At this time of the year, it seems like an overwhelming and impossible task to run a successful online retail business. Not only is the traditional Christmas rush almost upon us, but more recent innovations like Cyber Monday also affect a huge section of the online retail market.
Of course, the biggest of these is Black Friday, the American shopping event that suddenly exploded in popularity in the UK a couple of years ago, with fairly chaotic results all round. Retailers and supermarkets attempted to copy the US-style early morning opening times, facing crowds of desperate bargain hunters looking for cheap deals. With widespread chaos and disappointment on both sides, there was a noticeable shift in how Black Friday was handled in 2015, which has continued this year.
For one thing, online retailers are really taking the lead while physical shops reign in the hysteria. It’s easier to drop prices across a website than a high street store, and certainly less destructive when unexpected hordes of customers arrive to snatch those special offers. For another, Christmas is still by far the most profitable feature of the season for retailers, so marketing efforts remain focused on this.
Recent research in the UK by ChannelAdvisor showed that 47% of online businesses in the retail sector were anticipating better sales this year than they experienced last year over the Christmas period. Almost as many retailers said they had been planning their winter promotions since the summer, with many actually starting as early as January.
The research also showed that many retailers are making more use of technology and different sales channels than ever before. More than half of respondents have a mobile application for their customers to buy through, and even more used social media to advertise. This all stems from customers’ standards always getting higher, so companies need to keep up in order to remain competitive. Only time will really tell which online retailers are truly prepared for the trials of December and January, so it will be interesting to find out later which ones see the most success.