Our historical customer data suggests that in a typical year, retailers can expect to see an average of 3x more sales during Black Friday weekend. The 2020 season might look different.  

Holiday shopping season success is vital for many retailers. Between Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, most retailers count on this crucial boost every year. But what will it look like for retailers this November? We’ve broken down the details of what’s trending in ecommerce so far in 2020. Plus, we’re sharing our 2020 predictions and tips to help retailers prepare.

The Trend: Sales are already booming, and they have been for months

Since March, the majority of online retailers have already seen a significant boost in sales

Some have seen sales bump only a few percentage points. But others have experienced increases of up to 1,000% in revenue, and 500% in traffic, like Donald Russell. A high-end butchery, the company was quick to adapt to an online-first model. After adding delivery time slots and dates, they began offering a more user-friendly experience, and it paid off.

As expected, certain verticals of our retailers have seen the most remarkable growth. These include retailers selling alcohol, beauty and self care products, garden and outdoor products, home improvement supplies and fitness equipment. Breaking down these figures, we’ve seen two categories of growth:

  • Significant growth, between 80-120%: these retailers have generally seen healthy growth throughout the year, signaling a general rise in ecommerce activity. This boost is likely partially due to COVID restrictions, but may also be a result of an existing growth trajectory. Categories include beauty and self care, as well as automotive supplies. 
  • Dramatic growth, over 300% sustained increases: These are categories of retail that have made notable leaps that can more clearly be attributed to changes in shopping habits due to COVID. Verticals here include alcohol, home improvement supplies (including gardening), and media (including books and music).

While not every retailer has adapted so well, it’s important to learn from those who have, as their successes may provide insight for what others can adapt in the upcoming season. 

Thanks to COVID-19’s effect on the world of in-person buying, online shopping overall has seen increases of 75% year-over-year. Ecommerce traffic alike has jumped significantly, from 50%-300% on average. While a confusing phenomenon, for some, it might feel disheartening. However, for retailers looking for online success, most have already been enjoying the fruits of this strange and historical event.  

Because of this pre-existing jump, it’s unclear how Black Friday sales will be affected. While sales are certainly up across the table, it may signal a decrease in the expected boost for most retailers. 

The Prediction: Black Friday will be unusually slow

Black Friday and the surrounding weekend won’t deliver the 3x boost in traffic it typically does. 

Realistically, most retailers should expect a 1.5-2x increase in traffic during Black Friday weekend this year. While this prediction is heavily dependent on a retailer’s vertical and size, it’s a prediction we think will ring true for most online sellers outside of Amazon and other big-box retailers. 

What’s driving all this?

It’s no mystery why we’re predicting these changes. Between consumer sentiment, supply chain challenges, buyer demand, and inventory troubles, ecommerce retailers will struggle on both ends to make a success out of the 2020 event. Learn more about how these factors are changing the holiday ecommerce shopping landscape here.

How can retailers prepare?

By now, most merchants likely understand that the typical Black Friday sales bump they’ve come to expect is off the table. However, with 9+ months of increased sales, this bump simply isn’t as crucial as in years past. Still, savvy merchants will want to take full advantage of shoppers that are on the lookout for deals and special products. Here are a few tips to help prepare your ecommerce store make the most of what’s coming, no matter what it brings.

1. Inventory Prep

Retailers across all industries are feeling the pressure of unprecedented inventory challenges. The first and most vital step to prepare for a successful holiday season is to understand and prepare your inventory. Without clarity here, any sales or specials you launch may be followed by serious fulfillment issues. Before launching into the holiday season, be sure to audit existing inventory and clarify with suppliers that planned deliveries are on track. 

When you have a clear picture of the inventory you can sell for over the next few months, you should evaluate areas of opportunity. Here’s your chance to take advantage of the current market, adding surcharges to hard-to-find items, and offering irresistible discounts on items you’ve got in excess. By the same token, consider the impact that holiday sales, or a lack thereof, may have on your brand. Discounts too deep may cause a perceived devaluation of your brand, while loyal customers may be unhappy to find no discounts at all, and make their purchases elsewhere. 

2. Delivery Date Cutoffs

Few things are more frustrating than finding the perfect gift, heading to checkout, and realizing the item won’t arrive in time. Get ahead of the game by providing customers with clear, concise delivery date cutoffs. A delivery date cutoff essentially tells your customers the last day they can purchase an item and still have it delivered by a certain date. Often, this date is December 24th. However, understanding your own cutoff date requirements can be intensely time-consuming. Ice cream retailer Jeni’s found success by implementing ShipperHQ into its checkout, ultimately saving 131 hours per year. Other ecommerce stores looking to master delivery date cutoffs can apply the same shipping logic to their stores using the ShipperHQ platform.

Keep in mind, 45% of customers abandon their cart because of unsatisfactory delivery options. By offering customer-centric shipping options, you can seriously cut down on cart abandonment. 

3. Free shipping thresholds and offers

There aren’t many online shoppers who wouldn’t prefer free shipping on their order. In fact, 75% of consumers say they expect delivery to be free on orders, even those under $50. But how can you implement it without hurting your bottom line? And even further, in a shopping season that’s expected to be unusually slow?

Try applying promotions that reward customers for buying certain items that you’ve got an excess of stock. Or, consider offering free shipping at a higher price threshold than a typical holiday season. That may mean offering free shipping at $100 rather than $50, or another calculation that makes more sense for your store. While this year isn’t year, buyers still seek value in their purchases. In fact, they may actually be willing to spend more to get that value. See more free shipping strategies here

3. Accurate shipping dates and rates 

While the concept of accuracy isn’t quite as “sexy” as free shipping, it will have a big impact on your customers’ satisfaction. The information you provide about shipping is always crucial to your customers and it’s even more important during gifting season.

This information includes delivery dates, which 60% of consumers want to see at checkout, plus shipping rates, levels or service and carrier information. Customers rely on the details you give them to plan gift exchanges, budgets (and the amount spent on shipping), and to get an overall idea of the quality of your store. Building trust with customers through shipping accuracy is an opportunity not to be missed. 

4. Set Yourself Up for Success on Mobile

In an era where people are spending more time at home than ever, mobile shopping and browsing are primary channels for many of us. For merchants looking to maximize their sales this holiday, mobile readiness can’t be ignored. 

Mobile ecommerce is expected to grow 20% in 2020, surpassing 50% of all ecommerce by 2022. This growth signals a need for innovation in the space, a factor too many ecommerce stores have so far neglected. 

To optimize for mobile selling, retailers should seek options to optimize their mobile checkouts to reduce cart abandonment and create seamless, intuitive buying experiences.  More than 85% of mobile cart abandonment occurs at checkout, accounting for $1 trillion+ per year in missed revenue. By bolstering checkout on mobile, you can protect your store from being a part of that statistic.

Wrapping Up

Black Friday in the age of COVID won’t look like any other Black Friday we’ve ever seen. But for merchants that can stay ahead of the game, remain ahead of stock and fulfillment issues, and give customers a top-notch experience, those specific sales are less important than they might seem. With customers shopping more online than ever before, spending is spread out across months and retailers, making 2020 a uniquely opportune time to stake your claim on the ecommerce industry.

Check out our full 2020 Holiday Trends Report for many more insights, trends and tips for retailers.