After this weekend, you’ll have to start thinking about fall. And everyone knows that after fall comes winter, and with winter comes… the holiday season! But what will customers be searching for? Will sales spike again? Who will come out on top? Well, read on and we’ll tell you all of those things.

This year’s holiday season will have just 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas – a day more than in 2013, but 5 days fewer than in 2012. While consumers are spending more money online than ever before, they are spending less time on retail sites (bounce rate in October 2013 was 35 percent, just for some context), so retailers have a very limited time to capture their attention and convince them to purchase. So what are the hot trends for this holiday season, and how can you capitalize? Here are few things we’ve identified.

More Sales Volume
Last year, online retail sales during the November-December period touched $46.6 billion, up from $42.3 billion in 2012, and with the continual month-over-month growth online, it’s not a long shot to say this year will be even bigger. Total ecommerce sales in the US are predicted to grow by 15 percent this holiday season, with Volusion predicting a 9 percent online growth for small to medium businesses alone. So be prepared for those volume spikes by beefing up your servers, hiring more warehouse and contact center staff (or communicating the need with your outsourced provider), and working with vendors to ensure a good stock of inventory.

Channel Wars
Retailers’ mobile channels will be playing a big role this year as well, with a Custora report indicating that mobile will account for 33 percent of online holiday sales in the US. With more access to online buying than ever before and a plethora of deals available, you can be a lot of showrooming will be happening this year! (Close to 40 percent of all site visits are from mobile devices.) How do you compete? If you’re an online-only merchant, consider checking out your key competitors’ prices both online and in-store (if they have a brick-and-mortar channel). If you’re able, undercut them in both places – you’d be surprised how many shoppers you’ll convert!

Shipping: Faster, Better, Free-er?
Just as in years past, free shipping is the hot-ticket offer online for the holidays in 2014. A comScore survey from earlier this year shows that 81 percent of shoppers felt that free shipping was an important holiday offer. Of that, 58 percent of those surveyed said they added items to their cart to qualify for free shipping – an automatic upsell just for offering something for ‘free’! But it’s not just about free shipping – being able to see an estimated delivery date and upfront shipping costs before clicking ‘buy’ are also important for shoppers, as well as receiving tracking information post-purchase.

What’s Trending for 2014

  •  Pick-up: In terms of delivery, this year, there is likely to be a rise in in-store pickup or ship-to-store for omnichannel merchants as more retailers have enabled this feature. For online-only retailers, this puts even greater pressure on their shipping speeds and costs.
  • Video: On the marketing front, video is going to be bigger – and investing in it will be a smart way to sell more. Shoppers already spend several hours a week watching videos, and it helps communicate more information in a more interactive way than traditional text. Data shows that product videos increase conversions, so get to work on some quality video content!
  • Personalization: It’s not going away anytime soon, so if you haven’t taken steps to offer personalized products for your customer base, do so before the holiday season. Whether it’s something in-depth like embroidery, sublimation, or engraving, or something easier to implement such as gift-wrapping or hand-written notes included with every order, product personalization is something that customers will be searching for this holiday season.