Over $1 trillion (no typo) — that’s how big 2017 holiday topline sales were in the US and Europe combined. As for online sales specifically last year, Forrester projected $129 billion in the US and €54 billion in Europe. As a retailer with substantial revenue at stake, you’ve made your merchandise buys, allocated your marketing dollars, and feverishly analyzed what the 2018 season will mean to your distribution centers, stores, customer service centers, and shipping volumes. 

As you know from our research, over half of total US retail sales are impacted in some way by digital, and that’s 32% for Europe (EU-7 markets). It’s too late to do anything complex like replatforming, so your mandate now is to invest deliberately in your digital touchpoints to capture holiday sales and develop deeper customer loyalty by: 

  • Revamping your mobile site  yes, you still can (and must). In the US, smartphones impacted over one-third ($1 trillion again) of total US retail sales in 2017. In the past three months, 73% of US adult smartphone owners researched physical products on their smartphones while they were in a store, and 46% of EU-5 smartphone users have researched products for purchase on their phones.* Your mobile checklist: Fix images and text to be mobile-friendly; tell shoppers where they are (label the back button, update headers, and show the breadcrumb); and kill anything that hampers site performance (turn off dynamic content and control imagery). Above all, streamline checkout and payments to drive mobile conversion. Start by parsing form fields to the most critical, ensure you have the correct “input masks,” and limit digital wallets to those your customers actually use.
  • Tuning up site search. If you just stifled a yawn, you clearly missed the memo: When screen real estate (like mobile) or user patience (like during the holidays) is in short supply, search actually can be more important than navigation or recommendations. Many searches may start on Google.com or Amazon, but once users hit your site or app, they expect your deep product knowledge (e.g. communities, technical documentation) to seal the deal, as long as they can quickly find it. Plus, search logs are crucial to understanding customer intent, letting you better serve customers and personalize experiences. Another bonus: If you’re using chatbots or voice, smart site search foundations (e.g. taxonomy, NLP) will underpin these experiences as they mature. 
  • Amazon-ing your marketing plan. You’re no doubt set vis-à-vis social, search, and display to serve your customers the promotions, exclusives, and services that they expect from you throughout November and December. Is Amazon part of your marketing plan? For holiday season 2017, Amazon unveiled APIs for Amazon Media Group and Amazon Marketing Services to automate campaigns and reporting, signaling how seriously this tech titan takes its ad business. In early 2018, agencies noted that their clients were spending more on Amazon than they did 12 months earlier. And in early September this year, Amazon consolidated its advertising tools and services into one — Amazon Advertising — to better serve advertisers who are first-party or third-party sellers on the marketplace. Your task: First, optimize your product pages on Amazon so they rank well for important keyword terms. Second, make sure your marketing team — not your merchandisers, who have traditionally managed your Amazon relationship — is now managing advertising on Amazon.
  • Crafting your crisis plan. If the unthinkable happens (and every year, it most assuredly does to someone) — your site goes down or your data is stolen — you need to be ready now. Consumer reactions spread via social media, even as the incident is unfolding. Instead of a panic-stricken “cold and corporate” response that you make up on the fly, develop your crisis management plan now according to the modern marketing rules of being human (crafting a response that shows empathy with how your customers feel about the crisis), helpful (demonstrating actions to solve the problem), and handy (adapting your response to meet consumer expectations in each channel or touchpoint that you use). 

In the coming weeks, watch for our 2018 holiday spend forecasts for the US and Europe, as well as a series of posts to help you run your best holiday season yet. Do schedule inquiries with my colleagues about the issues outlined above (and more). What questions do you have about the upcoming holidays? I look forward to your feedback!


* Source: Forrester Analytics Consumer Technographics® North American Retail And Travel Benchmark Recontact 1 Survey, 2018 (US) and “Digital And Mobile Touchpoints Are Driving Offline Sales In Europe” Forrester report.