2016 holiday spending and what it means for your small business

ecommerce insights

If 2016 holiday spending taught us anything, it underscored a message every retailer needs to understand and act on: Sales are moving online and moving to mobile.

Failing to appreciate and strategically respond to that fact will doom many retailers – from the corporate giants to the local small businesses. It is already clouding the futures of some national brands, including Macy’s and Kohl’s.

Due to its weak 2016 performance, including a poor holiday season, Macy’s announced plans to cut about 10,000 jobs. Its stock, along with Kohl’s and others took major hits, as chronicled in Fred Imbert’s CNBC article.

Today when families are watching the traditional holiday movie “Miracle on 34th Street,” few remember that Gimbles was a major force in U.S. retail and staged a Thanksgiving Day parade before Macy’s launched theirs. If Macy’s doesn’t turn around its fortunes, it could someday go the way of Gimbles and become not much more than a Wikipedia entry.

The important point, however, is that many retailers did poorly despite the fact that, overall, 2016 posted the best holiday sale growth in five seasons.

Who did so well that their sales more than made up for the bad showings of Macy’s et. al.?

Online retailers, as you probably suspected. Visa has pulled together the numbers in its Visa Retail Spending Monitor:

  • Overall 2016 November and December retail sales grew 4.8 percent over the same period in 2015.
  • 2016 holiday e-commerce sales accounted for 24 percent of these sales, compared to 21 percent in 2015.
  • Cyber Monday was the biggest day for e-commerce during the season.

Visa also reports that more buyers grabbed their mobile devices to do their 2016 holiday shopping than in the previous year.

There are two lessons to be learned here: Retailers must sell via the Internet and they need to create sites that are mobile friendly.

Unfortunately, too many small businesses still have no website and many who are already on the Internet, view their websites as little more than an online business card. They create it, post their address and phone number, then forget about it. If that describes you, don’t worry, you can probably fix your problem easily. (More specifics on this in just a moment.)

If you have a site, but are not using it to make sales, it will take a little more effort. This gets a more challenging when you factor in the rising importance of mobile devices to e-commerce. You need to be sure you optimally curate your offerings so shoppers can easily find and buy your most important items.

Let me share a few final words on how you should design your site. Some small business owners had the foresight to create websites for their businesses early in the so-called Internet Age. The problem is that many of these are custom sites; changing anything on them can be a chore and expensive. If that is you, I suggest you jettison your old owner-unfriendly site and rebuild with either WordPress or one of the services I describe in this guide to online website building services.

The services I cover in that article include robust e-commerce features and most of the templates also have mobile-friendly versions. From an implementation standpoint, you can easily get an e-commerce site that is mobile capable up on the Internet. However, be sure you know what you want to accomplish and have an overview of your website design and organization before you start dragging and dropping elements around the templates offered.

Given the current changes were are experiencing in retail, it will not be long before more than half the sales happen online and an increasing share of those will be via mobile devices.

Don’t be a bystander to the revolution.