Expert Round-up: eCommerce Trends and Tips for the Holiday Season 2020

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We can all agree that this year is anything BUT typical. With customers’ behavior changing amid the pandemic, holiday sales are changing as well. This year’s sales periods are expected to last longer, and the shift to e-commerce-first will drive even more sales for merchants than ever before. In 2019, Shopify reported $2.9 billion in worldwide sales over Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. And this number is expected to rise even higher during 2020 holiday sales. That’s why in this expert round-up we gathered opinions from top Shopify experts on eCommerce trends.

Trends and patterns in gift purchasing have changed as shoppers started to buy gifts earlier amid the anticipated logistics delays and early sales. On this special occasion, we asked Shopify experts to share their tips and thoughts on preparing for this holiday season sales. 

Without further ado, let’s dive into what Shopify experts have to say!

Fred Li, Head of Merchant Success at Topdser

What are the current eCommerce trends for this holiday season?

coffee and christmas sweater
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Personally, I expect to see self-care gifts to be on the rise. People are staying in more and are taking the time to work on their own mental and physical health. Items like massage guns, skincare, stress relief, and other items of nature should do very well. On that note, exercise equipment that can be used for at-home workouts should also be a hot option.

Cozy clothing and blankets will make great gifts. People are putting away their party outfits and pulling their sweats out. Ugly Christmas sweater parties are going to be trending down and be replaced by a zoom house party between close friends. Expect people to dress down and cozy this year and plan accordingly.

How is the 2020 holiday season different from the previous one?

In the current global climate, digital shopping is going to be the platform of choice for 2020. Early studies are projecting that shoppers will be spending more than usual this year. Time spent apart from friends and family has people wanting to connect in other ways. Despite the distance, people are bonding together emotionally, and this holiday season means more than the ones in the recent past.

Additionally, managers must manage their available inventory. Suppliers may take this opportunity to increase prices or struggle to keep up with demand. Something like a sourcing service can alleviate these pain points. The Topdser Sourcing service can help managers find better prices and keep their inventory from running out.

What are the best practices for the changing online retail landscape?

Sellers must never settle for “good” when “great” and “amazing” are options. Being driven to constantly improve aspects of your business is what will lead to changing the retail landscape. Whether it be searching for the next hot product, improving advertising, or streamlining website UX, the battle for success is an ever-evolving game. It’s a motto we take to heart at Topdser and one we hope to pass on to our users.

What are your projections for eCommerce in 2021?

Similar to how many people have gotten comfortable working remotely; shoppers are becoming accustomed to digital shopping, and many will forgo brick and mortar even when life moves toward a form of normalcy. Entrepreneurs should be optimistic and expect e-commerce growth to sustain. They also must tighten up their operations to combat increased competition. It’s going to be crucial they pick the right solution for their store to streamline operations.

Suggested reading: How Micro-Influencers Can Help Your Business Grow

Mike Weiss, Chief Community Officer at Dropified

What are the current eCommerce trends for this holiday season?

bottles with supplements
Photo by Elsa Olofsson on Unsplash

Right now, we are seeing a HUGE push in the Supplement and Skin-Care spaces. For Supplements, Elderberry, Immune Support, and Gummy Vitamins have been growing in demand and a smart move for anyone who is able to get into these spaces NOW. For we’ve seen much larger orders for Skin-Care, Hand-Sanitizers, Day Lotions, and Night Creams as well as Topical CBD creams! When looking at Amazon’s “Best Christmas Gifts for 2020” gifts for amazon.com, you can also see a large uptake in personalized gifts and memorabilia. 

How is the 2020 holiday season different from the previous one?

That’s a great question, and one I feel will be analyzed over the coming years, given the pandemic and the boost in online presence, including the number of new e-Commerce businesses and record-breaking growth in online shopping!

As I mentioned before about a growing trend in health and wellness, personalization, or memorabilia, this makes a lot of sense given the strain this pandemic has had on many social activities and relationships. So instead of buying generic products, shoppers want it personalized or closer-fitting to their situation or relationship, instead of jewelry, you’ll see personalized jewelry that says something like “I’ll always be with you” instead of apparel, you’ll see more print-on-demand apparel that says “I paused my game to be here…” or have political support, memes or rants on them.

Instead of your standard gummy multivitamin, you will see something like “Multi-Vitamins for the F-Bomb Homeschooling Mom.” Shoppers will work hard to find the perfect gift for that special someone they haven’t seen in a long time because they want them to know they are THINKING about them and still care.

How should eCommerce managers prepare for this holiday season amid the pandemic?

