There has been a lot of talk in 2013 holiday shopping retrospectives about the anomalies surrounding the season: namely, the compressed holiday schedule, the weather on the East Coast, and the fact that Hanukah landed on the first day of Thanksgiving.Holiday Wrap Up

While not in the business of forecasting weather, we did take a minute to flip the calendar forward and saw something that caught our eye: This year’s shopping season will only be two days longer.

Given that, 2013 could end up being less anomaly and more prelude for online retailers. And that means there are some lessons to be learned from holiday 2013. In order to help facilitate that, Monetate recently sponsored a webinar with Katie Evans of Internet Retailer, and Adam Lipsman, VP of Marketing & Insights at ComScore, to break down Holiday 2013’s numbers and shopper trends.

Through the course of that webinar, several things became clear. Notably, weekends aren’t just for bricks and mortar commerce, tablets are primed to become the new desktop and compressed shopping seasons put additional pressure on logistics.

But there were also some big-picture takeaways that can help retailers make long-term changes that will positively impact holiday 2014.

Personalize your marketing

According to Lipsman, the compressed holiday season made it all but mandatory for consumers to shop online over the weekend. Year-over-year growth numbers were as follows:

  • Thanksgiving weekend: +34%

  • Cyber weekend: +71%

  • Green weekend: +41%

Showrooming (where customers browse merchandise in bricks and mortar stores before turning online to find a better price), was likely one of the reasons that online spending grew so much over key weekends, Lipsman said. At the same time, however, research presented by Internet Retailer showed that foot traffic to bricks and mortar stores dropped 14% (impacted by bad weather on the east coast, no doubt) and that the average mall shopper is now only visiting, on average, three stores per trip. That figure was five stores per trip just a few years ago, said Evans. She attributed the drop-off to more customers browsing online.

Both these facts highlight the need for marketers to bridge the gap between the consumer’s in-store and online shopping experiences through personalization and real-time marketing efforts.

Optimize across devices

An initial step to take in that effort is to optimize your customer experience across all devices.

According to ComScore, m-commerce was responsible for 2% of today-day spending on Black Friday and 17% of total-day spending on Cyber Monday. It’s predicted, Lipsman said, that m-commerce attributed for 13% of all spending throughout the holiday shopping season.

And those figures mesh with Monetate data that shows the average order value of purchases on tablets grew 14% year/year to $144.60.

If you’re focused on creating a seamless customer experience, you need to think through each of these experiences, which differ according to industry.

Apparel, for instance, converts well on tablets, according to Lipsman, but not as well on smartphones. Though Lipsman said the hang-up is likely attributable to screen size, there are other factors that can be optimized to improve conversions on smartphones. Begin exploring those avenues—like mobile optimization, responsive design and easier checkout processes for mobile users—now.

Spotlight your logistics

After a strong start to the holiday shopping season, spending trailed ComScore’s projections in the latter part of the season. Even still, some leading retailers had trouble delivering purchases by a promised date.

Retailers can begin differentiating themselves in this area by adding clarity to the shopping process. Let your customers know throughout the browsing and checkout process what items—and how many— are in stock, when those items will ship and when they can expect to receive them.

This level of certainty will reduce the customer’s “guessing game.”  And, given the compressed spending season for 2014, retailers who experienced success with shipping need to highlight that fact to consumers in their promotions.

Overall, those who used these strategies in 2013 experienced growth rates that far surpassed those of their competitors, which means these lessons are essential learning for retailers shaping strategies for Holiday 2014.

2013 Holiday presents image courtesy of Shutterstock

Leo Strupczewski is Monetate’s Sr. Writer. A former journalist, Leo has helped media companies, professional services firms and business-to-consumer brands identify stories that resonate with their target audiences and to integrate those stories into an organization’s business objectives. He is passionate about technology, but owns a typewriter.