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Cyber Season: Holiday Ecommerce Blurs Shopping Boundaries

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'Tis the season to shop, as you'll have noticed if you've stopped into any big box store in the last week or so.

The digital world is gearing up for holiday eCommerce as well, with Black Friday flyers leaking out online and retailers shouting "free shipping!" from the rooftops.

So far, so standard. But what is changing is the way consumers perceive this annual shopping extravaganza.

Where in the past we have clearly delineated days for deals and where to get them, like Black Friday in stores and Cyber Monday online, mobile shopping and modern ecommerce habits are reshaping that perspective.

Holiday Shopping Star Wars Lego Character

Holiday Ecommerce 2015: The Smartphone Force Awakens

It's no coincidence that the blurred lines of seasonal shopping have occurred in just the last few years, as smartphone use has hit critical mass.

New holiday sales research from consumer marketing group Criteo backs this up, concluding that the season now starts earlier than ever and most deals are not held back for the traditional peak days that follow Thanksgiving.

A lot has been made of the extra research that goes into the purchase process now that we have so much product information in the palm of our hands. The impact of that same technology on when we make the decision to buy is less considered, but the creep of deal details from mid to early November is a clear indication that things are changing.

Specifically, the report from Criteo and its partners at Ad Age concludes the following points for retailers and eCommerce companies alike:

  1. Holiday promotions and information releases must be planned earlier, perhaps by several extra weeks, while still allowing room for flexibility if competitors pull a seasonal surprise out of their hat.
  2. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now almost equally important in terms of overall holiday sales success. As such, deals must be spread throughout the post-Thanksgiving week and be diverse enough to hold consumer attention over that longer period.
  3. As we continue to see, the importance of omnichannel fulfillment cannot be overstated. Just as consumers expect to be able to seamlessly switch between their devices, from desktop to smartphone to tablet and everything along that spectrum, they want the services they use on those tools to offer flexible ways to compare products, pay for items and arrange collection or delivery in a way that suits their schedule.

That final requirement increases exponentially when we factor in the seasonal rush and all the demands it places on our time.

Holiday eCommerce must not add to those demands, it should alleviate them. There are few better ways for an online retailer to build brand loyalty than by delivering an efficient ordering and fulfillment process for busy customers.

Get that right, alongside some well-timed marketing of an attractive offer or two (or 200),  and the holidays may finally bring that highly sought seasonal cheer that has eluded so many retailers in recent years.

For today's digital consumer, holiday shopping seems more a case of Cyber Season than Cyber Monday, or even Cyber Week.  Forewarned is forearmed!

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