The holiday seasons are high traffic for e-commerce businesses – with even higher traffic due to COVID-19, spurring hesitance to spend time at retail stores among busy crowds. This rings true in the GCC, where e-commerce revenue registered at $21.6 billion for 2020, up from $5.3 billion in 2015 according to a report by Kearney.

Preparing for the Big Season

That number is only expected to grow, and with the holiday season in full swing, e-commerce businesses have taken steps to prepare for an influx of users. The majority of those companies (62%) started preparing in August and September, with only 27% holding off until October/November to get ready for the end-of-year rush.

Adding Sparkle to Your Line

E-commerce companies are aiming to drive more revenue by adding new products to their line-up, growing their social commerce, increasing advertising budgets, and updating their online customer experience, according to a report by PackHelp. This points to the radical importance of engaging socially with potential customers online outside of the actual e-commerce platform, while streamlining the user experience from opening the app to checking out.

Social Media Always Sells Big

40% of E-commerce Companies in Europe will use Instagram as their main social media advertising platform this Christmas.

On the social commerce side, Instagram is one major tool in the e-commerce kit, with 40% of European e-commerce companies aiming to leverage the social media platform for the holiday season. The second most popular social platform was Facebook, followed by TikTok and Pinterest. While TikTok is still growing in usage, it is seeing rising success with Gen Z and could also be leveraged for e-commerce.

Social commerce is only growing and the lead-to-sale conversion time for purchases made through social media is extremely fast, opening up avenues of opportunity for e-commerce businesses. While companies in this space are already aware of the potential of social commerce, they must continue to expand their presence to keep up with rising interest from social media users who shop differently than previous generations.

Mobile Commerce is Key

E-commerce businesses will also prioritise mobile experience, as users are more closely connected to their phones than ever, boosted in part by the pandemic. The Salesforce Shopping Index noted that orders from mobile devices grow by 62% year-on-year in Q1 2021. This goes hand-in-hand with social commerce, since social media tends to drive purchases on mobile.

Quick and Convenient Shipping

But the company is only as strong as its messaging, and businesses in this sector are pushing incentives to convert more leads into customers over the winter holidays. The top incentive noted by e-commerce companies was free shipping (24.3%), followed by discounts (22.6%), special add-ons to productions (20.1%), special deals (19.3%), and reward offers (12.1%).

Another incentive was the promise of faster shipping, a tempting offer given the frequent delivery delays over the holiday season. Unfortunately, presents bought over the holidays are not delivered immediately via flying sleigh, and given the time constraints (every Christmas shopper wants their purchases delivered before 25 December) expedited shipping is a strong incentive.

Holiday Sales Keep Soaring

In keeping with the holiday theme, e-commerce businesses are also capitalising on the season by creating ‘Holiday’ categories boasting the ‘most-wanted gifts’ of the season, helping drive users to a purchase.

However, e-commerce firms in Europe were split in their expected sales peak for the year – just over half noted November as the expected month with the highest sales, while just under half noted December as their peak month. With the growing popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday (sometimes known by other names) outside of the US, November has boomed as a high sales month for e-commerce platforms but December has truly soared at 11% compared to 2020. Compared with 2019 and before the pandemic, e-commerce sales jumped over 61%.

Sustainable Packaging

Generally, all of these preparations will culminate in a few key trends which are expected to emerge, starting with sustainable packaging. Sustainable packaging has a lower environmental footprint than its traditional counterpart, either degrading naturally, already recycled, or reusable.

Related article: Middle East Consumers Call for Greener E-commerce

Local Beats Global

Additionally, multi-localism is expected to take hold, with consumers looking for more local products with a traceable origin, rather than one-size-fits-all globalist products. PwC estimates that 63% of consumers are willing to spend more money when purchasing local products with a clear origin. This also fits in with localisation initiatives across GCC countries aiming to build up local supply chains and talent pools.

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