Beacons Land on Retailers' Holiday Wish Lists - eMarketer

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Beacons Land on Retailers' Holiday Wish Lists

US ecommerce sales during the holiday season will rise 16.6% year over year

September 16, 2014

eMarketer projects that US retail sales will increase 5.0% in the core holiday season of November and December in 2014, an improvement over last year’s growth of 3.4%. This stronger overall retail climate, along with long-term trends toward digital commerce, will drive US ecommerce sales up 16.6%, compared with last year’s growth of 15.3%, according to a new eMarketer report, “Holiday Shopping Preview: Ecommerce Grows as Brick-and-Mortar Stores Embrace Digital.”

US Retail Ecommerce Holiday Season Sales, 2012-2014 (billions and % change)

Ecommerce plays an especially prominent role during 
the holiday season. This year, eMarketer estimates that 8.4% of US retail sales will be digital, compared with 6.5% for 2014 in total. Even as more shopping shifts online 
for the holidays, omnichannel retailers this season are using mobile media to highlight the advantages of their physical stores. Last year, retailers saw big spikes of mcommerce sales as shoppers took advantage of time in line to find additional products that complemented their in-store purchases. This year, retailers will expand programs using visual search, beacons and local search that will make phones even more powerful shopping tools.

Beacons have created a lot of buzz in retail, but most tests so far have been small-scale. This holiday season should change that.

US Retail and Retail Ecommerce* Holiday Season Sales, 2012-2014

Although Apple baked beacon protocols into iOS 7 in October 2013, the news was too early to have any impact on last holiday season. Since then, however, retailers have begun to test them in-store. “Retailers, especially the national retailers, are trying [beacons] out, seeing how things go,” said Chris Damron, chief innovation officer
 at BeaconStream, a proximity-based mobile marketing platform.

Behind the scenes, however, many more retailers are considering them. “More than half of the top 100 retailers are actively working with beacon technology now—and they’re in different stages—but all of them are evaluating, testing, piloting, trying it out,” said Rob Murphy, vice president of marketing at Swirl. The end result is that deployments will grow in scale and ambition as the holidays approach, according to Murphy.

One of the major hindrances so far has been the limited audience penetration of branded retailer apps. Beacons only work through apps or Apple’s Passbook, so if only 
a sliver of a retailer’s customers have downloaded its branded app, the beacon experience will have a very limited effect. In order to resolve this dilemma, retailers and beacon vendors have started to partner with sites that have a broader slice of their customer base.

Get more on this topic with the full eMarketer report, “Holiday Shopping Preview: Ecommerce Grows as Brick-and-Mortar Stores Embrace Digital.”

This report answers these key questions:

  • What are eMarketer’s projections for retail revenues this holiday season?
  • What are the big mobile commerce trends this season?
  • Will fulfillment troubles plague retailers again this year?
  • How widespread will beacons and local search be this holiday season?

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