First of all, if you don’t know what you should sell and have e-mail lists already, start asking your customers what they want or suggest new products you are thinking of selling see what they say.

Your customers are the best resource for finding out what they are willing to buy from you. Whether it’s Bundled Packages, resurfacing an old product, adding new products, or customizations to existing products, you’ll know what your customers want because they told you.

Second, get your store set up for heavy traffic. What would you do if you knew 1 million people were going to visit your site today? Before marketing strategies, go through your online store with a fine-tooth comb.

Remember, make sure your house is set up before your guests come for the event. Think through your opt-ins, chatbots, front pages, display offers, product pages, customer reviews, order processes, sales funnels; upsell/downsell/cross-sell strategies, close-tab pop-ups, abandoned carts, thank you for messaging, follow-up e-mail campaigns, pixel-setup through Facebook and Google Analytics. Then, once your house is set up, double-check EVERYTHING by testing it all out. If you have a customer service team, make sure they have the most up-to-date information on your product specs, deals, upsell/downsell/cross-sell strategies, and FAQs for a quick response.

Third, think through your marketing strategy because it’s going to cost you, and you want to hold every dollar accountable. Word-of-Mouth will be your cheapest avenue, so start engaging your existing clients now by selling them what they want and then giving them offers to promote to their friends. People are going to get slammed with advertisements, so adding another layer of interpersonal relationships provides the Trust-Factor that could win you their business.

One growing strategy the big agencies are using that can work for those who do not have big budgets to work with a marketing agency is you use video ad strategies, that great apps like Growave to help create, for you to share lifestyle videos of folks USING your product, then you can retarget and/or based on % watched of these videos instead of paying more for Facebook’s AI to run conversion ads (which work, but are more expensive than the alternative).

What are the best practices for the changing online retail landscape?

  • Don’t get married to your own ideas. Ask your audience what they want and give it to them. 
  • The best way of showing the benefits of your product is to show your customers benefiting from your product. 
  • Get ready to pivot quickly and make sure you have the tools and resources that allow you to do so. 
  • Be Creative! Think outside the box by looking at what’s working with other stores and trying to BUILD on that idea (not just copy it).

What are your projections for eCommerce in 2021?

supplements in container
Photo by Canva

This is another great question and one we are all watching for in the coming months, but my projection is that we will see e-commerce sales reach $5-6 Trillion USD, so the question is, where are the growth markets? Well, Supplements, CBD, Skin-Care and Pet Supplement products have also been predicted to reach $1 Trillion in the next 5 years, so that’s where I’m going to put my attention, and it has NEVER been easier to get into that market than with Dropified’s new Private Label On-Demand Plan where you don’t have ANY Upfront Inventory, Products are Shipped to customers in 1-3 Business Days, and you can create UNLIMITED Brands in the market (so you don’t have to get married to just one idea and force it through).

Mike Potter, Co-Founder and CEO at Rewind

What are the current eCommerce trends for this holiday season?

Every eCommerce brand I have spoken to is expecting this holiday shopping season to be the biggest one yet. Retailers, especially online retailers, have been making that prediction every year, but 2020 obviously has been very different.   

Since the entire world was turned upside down due to the global pandemic, online shopping has grown at a staggering rate. Recent data from the US Census Bureau showed that there’s been around five years’ worth of projected eCommerce growth in just six months. That’s an astonishing figure when you think about it. 

So stores may see either a carrying of that momentum or another spike in traffic or sales as we move into the peak of the holiday season.

How is the 2020 holiday season different from the previous one?

The COVID pandemic is the obvious answer and probably the only one that matters. It is still very much a fluid situation. Depending on what country and city you live in, the rules are different. As some areas start to relax restrictions, others are clamping down again as they deal with new outbreaks. The reality is that people will likely be reluctant to physically shop during the holiday season if they don’t have to.

So, whether retailers have a brick and mortar store with some e-commerce sales or are 100% online, they need to understand how they will be affected. How can you mitigate your risks in this environment but also capitalize on your strengths?

How should eCommerce managers prepare for this holiday season amid the pandemic?

Get organized and fast. If you haven’t made any preparations yet for a surge of holiday shoppers, it’s still not too late. Our 2020 Experts Playbook for Black Friday/Cyber Monday curated deep insights from some of the top e-commerce apps and agencies on the planet. There were three key areas our experts focused on: 

  1. Getting traffic
  2. Converting traffic   
  3. Increasing repeat buyers 

At this point in the holiday season, it will be tough to do everything in the 70-page guide. So it’s best to focus on a key area of your business and address some low-hanging fruit. This could be something your store does pretty well, but you might want to step up your game.  

