The holiday shopping season is off to a strong start with Shopify merchants bringing in a combined $9.3 billion in sales over Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM). This represents a 24% increase in sales over the previous year, highlighting that consumers still have an appetite for retail, despite the rising cost of living. 

The peak in sales over BFCM provided some valuable insights into what’s most important to consumers right now. With an understanding of these important trends, retailers can create shopping experiences that meet consumers expectations, and maximise sales, throughout the extended holiday season and beyond. 

But first, mobile

The proliferation of mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, is continuing to evolve the online shopping landscape. In fact, the majority of BFCM online purchases in Australia were made using mobile devices (73%), compared to 27% purchases made on desktop computers. To meet the expectations of mobile shoppers, retailers should ensure that their mobile site is fast loading, responsive and easy to navigate. Even better, retailers might consider introducing a mobile app to offer a faster and more reliable experience to users. 

Shopping apps can offer serious advantages to retailers too. One notable benefit is the ability to capture and retain customer’s attention via push notifications and in-app messages. These notifications enable retailers to communicate personalised offers and time-sensitive deals to users, thereby enhancing brand loyalty and increasing purchase frequency. 

During BFCM, Brisbane athleisure brand LSKD offered customers an additional 15% discount — on top of the standard discount — for in-app purchases, to encourage app downloads. Promotions and incentives for app downloads, like this example by LSKD, can be an effective strategy to increase engagement and sales over the long term. 

Don’t discount, add value

While BFCM was a triumph this year, retailers should be cautious with ongoing discounting. While it’s true consumers love a bargain, a brand that is constantly discounting can position itself as a low-cost or value brand, which can impact perceptions and margins. While that is totally fine for brands with that intention, high sales volumes, and tight management of supply chains, it’s not sustainable for many brands.

Instead of offering a percentage discount, retailers should look for different ways to provide customers with a sense of value for money. For example, luxury luggage company July offered customers free personalisation alongside its BFCM promotions this year. Doing so allowed customers to feel they were getting more value, rather than just getting a deal. It also helped July to differentiate itself from its competitors and generated positive sentiment towards the brand. In short, using promotional strategies beyond discounts, retailers can create a more well-rounded and sustainable approach to attracting and retaining customers.

The return of bricks-and-mortar

Physical retail stores have proven that they are still a valuable part of the shopping experience, with POS sales by Shopify merchants in Australia growing by 25% since BFCM last year. While many consumers may begin their shopping journey online, they may still desire to see and feel products before committing to buy — particularly for large, tactile purchases such as furniture. Alternatively, customers may see something in-store, continue their research at home, and decide to purchase it online at a later date. There truly is no single path to purchase and today’s consumers are buying goods through a variety of offline and online channels.

As the divisions between online and in-store shopping continue to blur, retailers must ensure that their experiences across various shopping channels are aligned. For example, retailers offering loyalty points should ensure that those points are redeemable both online and in-store. There are many other examples, but the point is that allowing customers to move easily between different shopping channels is more likely to result in a sale.

Reliability is critical

An ecommerce store that faces technical issues or crashes frequently can result in missed opportunities for retailers as shoppers will quickly move on if they can’t make their purchase conveniently. At its peak during BFCM, Shopify’s platform handled a staggering 967K requests per second. That’s equivalent to 58 million requests per minute. The unwavering availability, scalability, and resiliency of the ecommerce platform was undoubtedly instrumental to the success of Shopify merchants during BFCM.

With all the bells and whistles that different ecommerce providers are offering today, reliability might seem like one of the least exciting features. However, reliable ecommerce software that can consistently deliver an exceptional customer experience is critical to making sales and securing repeat customers.

Though the biggest shopping event of the year has now passed, there are still plenty of opportunities to make sales throughout the extended holiday season — the key is to provide consumers with the shopping experiences that are reliable, consistent, convenient and value-added. By ensuring a fast and reliable mobile site, providing great value, and supporting omnichannel shoppers, retailers can maximise sales and ensure brand loyalty that remains long after the Christmas tree has been dismantled.

Shaun Broughton is managing director for APAC at Shopify.