The Key to Dominating this Year’s Holiday Season? Expanded Product Assortment

It’s go-time. The 2017 holiday season is here.

Experts believe that ecommerce will drive more holiday sales this year than ever before. So as the holiday season approaches, retailers should take note of the trends driving consumers online and determine what they can do to maximize sales.

For many retailers, the answer to driving online sales is offering wider digital product assortments. By expanding the number and types of products available online, retailers can remain relevant among key audiences looking for specific products.

Ecommerce is expected to drive more holiday sales than ever before

Before diving into how and why expanding product assortment can give retailers an edge during the holidays, it’s worth looking into the predictions for the 2017 holiday season. It’s clear that ecommerce will be a major player in holiday sales this year, with Amazon leading the way.

About three in four holiday shoppers expect to buy gifts from Amazon this year, and that number jumps to 90 percent among Prime members, according to one study.  Additionally, the same study found that 82 percent of shoppers expect to buy holiday gifts online across all e-retailers.

Forrester predicts that all of those online sales will add up to $129 billion this year, which is up 12 percent from 2016. And just over half of those who do make purchases online (55 percent) will likely visit a store to check out a product in person before making those purchases. Given these predictions, retailers should focus their energy on strategically capturing this market. And here’s how.

Social media and changing customer habits drive online sales

Changing customer habits play a huge role in the steady growth of ecommerce. Many studies have found that consumers today prefer to spend their free time on experiences, such as trying new restaurants or attending concerts, instead of shopping at the local mall. And the ease with which consumers can do their shopping online makes this shift possible.

Additionally, the proliferation of social media influences shopping habits. When consumers see items they want on social sites like Instagram or Pinterest, it is easier to search through ecommerce sites to find those items than it is to visit physical brick-and-mortar stores.

And Amazon has capitalized on these trends, which helps explain its dominance in recent years. The marketplace giant offers a vast product selection that is easily searchable, making it a one-stop-shop for consumers who already know which products they want and need thanks to social media.

What are online retailers doing to keep up?

Expanding product assortment through drop-shipping is the easiest way for retailers to adhere to changing customer habits and maximize their piece of that $129 billion holiday sales pie.

Drop shipping is a strategy through which a brand or other supplier ships products directly to customers on behalf of the retailer rather than the retailer having to invest in the inventory upfront and facilitate the delivery. This tactic is a win-win for both the supplier and the retailer. Brands and other suppliers can get more products in front of customers through retailers’ ecommerce sites, and retailers can expand their assortments without investing in the inventory upfront.

Rapidly expanding product assortment ensures that retailers remain relevant at a time when consumers are shopping online more often than ever before. Retailers can use drop shipping to expand into any category that makes sense given their retail brand image. For example, if a clothing retailer expands into accessories, it can attract and retain more customers that are interested in both product categories.

Additionally, wider assortments allow retailers to remain top of mind at the moment a consumer is inspired on social media. Retailers should take note of the products that generate engagement and attention among key audiences on sites like Pinterest and Instagram, and expand assortments accordingly. Consumers no longer visit a retail site and search through product categories. Instead, they’re inspired on social media and then purchase with the retailer that offers the items they want.

Lastly, expanded ecommerce offerings help retailers ensure that showrooming customers (those that browse in-store and shop online) remain loyal. If a customer wants an item in a particular size or color that is not offered in-store, that retailer can still capture the sale if it offers the product within its “virtual inventory.” But without that expanded assortment, this retailer is likely to lose that customer to a competitor.

CommerceHub helps retailers looking to quickly expand product assortment. During the holiday season, customer expectations are heightened — gain their trust and loyalty by offering them the products they want most. Learn more about CommerceHub’s drop ship technology for retailers today.