Online traffic and sales on Boxing Day in 2013 broke all records and 2014 looks set to follow suit, according to Akamai, an enterprise cloud services provider, which works with more than 900 retailers worldwide.
Data from Experian Hitwise showed the UK alone received 129m shopper visits on Boxing Day in 2013 – up 8% on 2012. As a result, Boxing Day online sales rocketed, up 40%; while mobile traffic overtook desktop for the first time.
Multi-channel retailing also became mainstream with 35% of shoppers using click and collect services in 2013 but forecast to increase to 76% by 2017 (Planet Retail).
Enrique Duvos, director product marketing & enablement, EMEA, at Akamai, said the trends suggested records would be smashed in 2014.
Industry figures forecast European online holiday sales will hit €35bn this year and will account for 23% of all retail sales in Europe on average, he said. In the UK, a quarter (25%) of all retail sales are predicted to be online this year (Forrester).
“The UK is a very prominent market for online usage,” said Duvos.
At the same time, new holiday sales events are taking root, such as the American import of Black Friday, plus Cyber Monday.
According to figures from multi-channel retail solution provider Peerius, online sales on Cyber Monday increased by 30% in 2013. However, new sales events launched by a growing number of international retailers meant customer loyalty is at an all-time low, Duvos added.
Akamai highlighted the importance of fast, reliable and secure access for online shoppers and the impact of slow page load times.
Figures from the Aberdeen Group, for example, show a one second delay in page load time can cost a business $2.5m a year.
Akamai aims to help retail customers get closer to their customers, optimising network performance and delivery.
“Performance really matters,” Duvos claimed.
Mobile commerce is another key trend, according to Akamai. M-commerce (mobile phones and tablets) is tipped to account for 20% of sales in the top European markets in 2014 (Forrester); and is reported to have enjoyed triple digit growth in 2013 (eMarketer).
‘Mobile is really taking off,” said Duvos. However, the use of the mobile phone is decreasing with penetration down to 33% from 38% in 2013. Tablets, meanwhile, command a 65.8% share of mobile traffic.
Growth in omni-channel retailing means retailers must integrate their online and retail presence, which includes optmising stores and their in-store networks with cloud networking solutions, said Akamai.
Duvos advised retailers leverage their data in order to personalise how they treat their shoppers.
“It’s making sure they can offer the right product to the right customer at the right time,” he said. “Retailers need to analyse and collect the data and provide a personal experience.”
However, Duvos questioned how many retailers have integrated their off- and online analytics.