Like reading tea leaves or gazing into a crystal ball, predicting the future of holiday shopping trends is not an exact science. After all, retail shoppers are people who are known to be a pretty fickle bunch.
In “How to Prepare for the 2015 Holiday Shopping Season” we turned an eye to the future with some predictions about this year’s holiday shopping trends.
Preliminary results for Black Friday shopping are in; now let’s see if our predictions were accurate.
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1. Expect a Modest Increase in Consumer Spending
So far, it looks like we had this one right. While sales at U.S. brick-and-mortar stores on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday were down slightly from last year, results can still be declared a moderate success because register receipts from a single day don’t tell the whole story anymore.
Thanks to discounts that moved well ahead of the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, holiday sales this year are spread out over a longer period. When considered along with the increases in online sales so far, 2015 retail activity looks promising. In fact, online Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales were up 18 percent from 2014, and higher than even modest analyst expectations.
There are a few weeks to go until the holiday shopping season is a wrap, and we continue to look upon the results with cautious optimism.
2. A Longer Shopping Season on the Way
We predicted the shopping season would be longer in 2015 than in previous years, and we were right! Online and in-store promotions started well in advance of the Friday after Thanksgiving, though Black Friday continues to be the most popular day to shop. However, the more crowd-averse among us are taking advantage of off-peak days and spectacular online deals.
Retailers are making bold moves, like opening on Thanksgiving Day to attract the turkey-fueled shoppers who are just itching for a reason to take a break from family festivities. It’s extending the shopping season, and the results are a definite effect on the bottom lines of retailers across the country.
3. E-Commerce Continues to be a Factor
Did we mention that online shopping was going to be a big deal? It’s possible that we said so once or twice because the importance of ensuring a seamless experience between the online and in-store shopping experience just cannot be overstated.
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Outwitting today’s super-savvy consumer is an impossible task. Powered by the convenience of easy price comparisons, even those who chose to shop on Friday were more likely to buy online than in previous years. This trend showed in the up the sales results, according to IBM Watson Trend:
“Meanwhile online sales experienced a significant boost, up 21.5% on Black Friday compared with Black Friday 2014.”
On a positive note, there were drastically more people shopping on the holiday weekend than analysts predicted. Most were lured by the deep, deep discounts, in fact, fully half of shoppers braved the crowds because “the deals were too good to pass up.” This was made possible, at least in part, by easy access to online and mobile shopping options. There can be no doubt that the deals will continue beyond the regular sale days, all the way through to the end of the holidays.
Though initial data shows that store sales may have decreased on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, it’s important to remember that shipping lead-times will run out for online shoppers soon, giving way to a rise in last-minute shoppers making their way to the stores.
Black Friday 2015 Review – the Holiday Shopping Season
It seems that predicting the future, especially when it comes to something like the holiday shopping season, is a worthwhile exercise even when the results aren’t perfect. By taking a “ready, fire, aim” approach to preparing for the holiday season, retailers get closer and closer to meeting their internal performance targets.
There are only a few weeks left in the 2015 holiday shopping season. Throughout the busiest time of the year, retailers should keep a watchful eye on maintaining the service levels that draw customers to their stores all year round. An excellent shopping experience over the holidays is a gift that can continue to give back in the form of increased customer loyalty and satisfaction.