Wrapping up 2008 holiday numbers

shoppingcartBlack Friday and Cyber Monday have passed and the ecommerce results for Holiday Season 2008 are starting to hit the blogosphere.  ComScore reports ecommerce sales for the holiday shopping period (Nov. 1 – Dec. 26) fell 3% from 2007 totals.  This is the first time online holiday sales have fallen since ComScore started tracking ecommerce in 2001.  However, online retail may have suffered much less than bricks and mortar retailers. Already dealing with the troubled economy and frugal consumers, traditional retailers were also hit by winter weather issues across the nation and five fewer shopping days this calendar year.  In fact, traditional apparel and electronics retailers saw declines of 19% and 26%, respectively, while online apparel sales rose 4% and online electronics sales declined just 5%.

All things considered, there were still a number of positive events in online retailing that bode well for the future of ecommerce.  Fitness and video game shopping sites saw double-digit increases in consumer spending and Amazon and Wal Mart saw Web visits rise over the shopping season.  If search volume is any indicator, this year’s “Tickle-Me Elmo” may have been the Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit game.  Hitwise reported  that searches for Wii and Wii Fit ruled the roost when searchers were looking for stores with available product and included the term ‘in stock’ in their query.  Wii captured 7 of the top 10 “in stock” searches.
As online retailers review 2008 performance and plot out their 2009 strategy look for companies to roll out distributed user reviews, online video and mobile search applications to enhance the ecommerce experience.

Consumer reviews are an important component of ecommerce success.  A Nielsen Online survey of Internet shoppers suggests 81% of users have read consumer-written product reviews and 71% of shoppers feel reviews make them more confident they are buying the right product.  As retailers build their collection of consumer reviews and feedback, some will begin to circulate the review itself as an ad unit.  Companies like Bazaarvoice can distribute these user-generated testimonials with their SyndicateVoice service.

Online video is already a staple of websites and online media campaigns, but I expect to see more use by ecommerce retailers utilizing video for product information and reviews.  For a look at some unique video/ecommerce mash ups visit Shopflick to see how they’re using video to create an online marketplace for indie retailers and check out Honeyshed’s hipster infomercials.

Finally, as mobile Internet use continues to grow, Internet and traditional retailers will need to leverage this channel to help link the Internet to in-store foot traffic.  Ecommerce and bricks and mortar stores will need to make their inventory friendly to mobile searchers or partner with third parties like Slifter and others that can index and publish inventory availability for mobile users.