Mobile Users Embrace Early Holiday Shopping
Every year, consumers hope to do early holiday shopping to avoid the big crowds during the “official” shopping season. However, few buyers make any real headway in this endeavor and often find themselves stuck year after year fighting the crowds on Christmas Eve.
For the mobile generation, though, this is becoming less of a problem. The technology at their fingertips is also rewriting the rules for when, where and how those all-important purchases are made.
Beating the Digital Crowd
According to recent research by digital ad firm Criteo, e-commerce is pushing the start of holiday shopping earlier than usual. While the traditional in-store season extends from Black Friday to early January, the company suggests the online rush now begins as early as mid-October, with more than 40 percent of buyers having begun their research by November 1, and upwards of 20 percent having already made a purchase by then. The trend is driven by the millennial generation, with 38 percent buying at least one gift before Black Friday.
This makes it crucial for retailers to implement a digital sales strategy that is both easy to use and highly resilient to traffic surges. Naturally, this involves upgrades to both infrastructure and the higher-level software-defined architectures that are assuming greater responsibility for robust performance and fast-moving, analytics-driven workflows.
A key requirement in any digital ecosystem is security; this is doubly important for the e-commerce industry, considering the loss of revenue that occurs when websites are down for an extended period of time. The key threat is a familiar one, says RealITQuik‘s Pratibha Nanduri: the Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. Hardening infrastructure against this arch-nemesis will require a combination of continuous testing and patching, as well as monitoring network traffic and assessing internal IT risks — particularly in the Command and Control (C&C) infrastructure.
At the same time, no environment can be 100-percent safe every moment of every day. Organizations need to approach security expecting an inevitable breach, and therefore focus their efforts on rapid service restoration to minimize the damage and control the threat once it happens.
Even when e-commerce is properly hardened, there is always the risk that the infrastructure simply cannot handle the load. As Mashable notes, online shopping is driven by the desire to skip the long lines and crowded aisles of brick-and-mortar stores, so consumers have little patience for bottlenecks and other problems that prevent them from making their purchase quickly and easily. Even a half-second delay in page response times can diminish sales as much as 10 percent, according to recent research from performance monitoring firm Dynatrace. The conundrum is that even as infrastructure becomes faster and more nimble, the pressure is on to make pages more feature-packed and reliant on third-party data, which usually results in slower performance.
It’s no coincidence, then, that the top online retailers also have the lightest pages.
Automated Early Holiday Shopping
The emerging secret weapon for e-commerce is artificial intelligence, according to CNBC correspondent Bob Woods. Back-office support is the glue that keeps buyers happy, and as tools like customer relations management (CRM) and inventory control become more intelligent, they will be able to fulfill orders more efficiently and maintain profitability even with razor-thin margins. At the same time, the combination of big data and intelligent analytics provides opportunities for highly targeted, even one-to-one marketing programs and multichannel customer engagement across web, app, in-store kiosk and similar technologies.
Early holiday shopping is likely to become a common facet of the digital economy. With consumers empowered with the ability to sift through a wealth of data and make informed purchasing decisions more easily, there’s greater incentive to shop early and often to make sure the gifts they give impart the fullest expression of their love for friends and family.
Every year, the pressure to enhance the holiday shopping experience gets a more intense, but so do the rewards for retailers that get it right.