Maybe you just want a traffic bump.  Put together a quick run of Facebook ads with a killer deal, or hire two or three influencers to pitch your swag. These are two quick tactics that could bring a few more people into your store.

You can also audit the conversion points for your top-selling products. Take an hour and put yourself in the mindset of a new customer. This exercise will help you catch friction or breakdowns in the customer experience. Or, if you don’t want to throw any last-minute wrenches into your holiday sales strategies, think ahead to 2021. What incentives or loyalty programs can you build out to keep customers engaged and coming back? 

A “how-to” for all the above tactics (and more) are thoroughly covered in our 2020 Experts Playbook for Black Friday/Cyber Monday. You can download a copy here. We truly believe it will help for the rest of this year and beyond. 

What are your projections for eCommerce in 2021?

ai and 3d shoes design
Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Don’t expect online sales to slow down next year, even if a vaccine becomes available. So start reviewing the parts of your business that need improving. And put an action plan in place. These could be things you couldn’t address in 2020. In my experience, every online operation has something they can build on.

With the increased competition, excellent customer service will be critical. Brands that give customers great service will lead, and businesses that provide subpar or even average experiences will struggle to grow. So auditing your own customer experience should be a top priority. 

Going further, the user experience will continue to evolve as Augmented Reality (AR) starts to redefine how we interact with products. Customers will want to see the products in their houses before buying them. Stores will need to invest in proper 3D models of their products so consumers can see them from all angles before buying them. 

The number of channels will continue to increase, and customers will want to buy online wherever they live. They won’t want to leave their platform of choice. This can create a different purchasing experience and one they may not enjoy. In-app purchasing from Facebook or Instagram or even in individual apps will continue to expand. Multichannel will become more important as a strategy.

Likewise, localized stores and local currencies will also become more important. Customers hate buying in foreign currencies and waiting for things to ship. Local currencies and distribution will become important to provide great customer experience.

Felix Suellwold, Head of Partnerships at PushOwl

What are the current eCommerce trends for this holiday season?

This year, eCommerce stores have a lot more competition since many big-name retail stores have also transitioned to online selling. Merchants need to actively put themselves out there and make their store visible enough so that shoppers can find them faster and take notice of their brand and their products.

How is the 2020 holiday season different from the previous one?

There is less offline spending and fewer chances to meet family and friends during this Christmas season. Instead, consumers will be shopping for Christmas ahead of time, and many would even want to send their orders directly to family and friends due to the pandemic. To prepare, we recommend that stores start marketing and promoting Christmas deals early on and even set up more flexible delivery and gifting options to cater to the different needs that shoppers would have.

How should eCommerce managers prepare for this holiday season amid the pandemic?

One experience that your shoppers would be missing out on is the Christmas spirit that offline stores put together through their visual merchandising. Providing this holiday season spirit within your online store through your communication and your store design can help you engage your store visitors better.

Another way to prepare your store for the holiday season is by understanding the expectations that shoppers would have during this time. Many shoppers would want gift wrapping for the products they order. You could provide this gift wrapping on your online store, even going so far as to letting shoppers choose the wrapping paper and add a personalized note. These small details will make a huge difference, helping you win over customers and retain them better.

What are the best practices for the changing online retail landscape?

ai powered home decor
Photo by Canva

For online stores, being successful is all about anticipating shopper needs and stay updated with the latest solutions and tech available to you. Many online consumers are eager to have the kind of shopping experience they used to enjoy offline. One way to provide this to shoppers on your online store is by adapting common retail practices for online shopping.

So, for instance, you could allow shoppers to “try and buy” your fashion, footwear, or even furniture products. Brands like Magnolia Market have even adopted technology that lets shoppers see how their furniture will fit the shopper’s home through AR. If you sell products like coffee, food, beauty, or skincare items, you can set up bundled samples that shoppers can buy for a very low cost. This bundle will let shoppers test your products to see what suits them without having to pay the full price for the product.

What are your projections for eCommerce in 2021?

More retail players are moving online, and due to this, there is sure to be higher competition on ads, with bid prices shooting up. Many more merchants will start focusing on customer retention and loyalty to increase sales without investing in ads. Building your owned channels like email and web push can also help you keep ad spending low and succeed online.

Ben Abraham, Head of Content at Recart

What are the current eCommerce trends for this holiday season?

