tipsEvery year it seems like just as we start settling into the summer haze, holiday planning kicks into high gear! Since 31.5% of the $343 billion transacted online occurred in the fourth quarter last year (U.S Commerce Dept), smart retailers can’t afford to nap (for too long) in that beach chair. If those numbers don’t get you on your feet, take this in. During the 2015 holiday season:

  • Non-store sales (mostly online) grew 9%, compared to 1.9% in-store sales growth (NRF)
  • Sales from desktop surpassed $1 billion on 16 days during Holiday 2015 (Comscore)
  • The average transaction size via desktop was higher than mobile and in-store. More than half of consumers increased the amount of shopping they did online this year (NRF)

It’s no time to panic though. You’re right on time. Instead, let’s reflect on key trends from 2015 to ease back into and clinch holiday sales this year:

#1. Consumers actively shop online on Thanksgiving Day (and earlier that week).

This is no longer in question (or taboo). In 2015, online sales increased 21% over Thanksgiving 2014 (IBM). For perspective, this is 58% over the 2012 holiday. On Thanksgiving 2015, AOV was $123 (surprisingly on par with Cyber Monday) and estimated web sales were $1.73 billion (Adobe). Other top revenue days to keep in mind this season include (Custora):

  • Cyber Monday: 6.3% of holiday revenue, $3.07 billion in web sales
  • Black Friday:2% of holiday revenue, $2.74 billion in web sales
  • Sun, Nov 29 (3%), Sat, Nov 28 (2.8%), Tue, Nov 24 (2.7%) and Wed, Nov 25 (2.2%)

PRO TIP: Arm your site with strong promotions early in the holiday season. Last year, Amazon offered Black Friday deals an entire week early. Black Friday deals started the day before Thanksgiving, and followed suit offering deals early on Thanksgiving Day. U.S. consumers made 47% of their online purchases by the end of Cyber Monday (Comscore).

#2. Consumers shop heavily on their mobile devices.

While we all know this at this point, the numbers really drive the message home. During the 2015 holiday season, U.S. mobile sales increased 59% to $12.65 billion, which is 18% of U.S. holiday e-commerce sales; and mobile traffic exceeded desktop traffic every day during the season (Comscore). What’s more, based on research from 8,000 brands and 35,000 e-commerce shops, IBM found 31% of Nov/Dec web sales occurred on mobile.

PRO TIP: If they can’t find it, they can’t buy it. Given the space and speed challenges of smartphones, a prominent search box can be the best gateway to quickly finding and buying products on mobile sites and apps. The most important site search feature is relevance. If you provide relevant and fast search results, visitors are more likely to find what they’re looking for and make a purchase (e.g. push the most popular results for a search term to the top of the list).

#3. Consumers are coming to and buying from your site via Search.

Search brought in 29% of retailers’ online sales during the 2015 holiday season, second only to Affiliates (Adobe). Other acquisition methods include Direct (22%), Email (15%) Display (2.5%) and Social (1.4%). What’s more, 56% of searches were conducted on a smartphone or tablet during the 2015 holidays (NRF). Fortunately, if your site meets the following five criteria, you have an excellent starting point to succeed with your search engine rankings:

  1. Your products and content are relevant to the search phrases shoppers actually use
  2. Your site is mobile-friendly
  3. Many highly credible sites link to yours
  4. Your page load times are sufficient
  5. You score well in engagement signals such as bounce rate, time on site, and pages visited per session

PRO TIP: It’s no secret that Amazon wins broad keyword searches. It’s imperative to understand the importance of more specific keyword searches, called long-tail terms. While 70% of search traffic is long tail, most retailers just focus on the top 10-20% of keywords. To find these valuable long-tail terms, review your top site search terms, map these keywords to the products you sell, and then create keyword-optimized landing pages. Shoppers who find your site via long-tail search terms are more likely to find and buy exactly what they want.

Now that you’ve eased back into holiday planning and mastered just three (of many!) takeaways from the 2015 season, here’s some more good news: there are two more shopping days this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. That’s 48 more hours of opportunities to provide your customers with amazing, personalized online customer experiences to clinch 2016 holiday sales. So recline (for a bit longer), start planning, and enjoy the last few days of summer!

For more tips, check out our guides to Site Search and the Mobile Experience and How to Get the SEO-Driven Revenue You’re Missing.