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Top digital, social media trends driving online holiday sales

BY Marianne Wilson

Seattle — Social shopping, e-commerce videos, free shipping and in-store pickup rank among the top trends expected to drive holiday sales for online retailers, according to Blueocean Market Intelligence, a global analytics and insights provider.

“Considering the number of social platforms that have mushroomed in recent years, retailers can’t just hop on Facebook with a ‘me too’ strategy,” said Anees Merchant, senior vice president – digital, for Blueocean Market Intelligence. “They have to make informed decisions about which networks to invest their resources in to achieve the greatest impact. Social media is no longer about following the mass; it’s about following and converting target audiences.”

Based on the analysis, Merchant predicts the top six digital and social media trends that are expected to drive the most holiday sales:

• Social shopping becomes a reality. With the introduction of Twitter’s “buy” button and Facebook’s e-commerce integration, there will be a big push with social shopping. Many e-commerce giants are already piloting programs – a sign that mainstream adoption isn’t far away.

• Retailers will spend more on social- and geo-targeted campaigns. Retailers will direct a significantly greater portion of their marketing budgets toward social, and especially around geo-targeting customers. Consumers can expect different offers by state and city.

• Visual content and interactions will play an important role in holiday campaigns. Video is among the most powerful mediums for communicating information online. Retailers across industries will entice their customers with high quality audio and video. Video and image sharing will be dominant on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and of course, YouTube.

• Consumers will shop early. Customers don’t want to wait or only visit stores on select days, so they will take advantage of early offers that retailers push in October. As a result, retailers may eventually opt for guaranteed delivery cutoff dates closer to mid-December, rather than waiting until Christmas Eve.

• Mobile commerce will experience a big turnaround. Mobile visits to e-commerce sites have boomed in recent years, and Blueocean Market Intelligence’s SEI for Retailers has confirmed major retailers are making a great effort to push mobile apps. For example, CVS Caremark encourages clients to refill prescriptions with an app. Kroger created an app that generates real-time offers and coupons. Home Depot has an app providing on-demand, real-time inventory and stock updates. Additionally, the newly released Amazon Fire phone and iPhone push consumers to shop via mobile devices.

• Online retailers will use free shipping and in-store pickup incentives to drive more sales. A 2014 survey by UPS and ComScore found 81% of online shoppers believe free shipping is important. Complimentary in-store pickup, too, has been found to be an effective promotion in recent years. Companies that actively communicate theses incentives via social and digital platforms have the potential to drive more sales this holiday.

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