Holiday shopping in 2019 hit significant milestones. Here are three trends that emerged and lessons that retailers should take away for 2020.

Charles Nicholls

Charles Nicholls, senior vice president at SAP Upscale Commerce

The 2019 holiday shopping season has come to a close, but a lot happened last year that shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly in the ever-evolving world of ecommerce.  

Some of the milestones include: Online shopping overtook general merchandise sales for the first time in history, we saw dynamic growth in the realm of multichannel retail, sustainability became a top priority and consumers became comfortable with artificial intelligence in retail scenarios.

How did these shifts play out over the end-of-year holiday shopping season? Here are three trends that emerged and lessons that retailers should take away for 2020.

It’s time for mid-market merchants to go all-in on mobile 

Shopping via mobile phone accounted for nearly 67% of traffic to retail websites and 52% of sales over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday holidays. Further, mobile phone conversion rates increased by 53% since the 2018 holiday season.

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Tellingly, a majority of this increase was won by large retailers, while mid-market brands continued to struggle in capturing sales via mobile.

For the past couple of years, mobile shopping has been a consistent trend but has not been top of mind for smaller retailers tight on budget. But as we move further into 2020, consumers will firmly adopt mobile as their primary shopping device and retailers of all sizes can no longer afford to ignore it.

However, while website traffic and sales were dominated by mobile during the 2019 holiday season, mobile conversions still significantly lag those from desktop overall. Why? Because many ecommerce retailers haven’t taken a proper mobile-first approach, they have re-sized a desktop interface to fit a mobile screen. Unsurprisingly, this results in a sub-optimal mobile shopping experience that leaves consumers frustrated and likely to abandon a purchase.

When retailers take a true mobile-first approach–especially through a standalone app – their mobile conversion rates will exceed those from a desktop. The theory holds: When brands make it easy for consumers to shop on their preferred device, they’ll generate higher revenue.

Seamless cross-channel journeys are more important than ever 

Before the 2019 holiday shopping season, 63% of shoppers indicated that they were likely to take advantage of a buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS) option. This came to fruition, as BOPIS saw a spike in adoption during the 2019 Thanksgiving weekend and will remain important throughout the remainder of the season.

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Additionally, recent research shows that cross-channel retail is evolving and maturing alongside emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality. This is enticing more consumers to want to try cross-channel shopping methods, with 70% indicating that they are willing to do so.

The truth is, commerce is fundamentally omnichannel and it’s the job of retailers to cater to different shopping methods to eliminate as much friction from the shopping journey as possible. 

In the 2019 holiday shopping season, sustainability paid off 

As conversations around climate change and the environment continue to permeate our everyday culture, consumers’ affinity for sustainability in retail has increased.

As the 2019 holiday shopping season approached, over half of consumers said they were more likely to purchase holiday gifts from retailers that offer eco-friendly options. This trend continued through end-of-year, as environmentally concerned shoppers have rapidly become the norm.

While consumers love the convenience of ecommerce, they also increasingly value brand purpose and trust. Leveraging sustainable practices, such as continuity commerce or avoiding single-use plastics in packaging, will go a long way in increasing customer trust and long-term loyalty.

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Trends come and go: Retailers must remain agile 

While these are three key takeaways from the 2019 holiday shopping season specifically, they are strong indicators of how consumers will act and what they will expect in 2020.

Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that ecommerce and shopping behavior is continuously changing. Successful retailers will be those that recognize widespread trends but always remain agile to new technology, innovation and consumer preferences.

SAP Upscale Commerce is a mobile-first shopping platform. 

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