A Look at the Hits and Misses of Holiday Shopping 2015 - eMarketer

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A Look at the Hits and Misses of Holiday Shopping 2015

March 16, 2016

Jason Goldberg
Senior Vice President, Commerce and Content

Digital agency Razorfish counts some of the largest retailers in the US as clients, which gives it insights into industry trends. Jason Goldberg, senior vice president of commerce and content at Razorfish, spoke with eMarketer’s Yory Wurmser about the biggest takeaways from the 2015 holiday season.

eMarketer: What were the overall trends that you saw during the holiday season?

Jason Goldberg: Top line, it was not a very exciting year for retail growth, especially over the holidays. Most people missed their forecasts and were flat or down. But when you look beyond the top numbers, there were a bunch of clear winners and losers. There were certain categories of retail, like full-price department stores, that were really down. But mass merchants, like Wal-Mart and Target, actually did OK.

A bunch of people blamed their soft sales on the weather, currency [which kept tourists away] and changes in consumer style and preference. But then you look at outliers, like VF Corp., which sold a ton of goods that should have been affected by the weather, or you look at Amazon’s huge success. You have to say that it’s probably the case that a bunch of these specialty retailers are looking at the traditional excuses for their sales when, in reality, their sales were getting eaten up by better digital competitors.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly used to—and more willing to actually complete—purchases on mobile.”

eMarketer: Are consumers getting more comfortable buying gifts with their phones?

Goldberg: Definitely. A year ago, we would have said that, on average, we saw mobile conversion rates as one-quarter of what desktop conversion rates are. We call that a 4-to-1 mobile gap. In 2015, we saw the gap narrowed to 3-to-1.

Over the holidays, when there was big spike in mobile users with high purchase intent, we saw mobile conversion rates that were half of desktop—so only 2-to-1. When we look at our clients that have the best, lowest friction mobile checkout, and mobile executions, they’re nearing 2-to-1 as their average mobile gap.

If you add all of that up, then it seems very clear that retailers are starting to offer better mobile experiences. Consumers are becoming increasingly used to—and more willing to actually complete—purchases on mobile.

eMarketer: What did you see with tablets this year?

Goldberg: Increasingly irrelevant. We’re actually seeing tablet traffic and conversion share go down. And so, frankly, most clients are using a liquid layout to give the tablet user the same experience as a desktop user, and very few are interested in investing in a differentiated tablet experience.

eMarketer: How is the start of the core shopping season changing?

Goldberg: Now that we’re shopping online on our smartphones at the Thanksgiving table on Thursday, we see that type of Cyber Monday peak narrowing. And so we see a lot more days in that holiday cycle have bigger sales. And while Cyber Monday and Black Friday were still the top peaks, the peaks are getting less extreme. So frankly, we talk about the Black Five rather than Black Friday because the distinction between shoppers on Thursday, Friday and Sunday are somewhat irrelevant.

“When a customer comes to the store to pick up their [buy online pick up in-store product], the retailer often can’t find [it], or they don’t have a good process for picking it.”

eMarketer: How about buy online, pick up in-store [BOPUS]. Any trends this year?

Goldberg: I saw two trends. Its adoption continues to be on the rise, and particularly around holidays. There was even more peak. For sure, it’s a critical and super useful experience.

The dirty little secret and focus at the moment is that, generally, the customer experience sucks, and retailers are horrible at executing. Their inventories are all wrong, and so when a customer comes to the store to pick up their BOPUS, the retailer often can’t find their product, or they don’t have a good process for picking it. We have a latent fear at the moment that if a consumer’s first experience with BOPUS is negative, that that [option] is going to lose efficacy.

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