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US Online Holiday Sales Will Be Higher Than Ever, Despite Noticeable Challenges

Sucharita Kodali
Vice President, Principal Analyst
November 3, 2014

Forrester predicts that US online retail sales will reach $89 billion during the 2014 holiday shopping season. Shoppers turn to the Web during the time-pressed period between November and December to avoid crowds, lines, and, in many cases, higher prices. This holiday season, eCommerce will experience a boom in the number of online buyers, as the holiday season is a strong opportunity for new customer acquisition, and online wallet share, as seasoned online consumers are growing more comfortable and reliant on the practice. 

However, the expected growth is not as high as it could be due to a few unique constraints. A shorter than average holiday selling season, defined by the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, limits shoppers in the time during which they can take advantage of the deep discounts they expect. Further, the expected increase in volume of online sales will push the already constrained carrier networks. Forrester estimates that nearly seven times more eCommerce packages are shipped daily in the two weeks before Christmas than daily between the months of January and October. Last year, FedEx and more notably UPS had a high number of late deliveries due to unprecedented package volume and poor weather that caused buildups at critical times. With the expected 13% increase in eCommerce sales in 2014 for the months of November and December as compared to the same period in 2013, retailers and consumers must recognize the risk of shipping delays.

Among other recommendations found in the US Holiday Forecast, 2014, Forrester recommends that eBusiness and channel strategy professionals in retail promote aggressive discounts early in the holiday shopping period to combat these concerns. This will spur online buyers to shop early, easing the pressure on the limited carrier capacity that intensifies at the end of December. Further, late shoppers are the ones more likely to pay for shipping upgrades to minimize risk of late deliveries, as time sensitively takes precedence over price consciousness for some shoppers as the holidays approach. 

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