Full of festive attitudes, the holidays are the biggest shopping season of the year. With more than 2.14 billion people estimated to have shopped online in 2021, e-commerce has become an ever-growing shopping channel. Having so many options at their fingertips, digital shoppers now are easily distracted and picky.

This is why e-commerce businesses need advanced capabilities that will enable them to grab shoppers’ attention and engage with them using relevant content to boost sales during the all-important holiday season. In other words, it’s now become essential to provide personalized shopping experiences that meet the needs and wants for each individual shopper.

With the 2021 holiday season behind us, now is a good time to review the pre-season expectations and post-season results. This evaluation can help e-commerce businesses better prepare for the upcoming 2022 holidays. Because it’s never too early to start planning for the most wonderful time of the year.

Expectations for the 2020-21 holiday seasons

The 2020 holiday season was quite different from what we had become accustomed to. The pandemic forced most of us to isolate from family members, friends, colleagues, and steer clear of gift-buying in retail stores. So after a gloomy holiday season in 2020, Sitecore's 2021 Holiday Trends Report indicated that people around the world were ready to celebrate last year with a bang.

Brands expected a revenue boost as shoppers would increase spending over the holidays.

  • 1 in 3 people were planning to spend more for the 2021 holiday season than they did in 2020.
  • Businesses also had positive expectations for the holiday season, as 91% of marketers responded that they were optimistic of a holiday season revenue boost.

Shoppers expected hyper-personalized experiences from brands.

  • However, it was crucial for businesses to be prepared for seamless and personalized shopping experiences, as 61% of the surveyed consumers expected to have personalized suggestions from their favorite brands to help make the holiday season special.
  • 4 in 10 indicated “most” or “all” their holiday shopping would take place online.

It’s a good bet those trends will be similar for the upcoming 2022 holiday season. Digital shoppers have become accustomed to being able to quickly search and find exactly what they want. And they get easily frustrated and lose interest when online stores show products that are not relevant to what they want to see in the moment.

Let’s look at how e-commerce businesses performed during the 2021 holiday season so we can gain insights for 2022.

What actually happened in the 2021 holiday season

For brands that delivered holiday shopping experiences via Sitecore Discover, an AI-powered purchase intent identification and product discovery platform, the holidays proved to be successful. To provide you with a picture of what actually happened, we evaluated how we supported over 60 customers from October to December 2021 with the data collected from Sitecore Discover.

The results are remarkable. According to the analysis, brands powering their holiday shopping experiences with Sitecore Discover saw:

Shoppers were served up hyper-personalized experiences from brands, powered by data.

  • Over 652 million API requests and 1.4 billion events were processed, powering individualized shopping experiences that led to increased cart size and higher order volume.
  • The platform was handling up to 450,000 requests per minute.

Brands saw improvement in conversion rates and increased revenue.

  • When Sitecore Discover’s preview search and full-page search functions were used together to provide tailored search results, companies saw up to a 20% increase in conversions.
  • That led to a revenue boost, as Sitecore Discover customers generated over $3.7B during this time period due to the hyper-individualized shopping experiences.

How to prepare for the 2022 holiday season

Looking at the data, we can draw three conclusions why Sitecore Discover was able to boost revenue for our customers, while also providing a premium level of support. E-commerce organizations use these three points as takeaways to enhance their current commerce strategies and prepare the holiday season later this year.

Composable commerce strategy

By utilizing API-first, composable technologies, brands were empowered to take advantage of intelligent API’s, like Sitecore Discover, to intelligently connect their commerce experiences for shoppers. Composable commerce is a development approach of selecting best-of-breed commerce components and combining them into a custom application built for specific business needs. A composable strategy allows brands to identify a need, like more sophisticated product discovery, and solve it with a specialized API – like Sitecore Discover, without disrupting performance of the platform or experience. No longer do they have to rely on their existing platform to deliver best-of-breed capabilities needed for stand-out shopping experiences.

Sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology

Sitecore Discover delivers hyper-personalized shopping experiences based on each shopper’s real-time purchase intent. For example, as a shopper searches and clicks products for their holiday shopping, Sitecore Discover’s AI technology understands what they’re most interested in and curates search results and product displays accordingly. Today’s empowered shoppers will browse different stores both online and offline for their holiday gifts. Sitecore’s customers were able to showcase highly relevant products to each shopper and grab their attention via a hyper-personalized experience. This directly contributed to their revenue gains.

Cloud-native architecture

Sitecore Discover’s cloud-native architecture is a key component to the successful performance seen during the busy holiday season. Implemented as an API, Sitecore Discover provides scalability, reliability, and agility for commerce businesses. As shown in the data from the holiday season, Sitecore Discover was capable of handling over 450,000 requests per minute without causing any delays or issues on the customers’ digital stores.

With Sitecore Discover’s cloud-native setup, our customers didn’t have to worry about adding extra IT resources to handle increased traffic and orders. Instead, they were able to focus on delivering the best shopping experience. They could utilize Sitecore Discover’s powerful e-commerce features that include A/B testing, flexible merchandising rules, and detailed analytics. By doing so, they improved and optimized their merchandising strategies to meet dynamic customer needs.

Moving e-commerce forward

The 2021 holiday season is over, but online shopping is only going to keep growing. In order to stay ahead of the competition, e-commerce businesses need to ensure they are well-equipped to deliver consistent, seamless, and personalized experiences to shoppers.

Own your commerce roadmap and take back control by adopting a composable commerce strategy. With a composable commerce approach, brands can select the options that work best for their business, allowing for hyper-individualized search and merchandising or personalized email marketing automation to further enhance your shoppers’ experience.

To learn more about Sitecore’s composable commerce solution, get in touch with us today.

Sung Cho is the Product Marketing Director, Commerce at Sitecore. You can follow her on LinkedIn