ECommerce Holiday Shopping Trends: A Dive Into Audience Behavior and How to Leverage It

A graphic with a pale yellow background has text on the left which reads, E-Commerce Holiday Shopping, A Dive Into Audience Behavior and How to Leverage It. On the right is an illustration of a person with a shopping bag walking toward a mobile phone screen. The screen has a shopping cart made on it with a Buy Now button and looks like a storefront.

The holiday season is one of the most important times of the year not just for businesses, but also for consumers. While some plan their end-of-the-year purchases months ahead and others go the last-minute route, almost everyone is ready to indulge during this season.

As an eCommerce business owner, you also need to be ready to meet your customers where they are. Our webinar, “ECommerce Holiday Shopping: Trends to Watch and Tips on Leveraging Them For Your Business,” rounds up some of the biggest trends we see in audience behavior online. We also share a few tips on using these trends to plan your holiday marketing efforts. Let’s dive in!

Trend # 1: Holiday Shopping Is Beginning Earlier and Lasting Longer

There are several reasons for this, including Amazon launching shopping events earlier, consumers wanting to snag deals before prices increase, and people simply wanting to avoid shipping delays.

According to Salesforce, early bird shopping — online sales that occurred during the first week of November — increased by 16% in 2023. This is an 11% YoY increase when compared to 2021 when 23% of holiday sales occurred during the last 2 weeks of the year.

This means eCommerce businesses should consider the holiday shopping season to be, at least, Nov. 1 to Dec 31. It is not Black Friday through your last “arrive by Christmas Eve” ship date!

What Does This Mean For ECommerce?

  • Start your promotions and sales early but pace your messaging strategically
  • Plan your budgets accordingly to take full advantage of holiday spending
  • Prepare your marketing campaigns well in advance so they can continue to run through Christmas and New Year
  • Set clear expectations of when to order for items to arrive before Christmas

Trend # 2: More People Use Buy Now Pay Later, Credit Card Sales are on a Decline

For the first time ever last year, the percentage of eCommerce transactions using credit cards declined. This is because more people are using the “Buy Now Pay Later” option which allows users to pay for a purchase in installments. One reason customers prefer this option is because it’s easier to make payments to these services as compared to traditional credit cards.

According to Shopify, “Buy Now Pay Later” transactions are up 29% YoY. Not only that, but Shopify merchants with a BNPL option see up to 28% fewer abandoned carts.

This means that if you aren’t offering any “Buy Now Pay Later” options, you’re probably leaving money on the table.

What Does This Mean For ECommerce?

  • Setting up a BNPL offering on your website can decrease abandoned cart rates and increase average order value
  • Some BNPL providers offer kick-backs to vendors while others, like Shop Pay Installments, charge a slightly higher processing fee (but 0% interest to the customer)
  • For those with higher ticket price products, there’s no reason not to offer these options
  • It’s a good idea to notify customers of financing options in holiday promotions

As an eCommerce business, if you aren’t offering any “Buy Now Pay Later” options, you’re probably leaving money on the table.

Trend # 3: Spending is Down, But ECommerce Spending is Still Up From Last Year

While overall, consumers are spending less this year, eCommerce spending is still up.

According to Adobe, online spending is poised to grow by 2.5% in 2022, compared to 8.6% last year. However, with GDP projected to only grow by 1.5% this year, this is still positive news.

This means that your shoppers might be more price sensitive than last year, but they are still doing more of their shopping online.

What Does This Mean For ECommerce?

  • There is no need to sound the alarm bells yet in eCommerce – sales are still going strong
  • Your competition may get stiffer though; others are likely seeing these stats too and may be transitioning their models more
    to eCommerce
  • Although pandemic-level eCommerce sales are gone, new habits were formed and are staying.

Trend # 4: Shoppers are Spending More Time Researching

Shoppers are more price sensitive. Combine this with the shopping season starting early and a plethora of product options available, and you’ll see that people will spend more time in the “research” phase of their customer journey.

According to Statista and Aytm, about 50% of consumers say they have become more price sensitive this year. 17% of shoppers say they always price compare their purchases. (14% say they rarely/never do, and 69% say they usually do/do it half the time).

This means you should expect your conversion cycles to take longer and for your customers to do more price comparisons.

What Does This Mean For ECommerce?

  • With longer conversion cycles, increase your retargeting campaigns and broaden the window
  • Consider adding a lead capture tool so you can reach out to those still in the “research” phase either over email or phone
  • Make sure your products are showing up properly in Google Merchant Center whether you are running shopping ads or not
  • Use strategic keywords so your products appear for shoppers’ price comparing your competitors

Trend # 5: Google is Ramping Up Their Ecommerce Share

While Google is often making product updates and venturing into new territories, it is now once again trying to break Amazon’s monopoly as an eCommerce marketplace. Google is rolling out new labels on their SERPS for “Special Offer” and “Sale” and is also enhancing YouTube’s on-site shopping experience.

This means that if Google search engine marketing isn’t already a core part of your marketing strategy, it’s time to diversify.

What Does This Mean For ECommerce?

  • Set up your Google merchant center account and feeds whether you pay for ad space or not
  • Consider paying for shopping ads if you are a retailer with a lot of competitors
  • Consider leveraging Google’s new features such as the promotion badges
  • Keep an eye on what Google rolls out over the next few months, it’s likely to be something big!

Trend # 6: Mobile Sales Now Make Up 73% of All ECommerce Transactions

Chances are, you are likely reading this post on a mobile device. Even if not, you can bet that your eCommerce site visitors are engaging with it via their mobile devices.

According to Oblero and Truelist, the share of mobile eCommerce sales in total eCommerce sales has increased a whopping 39.1% from its 52.4% market share in 2016 to the current 72.9% market share. Mobile users are also 5X more likely to abandon their tasks if a site isn’t optimized for mobile. Just a one-second page response delay can cause a 7% reduction in conversion. A good user interface can increase websites’ conversion rates by up to 200%.

If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, this should be your priority.

What Does This Mean For ECommerce?

  • It’s time to implement a “mobile first” marketing strategy
  • Not only should your website be designed for mobile, but you should also gear your other strategies towards mobile, like the aspect ratio of your ads, font sizes of your blog posts, SEO strategy, etc.
  • Consider adding more mobile forward assets too, like your own app or text message marketing

In Summary:

  • ECommerce businesses should consider the holiday shopping season to be, at least, between November 1 and December 31
  • If your business isn’t offering a “Buy Now Pay Later” option, you’re probably leaving money on the table
  • Your Shopper might be more price sensitive than last year, but they are still mostly shopping online
  • Expect the conversion cycle to take longer and for your shoppers to do more price comparison
  • If you aren’t investing in Google search engine marketing already, it’s time to diversify
  • If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, this should be your priority

At Boxwood, we are committed to delivering high-value, no-nonsense expertise to our clients and their customers. If you found the information in this post useful, check out our other webinar, “Marketing for ECommerce: What Works and What Doesn’t.”