It’s the second holiday season since the pandemic broke out but, with many brick-and-mortar stores reopened, will it be more like 2020 or 2019?

Will shoppers stick to online behemoths like Amazon or will they shop in-store? And how are retailers planning to offer a competitive experience amid ongoing supply chain issues?

We partnered with Researchscape to survey thousands of eCommerce companies and consumers in the U.S. about their plans for this holiday season. They also weighed in on the most critical attributes of a seamless online shopping experience, as well as what drives churn.

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The results show that merchants and consumers are mostly in alignment on their interests, but also that merchants may be overthinking what is actually most important to buyers. This report can help merchants set their priorities for investments in areas that can best serve their customers.

The Good News: 2021 Holidays Sales Expectations

First and foremost, retailers’ and shoppers’ outlooks for the 2021 holiday shopping season are both positive:
• 85% of online merchants are expecting an increase in sales this holiday season.
• 59% of merchants expect to see their holiday sales rise anywhere from 10% to 25% or more.

There is a similar optimism shown in the Anodot survey of U.S. consumers:
• 47% say the pandemic led them to buy more online in 2020 than in previous years.
• 85% say they buy as much or more online now than they did at the height of the pandemic lockdowns.
• 71% of consumers expect to spend at least as much, or more, on holiday shopping this year than last year.

Here’s What’s Important for a Good Online Shopping Experience

On the mind of many online retailers is how to better compete against the behemoth Amazon.
• 55% of consumers say their first choice of online retailer is Amazon, largely because of their easy-to-use website, greater variety of goods, and competitive pricing.
• 48% of online merchants see Amazon as their biggest competitor.

We asked merchants and consumers their views on what makes for a good online shopping experience, with the following as their top responses, respectively.

It’s interesting that these are qualities that are often associated with Amazon, and that retailers believe they are more important than consumers view them. This shows that retailers may have opportunities to distinguish themselves from Amazon in other ways.

Getting the shopping experience right is critically important for online retailers. Consumers say that even one negative online experience could make them shop elsewhere.

Merchants are challenged with how to deal with the extraordinary issues of 2021, including inventory that might be caught up in supply chain issues, the order fulfillment process, and the logistics of getting product to customers and executing refunds as needed.

AI Can Deliver Improvements in Areas that Matter Most to Consumers

This holiday season reflects the growing importance of artificial intelligence (AI) to retailers that are up against Amazon’s dominance and the global logistics challenges. In fact, 81% of merchants say they are increasing their investment in AI this year.

Retailers have prioritized addressing the key issues that consumers have identified (see chart above) as critical factors in their online shopping experience, and they are all areas where AI delivers significant improvements.

Merchants have identified several additional value-driven uses for AI, including:
• Fraud detection
• Customer retention
• Targeted campaigns
• Dynamic pricing
• Detection of technical issues
• Chatbots
• Image search

All are worthy efforts that are directly related to delivering a good shopping experience for consumers and a counterbalance to Amazon’s size and reach.

Read the survey report here.

Contact us to learn how Anodot Autonomous Business Monitoring and Autonomous Forecasting are helping online retailers improve customer experience and reduce incident costs by as much as 70%.

Written by Anodot

Anodot is the leader in Autonomous Business Monitoring. Data-driven companies use Anodot's machine learning platform to detect business incidents in real time, helping slash time to detection by as much as 80 percent and reduce alert noise by as much as 95 percent. Thus far, Anodot has helped customers reclaim millions in time and revenue.

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