Holiday shopping trends

It’s coming. That time of year when you can buy tech, apparel, and holiday gifts at jaw-dropping prices. The Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas specials that make you remind yourself shopping at any other time of the year is just plain folly.

However, gone are the days of crowding malls and elbowing people out of the way to get the last 50%-off jacket in your size. This year, e-commerce continues its trend of rapid growth, with expected yearly sales of $224.2 billion, and holiday sales from November through December making up ~25% of the total. That marks the 4th consecutive year of high holiday sales growth with an increase of ~17% over last year. Marketers agree with these predictions, with an emphasis on increased social marketing; Experian found that 90% of them plan to maintain or increase holiday campaign investments in social channels like Facebook.

Image 1: Marketers will increase investments in social media this holiday seasonImage

Social media enters the holiday mix

Social media will play a pivotal role in the continued growth of e-commerce, with Gartner predicting that social will account for 50% of web sales by 2015 and Booze and Co stating that social commerce will hit $14 billion by 2015. In the present, social commerce already shows significant promise and growth potential; according to IBM, social sales increased almost 70% during back-to-school shopping over the summer. What’s more, social commerce for apparel, a category also popular during holiday sales, grew by over 100% in August, and IBM’s global strategy program director, Jay Henderson, believes social commerce will continue to grow over the holiday season.

If you’re not yet convinced, consider this: social commerce increased by almost 70% over the summer. That was before Facebook – the platform that accounts for 86% of social referrals – introduced new features geared specifically towards facilitating social commerce, such as Facebook Gifts, and Facebook Collections. 

Facebook Gifts allows consumers to purchase digital or physical gifts for their friends, streamlining the entire buying experience to keep it within the Facebook ecosystem. Consumers appear receptive to the idea, with almost half of people surveyed by Sterne stating their willingness to purchase gifts via a Facebook service. Facebook Collections represent another new initiative from Facebook designed to spur social commerce, altering users’ experience on the social network to align more closely with shopping-centric networks like Pinterest. With Collections, users can ‘Want’, ‘Collect’ or ‘Like’ items to add them to a special ‘Wishlist’, which is then available for the users’ social network to see.

These new features from Facebook will increase interest and use of social marketing apps by brands, and help them engage with their fans and complete holiday sales within the newsfeed itself. With social marketing apps, brands can place offers where users spend time – in the newsfeed – and allow for complete transactions without ever leaving that space, leading to results like Li-Ning driving a 4% conversion rate with their flash sneaker sale. With Gifts, Collections, and social commerce applications, Facebook is quickly becoming a one-stop-shop for discovering, influencing, and completing sales.

Image 2: Li-Ning's distributed store had conversion rates 50% higher than e-commerce averagesImage

The value from social marketing tools and applications lies in their ability to drive social commerce within Facebook itself; the success rate of fans enabling complete transactions within the newsfeed will further fuel the social commerce growth we saw last summer. Expect to see a large uptick in Facebook-enabled social commerce this holiday season, and prepare to engage in social commerce for your brand. For specific ways on how to engage fans and drive social sales this holiday season, consult with this complimentary guide: 6 Best Practices to Get the Most From Your Facebook Presence.

Planning a unique social commerce campaign for your fans this season?  Share your ideas, challenges and questions in the space below, or connect with me on Twitter.

Errol