We expect to see an unprecedented surge in eСommerce traffic during the holidays. To avoid late deliveries around Black Friday, eСommerce brands started the season early: Many stores launched their new products and holiday sales already to avoid problems with postal services. If you haven’t started your promotions yet, you should do it as soon as possible.

New marketing channels like SMS and Facebook Messenger will grow in popularity, as these are the most suitable tools for engaging customers on their smartphones.

How is the 2020 holiday season different from the previous one?

The pandemic has accelerated the ongoing shift towards e-commerce, therefore this year’s holiday season is expected to be exponentially bigger than previous years.

What might have been a minor improvement on your checkout funnel might make a lot of difference this year: People from all demographics need to shop online for Christmas presents, resulting in new expectations about customer experience and ease of use.

How should eCommerce managers prepare for this holiday season amid the pandemic?

Ecommerce managers must make sure that their new customers feel welcome when shopping online and are sufficiently informed about the expected delivery time, shipping costs, and stock availability.

Engaging customers during their journey is essential for achieving high conversion rates; therefore, e-commerce marketers must evolve and look for new opportunities and channels for reaching their audience.

What are your projections for e-commerce in 2021?

The fast-paced growth of e-commerce will continue in 2021. Hopefully, the pandemic will get less and less relevant for people’s everyday lives, and instead of worrying about their health, customers will be happy to shop online for convenience.

Murat Kaya, Director of Marketing and Partnerships at Shopney

What are the current eCommerce trends for this holiday season?

I’d like to talk with data rather than opinions. The major trends backed by solid data are mobile commerce and loyalty.

According to Statista, mobile as a share of total eCommerce is constantly growing and will top by 72.9% in 2021. What this data tells a merchant is that offering the best mobile shopping is an inevitable task. Your website is no longer your hub. The new hub (king) is your mobile store to leverage this trend.

mobile e-commerce growth chart
Chart by Statista

Another significant data from Criteo shows that 39% of US shoppers purchased from a new online store for the first time during the peak of COVID-19. That means the shoppers tend to discover new (better) stores. The same study also tells that 83% of online shoppers are likely to keep buying from the new stores they discovered—the importance of loyalty kicks in here. To get the best out of this trend is to offer a strong loyalty program in your store.

How is the 2020 holiday season different from the previous one?

Coronavirus catapulted 5 to 6 years of eCommerce growth into six months globally. This means a bigger market and potential. But at the same time, with the flow of new businesses going online, it means a wilder competition this holiday season. The main difference will be that challenge.

How should eCommerce managers prepare for this holiday season amid the pandemic?

My advice to all merchants and eCommerce managers in the new status quo and intensified competition is to focus on the core value they provide to their audience. Be it better pricing, higher-quality products or a unique user experience… Polishing and promoting the core value you provide is your best bet. To me, focusing on what your brand is perfect at and featuring that is more preferable than trying out a new approach. Especially for established brands.

What are the best practices for the changing online retail landscape?

Remember, without data, you are just another person with an opinion. eCommerce is pretty measurable, with almost every aspect of it. Back your moves with solid data.

Agility and adaptability are the hard-wired qualities of a successful eCommerce company. Observe what is changing in the landscape and embrace it quickly.

Features are boring, and the benefits are intriguing! Focus on the benefits and the values you add to your customers’ life.

What are your projections for eCommerce in 2021?

Whether the pandemic will continue or not, there is no way back from the change. It accelerated eCommerce and put it in the center of daily habits. The main trends I mentioned earlier will gain more and more ground. We all know the basic rule of life; those who adapt to the change will survive. The brands who adopt the new trends will flourish; this won’t be a surprise.

Suggested reading: How Micro-Influencers Can Help Your Business Grow

Eric Even Haim, Co-founder and CEO at ReConvert

What are the current eCommerce trends for this holiday season?

The holiday shopping is happening earlier – it might be because people are spending more time browsing the web during lockdowns or due to consumer fears over shipping delays, but the holiday shopping period has started very early this year.

Lockdowns will also affect the types of products consumers are looking for – there’s been a big increase in demand for products related to home exercise, home cooking, home office supplies, DIY crafts, and so on.

Lastly, despite the current economic conditions, the research shows that consumers are still planning to spend. Deloitte predicts that e-commerce holiday sales will surpass last year’s 13.6% growth.

How is the 2020 holiday season different from the previous one?

With the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, many consumers may be more careful about spending their cash this year compared to 2019.

That means eCommerce brands need to think more about their marketing. Brands who communicate with empathy and focus on building trust will likely benefit more than those who treat it just like any other year.

How should eCommerce managers prepare for this holiday season amid the pandemic?

