and-mortar retailers need to think of their online channel as an extension of their stores. Make it easier for consumers to switch back and forth between channels seamlessly (e.g., allow them to buy online and return in store, offer in-store pick-up, accept in-store coupons online). Keep messaging, pricing, and offerings as consistent as possible across channels,” says Arbesman.

Holiday Trend #2: Holiday promotional events scored significant gains in 2011.
Insights & Ideas: “Brick-and-mortars have done a great job at capitalizing on the hype of Black Friday. Doors open earlier and earlier each year, deals get better and better each year, and consumers turn out en mass to get the best deals,” says Arbesman.

She adds, “[Online retailers] can leverage this type of frenzy by utilizing similar tactics. Lightning deals are an excellent way to get consumers’ attention. There is a limited time to capitalize on the deal, so consumers are incentivized to make the most of it. And deals don’t just refer to the ticket price of items: Offering free shipping is a great extra that can go a long way in closing the deal as well, kind of like icing on the cake.

“Don’t be afraid to offer deals that consumers need to return at a later date to use. Stores have been using this tactic to drive incremental sales for years; it is time online retailers used this strategy as well.”

Holiday Trend #3: Consumers increasingly shop online via tablets and smartphones.
Insights & Ideas: According to Arbesman, “M-commerce and t-commerce is indeed growing, so online retailers need to have a mobile strategy. Either create a mobile site, or make sure your full site is mobile-friendly. Consider creating an app. Applications make it easier for consumers to shop and keep your company top of mind any time the consumer looks at his/her mobile device.

“Offer mobile promotions, like a discount for checking in at the store or tweeting at the retailer. M-commerce isn’t just about sales, it is about connecting with consumers on their most social device—so make the most of it!”