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e-Commerce Industry News

September 26, 2014
Online stores will be put to the test this holiday season
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September 26, 2014
Customers are buying more gifts online. Customers are buying more gifts online.
With many merchants taking large leaps in fleshing out their omnichannel retailing initiatives this year, the 2014 holiday season may very well be the largest test they will face. It will not be getting any easier this year either, with a new forecast from Deloitte projecting a massive growth of online sales compared to 2013.

Deloitte expects online sales and mail orders will increase between 13.5 and 14 percent for the 2014 holiday season. To put that into context, Deloitte's 2013 forecast projected a far more meager increase of 4 to 4.5 percent. That means there are going to be a lot more Christmas shoppers going to merchants' online stores this holiday season.

The forecast also noted that "digital interactions" would play a key role in setting the tone this year. People are leveraging a variety of devices, whether it is desktops, laptops, tablets or smartphones, to help them shop. Digital interactions will influence nearly half of all retail store sales - or $324 billion worth - this holiday season, which just goes to show how prevalent the omnichannel retailing experience has become regarding modern purchase decisions.

"While online sales continue to climb, digital customer interactions through both virtual and physical store channels present greater sales opportunities than online or mobile commerce alone," said Alison Paul, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP and retail and distribution sector leader. "Our research indicates that 84 percent of shoppers use digital tools before and during their trip to a store. Additionally, those shoppers convert, or make a purchase, at a 40 percent higher rate than those who do not use such devices during their shopping journey."

Preparing for the holiday 2014 season correctly
The transition to omnichannel operations has been a trying one for many retailers, with most facing some trials and tribulations. Whether it was solutions not integrating properly or struggling to offer a particular service, there are a lot of challenges along the journey to becoming an omnichannel sales presence.

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, it is easy for retailers to get caught up in the holiday fervor and think they need to make their shopping experiences as robust as possible. They may think if they just add in-store pickup or some other incremental feature they will be that much better able to serve customers.

However, with such an important time frame approaching, it is even more important that retailers focus on ensuring what they already have is functioning properly. Yes, something like in-store pickup can be tremendously beneficial, but not if merchants rush to implement this feature and have yet to properly test it.

For example, imagine a scenario where a customer buys and item online and opts to pick it up in-store, but the system does not correctly report the purchase to the brick-and-mortar store. This item is sold to someone already in the physical location because it was not pulled properly and the shop runs out of stock. Now, retailers have an angry customer on their hands - merchants never want to feel the ire of an angry parent during the holidays.

Completing the omnichannel transition is a long-term goal. With such an important peak period coming up, it may be wise if retailers simply double down on what they can and do offer customers. Trying to iterate and implement right now may only lead to additional complexities, and retailers do not need that extra stress right before the busiest time of the year.