We know it’s a bit late. After all, Black Friday has receded far back into the shadows of the retail graveyard. You probably already blew half of your bonus on Cyber Monday deals. Does anyone need another crock pot? I have three. Or a neon braided traffic lead for dogs? They were a steal. But hey, let’s talk about eCommerce sales for the holiday season.

First, it was supposed to be serious. ChannelAdvisor announced Christmas results of a Multichannel E-Commerce Study way back in September, which showed that a whopping 86% of retailers were thinking that online sales this holiday season would increase year-over-year in 2014. Their promotions were expected to leap into action even earlier than ever: 42% were launching promotions in September; 20% were starting things in August or sooner. And the biggest lure for customers? Free delivery.

This year’s shopping season is actually pretty short. 2014 brings only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas, which is actually five fewer than the plethora of shopping madness granted by fate in 2012. Apparently, last year retailers were shown even less mercy: only 25 days. The shorter shopping season challenges eRetailers to make holiday delivery deadlines, which is an integral part of the eCommerce lure. If you can’t deliver by Christmas, what’s the point? And, as we’ve just learned, it’s the free, fast delivery that really hooks people. Save us the horror of the mall, and we’ll be forever grateful. Okay, we’ll go once and get some Auntie Anne’s. Maybe twice, if you add the Cinnabon.

But keeping customers keyed into your website is kind of a challenge. Internet Retailer reported back in June that IBM released its annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report, which was full of insightful tidbits about eCommerce and online shopping behavior.

For instance, over two years since 2011, people became generally less interested in loitering on websites. Average time on a website dropped to just seven minutes and nine seconds in 2013, an entire second less than the 2011 report. It was an all-time low. Now, a second doesn’t seem very long, but in the online world of measurement, it’s eons. People are bouncing faster. This means that we are growing less and less understanding of less-than-satisfactory shopping experiences. If we can’t find what we want or need, or if the process is arduous, we get out of there. Fast. Adios.

This piles the pressure on retailers to build clean, smart sites that are easy to navigate and function without flaw. Content better be good, clear, and relevant. Buttons better make sense and live in logical neighborhoods and homes. If you need some tips, be sure to read our post 5 Must-Haves for Your eCommerce Site, which details the top things you need to keep in mind when building your website.

But even if you have a killer site, there’s a lot of strategy behind getting customers to the finish line: checkout. This is where the bounce rate comes in. You’ve got to get them there, and keep them there. Then you have to get them to buy from you, making sure the checkout process is smooth and seamless all the way (payments and all). Entering payment information should be a breeze. The process can’t stall out. It should scream security, recap order details boldly, and follow-up reassuringly. To learn more, you could also check out our blog post on Online Shopping Cart Abandonment. It’s really part science, part art, and a little bit of luck.

So how will this year’s story end? Hopefully for retailers, sales will look up. Hopefully for consumers, deals will be great. After all, all’s well that ends well with crock pots. You can get a delightful stew on with ease.

Any insight on eCommerce 2014? Leave it in the comments below!

Photo credit: Mike McCune

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