What 2018 Holiday Shopping Trends Say about Local

Online holiday retail spending was up 16.5% vs. 2017 reaching $126 billion according to the “Holiday Recap 2018” from Adobe Digital Insights. While this is strong growth, it represents only about 11% of the $1.1 trillion Deloitte projected would be spent during the 2018 holiday season.

There were four key takeaways from Adobe’s study that help to characterize the state of local:

  1. Buy online and pick up in-store grew about 50%. While this behavior increased, these kinds of online purchases tended to include fewer items and the items included tended to be less expensive on average. It isn’t clear as to why this was the case, but the growth in the behavior is compelling and suggests more widespread adoption of this service among retailers.
  2. For the first time ever, smartphones accounted for half of all web visits during the holiday season. While it has been years since Google announced that mobile queries have surpassed desktop, holiday shopping traffic now leans towards mobile. Though it isn’t a surprise, it puts even more pressure on retailers to optimize mobile experiences.
  3. Smartphone cart conversion declined 9% during the holiday season. The data from Adobe showed a drop in mobile cart conversion once the holiday season rolled around. While the rest of 2018 was around 33% cart conversion, the holiday dropped down to 30%. Desktop had much higher conversion rates at 43% for the whole year and the study estimated that the gap between desktop and mobile conversions equates to about $15 billion in lost holiday revenue.
  4. Revenue was equally driven by “organic” and “aided” marketing efforts. Unaided or organic efforts such as direct traffic, organic search and referring domains accounted for just as much influence on the e-commerce journey as managed marketing activities like paid search, email, social and display. The data suggests that the paid vs. unpaid discussion really isn’t an either/or scenario, but rather a holistic one, where combining efforts results in maximized return.

The thread that connects these four points is the idea that local consumers don’t distinguish between online and offline in the way marketers do. From mobile to desktop to store and back again, the journey is fluid and non-linear for the customer. The devices, particularly smartphones, make fact-finding and research easier, but consumers are fine with abandoning devices when an in-store visit or purchase is needed.

From a tactical standpoint, in a recent LSA blog post, Jon Schepke of identifies five strategies for retailers and marketers to improve overall performance:

  1. Keep location data and content up to date
  2. Manage reputation like an asset
  3. Capitalize on the latest advertising tools
  4. Think mobile-first
  5. Treat locations like destinations

Today’s consumer is in control of the purchase journey. The tactics above help to make a retailer more attractive in a space where everyone is fighting for attention and screen real estate on every channel. Each business and market behaves a little differently, and the challenge remains identifying the “right” channels, optimizing them accordingly and connecting the dots via online and offline performance data.

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