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Time to prepare for Christmas as consumers grow tired of poor online retail experience, warns IBM guide

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With the hottest day of the year upon us, it is time to start thinking about… Christmas. And, according to IBM, retailers must start thinking seriously about customer journeys and start to make sure that their websites are fully optimized, work in line with their apps and how all this merges with their stores. And they may want to rethink social media as a sales channel.

Based on IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, the annual guide for how online businesses should prepare for Christmas provides a detailed analysis of the Christmas 2013 season and includes figures for online retail leading up to March 2014.

“While online retail is undeniably growing, the average amount people are spending remains flat and the number of items they are buying per transaction is actually decreasing,” says James Lovell, Smarter Commerce retail consultant, Europe, IBM. “What’s more, attention metrics show consumers have no patience for underwhelming retail experiences. If websites are not optimised for mobile, for example, shoppers will quickly give up trying to browse. Retailers need to understand consumer shopping ‘journeys’ – that is, gain a clear understanding of which technologies they are using, how and when they are using them and how these merge with the store.”

So what should retailers prepare for this year and how can they prepare: what are the key shopping trends and the channels retailers should be paying attention to as they gear up for Christmas and New Year 2014?

The report reveals that online retail spending rose 11.8% in the last quarter of 2013. Over the same Christmas shopping season, Cyber Monday (2 Dec) and Black Friday (29 Nov) emerged as strong buying days in the UK, mirroring the US trend for key shopping days before Christmas.

Despite Android having a majority of the UK mobile market, IBM figures reveal that sales via Apple devices are higher – sales via iPads and iPhones accounted for 26.9% of site sales in March 2014. As mobile grows, retailers need to pay close attention to how their websites perform on different devices.

Finally, IBM suggests that social channels remain a low source of traffic, with just 0.5% of visitors arriving from Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and other social channels in March 2014, and accounting for 0.1% of sales.

The report is available to view here

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