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Preparations for this year’s holiday season began taking shape well before kids traded in their books for bathing suits. And now that the dust has settled on back-to-school shopping, retailers can turn their full attention to holiday planning.

With less than three months away, what can retailers expect from the 2018 holiday shopping season? Based on the shopping data of over 500 million global shoppers, we’ve outlined the five biggest trends that will dominate headlines this holiday season — and what they mean for retailers.

1. Holiday shoppers will buy more on mobile than on any other device

This season, we predict that mobile devices will dominate both traffic and orders for the entire season (68% of traffic and 46% of orders, respectively). During the 2017 holiday shopping season, mobile devices processed more orders than computers on certain peak days for the very first time. This marked a huge milestone on the path to “mobile only” shopping behaviors. This season, we will see a tipping point for mobile commerce as mobile devices will surpass computers for order share and traffic from this point forward. And these numbers will only continue to grow.

Mobile’s reach will be especially felt on the biggest digital shopping day of the season: Black Friday. On that day, we expect to see up to 46% of orders made through mobile.

On Christmas Eve, shoppers will turn to their phones for 72% of visits and 54% of orders. While there will be more total mobile visits during “Cyber Week” — the season’s overall peak shopping period — the late season shopping days of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and even Boxing Day are fast becoming mobile-only, too.

Retailers will need to account for a number of mobile-friendly touch points in their overall strategy, including marketing engagement, checkout, and in-store shopping journeys. Expect to see even more shoppers using mobile wallets, especially as brands begin to encourage more in-store mobile engagement through push notifications and SMS messaging.

2. AI-based product recommendations will drive 35% of revenue

We already know that personalization can super-charge the shopper journey. Shoppers now crave personalized and relevant shopping experiences more than ever before. Yet, the majority of shoppers (64%) report that they feel like retailers don’t really know them. That’s why more and more retailers have started to leverage AI to personalize the shopping experience — and those that do are reaping the rewards of those efforts.

This season, we expect to see 35% of all revenue driven by shoppers that tap or click on an AI-based product recommendation — a 25% increase over last season. But AI doesn’t end with product recommendations. We will see even more AI use cases emerge across the shopping journey, particularly with chatbots to support shoppers with order status questions or to provide a more personalized, guided shopping experience overall.

3. Nearly half of all holiday shopping will happen during Cyber Week

Cyber Week will be the biggest shopping week of the season, with 40% of all holiday shopping expected to happen during that period — representing 21% growth from 2017.

Since nearly half of holiday shopping will be consolidated into this one-week period, retailers must get ready now to optimize and personalize the shopping experience, as many shoppers  may not return later in the holiday season. This includes being technically ready for the massive peak in traffic. Retailers have no choice but to play their  best hand early, which means having the most compelling and relevant content, products, and stories ready for shoppers the minute they go into active shopper mode.

And don’t forget about customer service. Peak shopping traffic also means increases in call volume and use of FAQs. Consider bringing service into your navigation and make sure to emphasize shopping utilities whenever possible – i.e. fit guides, guided selling apps, gift guides, shipping and returns info, etc.  Also, be sure to have agents (or bots!) ready to help shoppers in the moment and around the clock.

Cyber Week around the Globe

Over the past few years, the Cyber Week phenomenon has become a worldwide event:


As more global shoppers concentrate their shopping in the first week of the season, Black Friday will retain its title as top digital shopping day.

4. Instagram will emerge as a significant traffic-driver to retail sites

As more shoppers turn to their phones to shop this season, we expect to see more of that happening through social media feeds. Overall, social traffic share will surpass five percent  during the holiday season —up 17% from last year.v

However, not all social platforms are created equal for mobile commerce. We expect Instagram will emerge as the real winner when it comes to driving shoppers to retail sites. We anticipate the social media platform will grow 3x faster than the growth of overall social traffic, which  translates to a 51% year-over-year increase in traffic to retail sites. Meanwhile, Facebook will see traffic referrals to retail sites shrink by seven percent as Instagram begins to own more traffic share. Therefore, retailers must be prepared to meet and engage shoppers in the right social channels in order to capture and keep their attention throughout the entire holiday shopping season.

Will Voice Find its Voice in Holiday 2018?

When it comes to voice-activated apps and devices, shoppers are still in the experimentation stage. In fact, only 38% of shoppers reported using a smart assistant to complete a shopping activity in the last three months. With the smart speaker market growing at a rapid pace, the case for voice search is certainly strong. This season we expect to see some cool voice use cases as holiday-specific Alexa skills get released into the market. Though, generally speaking, where voice sits in the overall shopping journey is still a bit of a question mark — not unlike where mobile was just five years ago. However, the connection between voice and mobile is strong wherein “Would you like me to send it to your phone?” will likely become a common refrain.

The 2018 holiday shopping season will certainly be full of exciting milestones — and maybe even a few surprises. We will continue to monitor the shopping activity of over 500 million global shoppers to deliver the latest trends in digital shopping. From AI to mobile, we are ready to be your one-stop shop for holiday shopping trends this season.

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