Holiday shopper’s behaviour and preferences change every season. Some of them are not so easy to spot, but quickly turn into permanent trends and could crash down even your best sales plans.

Despite the rather bleak predictions of only 2.8% to 3.7% increase of the total holiday sales in the US for 2015, the e-commerce volumes are expected to grow at a double speed and register a 6 to 8% increase. Other even more optimistic forecasts mention a higher growth rate of up to 13.9% for the online sales. Moreover, a significant 64% of the total holiday spending will be digitally influenced.

Curious what customer behaviour shifts will have the strongest impact on your Shopify store performance during the upcoming holiday season? We have summed up for you what the industry observers predict. We have complemented the research findings with some expert advice on how to maximize your Shopify store revenue in the last months of 2015.

1. Customers buy for themselves while shopping for others

People tend to indulge themselves or their family during the year-end holiday season, even if times are hard. The US economy has been rather stable in 2015 and people enjoyed predictable income. That might be the reason why holiday shoppers admit they are likely to spend on presents 12.5% more than last year.

Half of the holiday shoppers will most probably buy something for themselves, while shopping for others. Most of them will have no specific budget in mind when shopping, so they might be more willing to make spontaneous or higher price purchases than initially intended.

Artisan products is an emerging holiday gifts category. Prompted by the increased search for handmade and hand-crafted products, Amazon even launched a specialized marketplace recently.

Our advice: What if your products are not among the bestseller categories of the season? You can compensate for it by making your online language more personal and draft your marketing messages accordingly. Take into consideration your customer’s purchasing history, location, demographics. Think about related products which might be of interest to them. Send out a personalized and relevant offer and you stand a greater chance to attract new or repeat visitors to your Shopify store and to convert them into real buyers.

2. A third of the online orders will be completed on a mobile device

Close to 70% of the 2015 holiday shoppers will search for information online before they proceed with their real purchase. The trend from webrooming to online shopping will be more pronounced than the previous year. The part of the purchases finalized on a mobile device will continue to grow and reach over 32% of all online sales.

As social network and e-mail alerts with their push notifications are instantly available on mobile, they are considered as the major influencers of the mobile purchasing decision. Friends'recommendations, branded e-mails, online ads and Facebook feeds will tempt the holiday shoppers to click on the “Buy” button directly on their mobile devices.

Our advice: Without question, your online shop requires a responsive design (it is a ubiquitous feature of all Kabuki themes for Shopify :). It will ensure that the mobile shopping experience of your current or potential customers is not only seamless but possible altogether.

Make sure that your design fits the browsing habits of your customers, for instance make the search option easy to notice, provide intelligent filters or insert a product comparison function where appropriate. Optimize the experience your visitors have on your Shopify store and don’t make them think about what their next action must be. Word your call to action message in a clear and concise way. If you feel you need an extra creative push with the latter one, you can check out some expert call to action formulas.

3. The shopping days with highest sales are changing

Black Friday has been considered the kickoff day of the holiday shopping. The sales generated during this day used to rule the season. 2014 was crucial in the sense that it irrevocably changed the early holiday season sales dynamics.

People are starting to more heavily shop online on Thanksgiving night instead of rushing to the stores on Black Friday. Others prefer to spend more time with their families and do the shopping on the Monday which follows the festive weekend. The last Cyber Monday was proclaimed the “Heaviest U.S. Online Spending Day in History”. It is expected to hit $3 Billion in sales for the first time in 2015, thus taking over the sales leader position. Cyber Monday is also predicted to be the peak of the online sales in 2015, which will gradually decline towards Christmas.

Our advice: Do not plan heavily only around certain days but rather prepare for the whole season. If you focus your efforts too explicitly on one holiday, you might miss out on other sales opportunities. As Adobe concluded, “there is no one “best day” worldwide” and the holidays sales dynamics significantly differ by region.

For this reason, we have prepared a handy Content Marketing and Sales Calendar. Take a look at it at the end of this post. You can think about which products to push up on certain holidays. If you plan well, you will have time to be more attentive to new seasonal changes and to adjust to them. Start sending out warm-up messages to your customers at least 2 weeks before your target sales day. Create a feeling of expectation or leak some hints about anything new and special. Use the preseason communication to also boost your newsletter subscriptions.

Beware though, that your customers will be the focus of other targeted messages as well. Be considerate, utilise wisely their time and attention, and they will give back to you. They will be more willing to follow your call to action, engage with your Shopify store or at least not unsubscribe from your mail list.

4. Shoppers do not buy around the peaks of the season any more 

Shoppers are more and more willing to either start shopping before the official holiday season, or put off the purchase decision and wait for the best deal. It is estimated that around 25% of the holiday shoppers pursue early promotions even before the Thanksgiving weekend.

More and more shoppers are getting spoiled by the excess of online or in-store discount offers during the holidays season. Instead of using their promo codes or coupons right away, they are waiting for the next best offer.

According to AlixPartners, the winners at the end of the 2015 holiday season will be the retailers who manage to engage their customers by promoting often and early, the ones who keep a close eye on the competition and quickly make adequate adjustments to their strategy.

Our advice: Along with your regular holiday campaign, you might want to plan short-term events featuring even a single product. Flash sales or exclusive offers of the day are the means to increase the repeat visits to your Shopify store and to keep the interest of your customers throughout the whole season. You will create a sense of urgency and give your Shopify store visitors the incentive to “buy right now”. You will want to actively engage all your social media channels to promote the flash sales or the one day events, and use them as an occasion to send out a meaningful message to your subscribers.

5. Savings on shipping

Saving on shipping charges is the main driver for a significant 67% of the shoppers to prefer an in-store pickup after shopping online. However, one of the leading courier service providers expects a record-breaking 12%-jump on shipping volumes during the 2015 holidays season in US. This can be partially explained by the fact, that free-shipping is turning into a standard option when offering a product online.

Our advice: The free-shipping option will eat up some of your sales margin, but you can use it wisely. You can offer it as an incentive to urge early shopping, larger quantity purchases or bundled product offers on your Shopify store.

Surprise! Surprise!

And here comes our last piece of advice. Be creative! It might sound too worn out, but if you are thoughtful, if you do not allow yourself to just go with the flow, you might see increased sales figures even after the holiday spikes.

Take a brief look at this year’s holiday surprise. We picked this campaign up as a good example that it sometimes takes guts to create a positive buzz: the outdoor gear retailer REI announced that they will close all their 143 stores on Black Friday. They did it exactly a month before “the big day” and in less than 7 days generated a significant PR attention.

REI are encouraging their customers to #optoutside, instead of strolling the isles. Everyone following an active and healthy lifestyle can find on the campaign's dedicated web-page inspiring ideas how to spend the day out. People are able to share their outdoor plans using the campaign hashtag and repeatedly engaged with the brand over at least a month. Way before any other retailer joined in the holiday sales marathon, close to 900,000 people have already opted in and their number is growing by the day.

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2015 Holiday Season Content Marketing and Sales Calendar