With the UK officially out of recession, online retailers will be hoping for a bumper sales year. But what are the online shopping trends likely to be for the year ahead and what can the past teach us about what to expect?
The dark clouds of the credit crunch seem to have passed (or at the very least, parted), so with consumers having more money and better access to the Internet, 2010 promises to be yet another good year for etailers.
Last year alone, the online retail industry grew by 14%. So despite the apparent gloom of recession, the online market has continued to thrive. But whilst all arrows are currently pointing upwards, there are some notes of caution to temper any buoyant optimism, the most obvious of which is the VAT rise.
To help you to optimise sales and capitalise in a bullish market, we’ve put together a quick guide to the trends to look out for this year.
This is the month of love. With Valentine’s Day on the 14th we expect to see a surge in online activity, particularly look for gifts, flowers and (conversely) online dating. For businesses in this sector, it is time to get pink and fluffy with your online marketing efforts and target lovelorn singles and loved up couples.
Continuing on from Valentine’s day, Mother’s Day is another opportunity for those in the gift sector to really capitalise in a spike of online trading. Cards will be high on the list, as will traditional motherly presents.
Also a big month for patron saints, with St. David (March 1st) and St. Patrick (March 17th) celebrating their annual festivals. So pilgrimages in the form of holidays to Ireland, Wales and even the US (cities like Boston, Chicago and New York tend to have major parades) could be in order, as will related gifts.
The major event in April is of course Easter. Confectioners everywhere rejoice; but make sure you have your Easter campaigns planned a long time before April arrives, in fact you should be in full swing by now. With spring having sprung, summer holidays will also be on the agenda, so the online travel sector will begin heating up around this time.
St. George’s Day is also on the 23rd, but don’t expect too much in the way of patriotic gift giving.
May day brings with it one of the most popular bank holidays of the year. Short breaks away are always popular and with two national holiday’s in one month (3rd and 29th) this could be a bumper year for UK holidays.
It is also a big month for sport. The FA Cup final is on the 15th, with the Champions League following a week later. This kicks off a busy online shopping period for sport etailers, with the World Cup kicking off in South Africa in June. Traditionally May is a slow burner, last year retail sales grew by just 0.8% during the month, so the arrival of a World Cup and the patriotism that goes with it might perk things up in 2010.
Sport is once again likely to dominate the buying trends during June. With Wimbledon (June 21st to July 4th) and Royal Ascot (15th – 19th) both falling this month, expect plenty of action for online store and betting too. It’s the longest day on the 21st, so you’ll have plenty of time to prepare your marketing for the second half of the year.
Summer is in full swing, hot weather (hopefully) will have people looking for a new summer wardrobe. This is the time of year to really be pushing the season’s fashions, with children preparing to take six weeks off from school. Last year saw a 17%, driven primarily by electrical and clothing, so expect more of the same again.
Summer is dominating, as are the summer music festivals. So expect tents, CDs and clothing to dominate. In general this is a slow month, last year saw a 10% drop compared with July, so you will have to work harder to get people through your virtual doors and purchasing stock. Either that or hope for another wet summer, the more consumers are inside, the more likely they are to purchase. Another bank holiday on the 30th could bring some late custom too.
£3.89 billion was spent during September, showing good growth on the year before. This month also heralds the start of autumn (on the 23rd) and back to school for children. This is traditionally the time where a lot of stationery and school clothes are purchased (if not earlier), but with holidays now coming to an end consumers begin looking forward to Christmas – as should you.
Halloween always brings some interesting online spending patterns. Costumes are always high on the list, as are other treats and ghoulish tricks. The Commonwealth Games in Delhi might gain some attention also, bringing people back into a sporty frame of mind – particularly with the football season in full swing and rugby just around the corner.
2009 was blighted by postal strikes, which had a significant impact on Internet sales. That said, it was still a largely positive period for etailers (particularly with early Christmas shopping) and we would expect this to be one of the months that experiences most growth this year.
With just a month to go for online retailers to get consumers to part with their Christmas spending money, November is traditionally a very busy time for retail. Guy Fawkes Night, Remembrance Sunday (14th) and St. Andrew’s Day (30th) are all major events to watch out for, although will have a limited effect on the shopping trends. Last year was slow, with only 11% growth shown, which is significantly less than previous rates. Once again, etailers will be expecting more.
Time for the last of the late spenders to get out and get their Christmas goodies. Gifts, electrical and appliances are all likely to feature high. Almost every field can expect bumper sales, as long as the preparation is done correctly. Christmas Day and Boxing Day have become surprise boom days for online stores, although 2009 may have been an anomaly due to the VAT rise in January.
As we reported [see: UK Out of Recession and Record Profits for Online Retail] December 2009 saw spending increasing to £5.46 billion, 17% more than the year before. This is the end of year bonanza. A time where you need to have your SEO, PPC and other marketing avenues firing on all cylinders. Not only is it Christmas, but also the beginning of the New Year sales, traditionally a bumper period – which surprisingly kicked off on Boxing Day.
Preparation is Key
So there’s plenty to look out for in 2010, regardless of what your online store offers. Next up is Valentine’s Day, which is time for flowers, chocolates and anything else that says I love you. Of course with so much love in the air, single folk might be tempted to treat themselves or go out and find someone, making this boom time for online dating.
Anticipation is what could help you to really make the most of your industry’s peak periods. If you’re planning PPC campaigns, get testing them months in advance. This way, by the time you get to the busiest purchasing time, you will have properly matured adverts that have been refined and are positioned well within the rankings. Last minute rushes rarely lead to anything other than major expense and very little return on your investment.
Understanding your market and preparing for the likely peaks and troughs will help you to optimise your ecommerce success.
Source: All statistics taken from official IMRG/Capgemini figures.