Make sure your store is firing on all cylinders. Assess your homepage, your navigation, your product descriptions, your product images, your shipping policy, your collections, and make improvements where necessary.

The reason? With a drastic reduction in in-store browsing this year, online retailers should expect that online browsing will go through the roof as people seek out gifts for friends and family. So, make sure your site’s ready to convert.

Also, put an emphasis on getting your logistics right and setting clear expectations around shipping times. Nothing will turn people off your brand faster than a gift that doesn’t arrive on time.

What are the best practices for the changing online retail landscape?

shopping on mobile
Photo by Canva

Create a mobile-first store – we’re at the tipping point for eCommerce, where mobile devices are set to surpass PCs in terms of traffic and purchases.

Have a rock-solid returns procedure – more online shopping means more custom returns, especially these days where customers don’t have the option to see products in-store.

Personalize things – use customer data, segmentation, and smart tools to make your customer’s journey more specific to their needs. Think about AI-powered product recommendations, the ability to customize products, and create special marketing campaigns based on user behavior.

What are your projections for eCommerce in 2021?

Long neglected in favor of direct response ads, content marketing may well become a significant part of many D2C e-commerce brand’s marketing playbooks. Keep your eyes peeled for blogs, audio, and video content that drive full-funnel engagement via creative storytelling.

We’re also likely to see the continued growth of incremental revenue-boosting tactics. These include strategies like payment plans, one-click upsells, subscriptions, tiered discounts, and of course, thank-you page customization!

Finally, successful brands are going to need to get personal with their customers. Instant messaging and SMS will soon become the primary channels through which customers reach out. With open rates and engagement that crushes email, failing to adapt could cost you a lot of potential revenue.

Ruth Even Haim, Co-Founder and COO at EasyCall

What are the current eCommerce trends for this holiday season?

Personalization – it’s been a growing trend for years now, but it’s set to become even more important around the holiday season.

When I say personalization, I’m talking about everything from the way you segment your audience and target your ads, to allowing customers to customize your products, to the way you interact with shoppers via customer service and social media channels.

In 2020, merely having an online presence isn’t enough to become successful – you need to appeal to shoppers on a level that resonates with them and leaves them feeling valued and connected to your brand.

How is the 2020 holiday season different from the previous one?

Last year, eCommerce was already growing super fast. This year, I think it’s likely to be nothing short of explosive. The latest figures from Forrester predict that online sales will jump by a whopping 18.5% this year. What’s more, a survey from GfK Consumer Pulse found that 62% of consumers planned to do all their holiday shopping online. 

Plus, with uncertainty around how the virus situation will play out, consumers will likely pass on booking seasonal getaways and spending on socializing last year. The implication? Large consumer segments will have a more significant disposable income to spend in your store.

How should e-commerce managers prepare for this holiday season amid the pandemic?

Get your house in order early! Plan out what offers you’re going to make well in advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That way, you’ll have time to create marketing campaigns that’ll bring you the best ROI.

Don’t be afraid to send multiple emails in one day – with the number of emails customers get over BFCM, it’s easy for them to miss yours. Also, get your retargeting ads and abandoned cart emails dialed in to drive higher conversion rates and recapture lost sales.

Lastly, make sure you’ve got your logistics and inventory sorted too – the last thing you want is to get overrun and not be able to fulfill orders in a timely manner. Make sure you set clear expectations for customers about shipping times, which may be affected by the pandemic. 

What are the best practices for the changing online retail landscape?

Today’s customers are adept at doing their own research and are wise to many shady online marketing practices – that means being genuine and transparent is essential in the new online retail landscape.

Offering outstanding customer support is a key part of this. As consumer expectations keep rising, brands that fail to deliver effective support will be quickly left in the dust.

What are your projections for e-commerce in 2021?

zara instagram shopping
Photo by TechCrunch

In 2021, it’s likely that mobile and social commerce will continue to boom throughout the year – think Facebook Shops and Instagram Checkout. The growing trend of subscription-based eCommerce will also probably go from strength to strength too. 

And lastly, as consumers become more environmentally conscious, e-com brands that can showcase their sustainability credentials (Eco packaging, ethical manufacturing) will likely find it easier to make sales.

Wrapping Up

Thumbs up to you if you’ve made it this far! This means you are caught up on all the latest eCommerce trends. Hopefully, you could take out useful tips from Shopify experts and prepare better for the holiday sales this year. There are many tips and tricks that you can implement for your business to increase your sales in the upcoming months. 

Let us know your favorite advice from the Shopify experts in the comments section below!

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