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European shoppers start Christmas shopping earlier, spend more and want ‘mobile fast’, report says

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European consumers are set to up their online spend this Christmas, start their shopping earlier and will be doing much of it in mobile, according to research by Forrester.

According to the research online holiday retail sales in Europe are set to increase by 12.1% compared to last season, growing from $54.85 billion to $61.49 billion in 2018.   

Forrester also believes that, much like in the UK, mobile devices are going to dominate digital holiday shopping across Europe. The study says that 53% of all online sales in the UK were transacted directly via mobile, while Europeans have high expectations for mobile experiences: 51% of European online adults are frustrated and annoyed when they go to a website that is not mobile-friendly.

The good news is that 61% are more likely to return to a website in the future if it is mobile-friendly.

The study goes further: by 2022, it says, mobile devices will account for 9% of online retail sales in Europe but will influence an additional 30% of offline sales. 

As European consumers become ever more digitally savvy, says Forrester, they expect retailers to offer digital touchpoints that complement the in-store experience and improve the overall customer experience on a busy shopping day.

Interestingly, the research also points to the festive season starting earlier in Europe. Black Friday now marks the start of the holiday shopping season in the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Spain where sales continue to grow apace. In the UK, Black Friday has become fully entrenched in the retail calendar with 2017 sales on the day growing by 8% year-on-year.  

There is also a growing trend for non-retailers to get involved in online sales events too, says the study.  An increasing share of Black-Friday shoppers are buying ‘non-retail’ items such as holidays, insurance and phone contracts as retailers look to cash in on the rapid surge of online shopping activity.

Taken together, these changes are forcing retailers to rethink their sales strategy over the peak season, advises the report. With the earlier holiday season start and consumers expecting mobile friendly services and significant discounts on and around Black Friday, retailers must overhaul their approach to holiday sales planning and preparation, says the study.  Launching into Black Friday and offering blanket discounts without a clear strategy — or without considering the impact on overall holiday sales performance — can spell disaster.

Instead, retailers should throttle discounts around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, closely managing the product lines and categories they place on Black Friday promotion to minimize the risk of on-the-day stock outages and margin erosion, as well as to protect bestsellers. Warehousing and carrier partner relationships must be able to handle the complexity of peak operations to manage the impact on customer service levels and costs, says the study.

Retailers must also be ‘mobile-fast’, not just mobile-friendly, says Forrester analyst and report author Michael O’Grady. “Stress-test your systems and operations for the impending digital holiday traffic and sales. Also, remind your customers of the time-saving self-serve functionality available to them across digital touchpoints and in-store during the busy holiday season.”

For example, he says, John Lewis customers can now enter their order ID via fixed tablets in the designated click-and-collect area to alert storage area staff to pick and send up the items. Decathlon lets instore customers access specific digital product details, such as ratings and reviews, by scanning QR codes using the mobile app.

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