While retailers have been in the throes of holiday planning for months, most consumers haven’t even begun to think about holiday shopping. But when they do, they’ll have a lot to think about - much more than finding the perfect gift. Where, when and how should they shop to avoid the holiday craziness? When can they expect the best deals? How do they take advantage of free shipping?

Based on an analysis of more than 500 millions shoppers across Salesforce Commerce Cloud and our own insights, we can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that consumers can expect the following this holiday shopping season:

 

Your deepest online discounts and free shipping days will be…

We’ve been tracking holiday online shopping activity (billions of visits and tens of millions of transactions across half a dozen countries) for long enough to pinpoint when shoppers can score the deepest discounts and highest likelihood of free shipping. On Cyber Monday, Nov. 27,  shoppers will see the deepest discounts (29% off list price) and the highest rate of free shipping, when an astounding 89% of items will ship for free. However, if you’re not a Cyber Monday shopper, fear not, you will not lose out. Outside of Cyber Week, you can bag the season’s biggest bargains (and highest rate of free shipping) on Monday, December 11. 

 

If you’re shopping in stores, we’ve got good news and bad news

First, the bad. Service will be hit or miss. Why? Retailers will collectively hire hundreds of thousands of temporary workers this holiday to help manage the spike in packages for delivery and traffic in the stores. That’s a lot of people to onboard, train and empower in a very short period of time; but since that’s not most retailers’ strong suit to begin with, shoppers shouldn’t be surprised to find long lines and associates who aren’t as knowledgeable about the product as they are. In fact, 60% of millennials, according to our recent Connect Shopper report, think they know more about a retailer’s products than store associates do.

The good news is that holiday 2017 will be a turning point for stores, where the old face of many stores are retired. Early evidence that retail is crossing the chasm is already in place - Birkenstock and Barney'spartnered on a 'pop-up box' concept in NYC; Engelhorn brought a Tesla showroom into its Mannheim, Germany flagship store; Nordstrom opened Nordstrom Local featuring wine and manicures but no merchandise, and Apple talks of 'town squares' where consumers gather to experiment with products. This season, look for more retailers to focus on attracting consumers not just shoppers. This will be especially important for specialty retailers - one example,Nespresso and its new 'immersive coffee experience' - with a connection to a sub-culture or particular social group.

 

You’ll place more orders without checking out

Retailers and brands will continue to invest in technologies to drive online sales, like mobile, AI and social media, but this holiday shoppers can expect to see retailers merge steps together. What does that mean? It means you can expect to buy merchandise from a product detail page (PDP) without having to tap your way through tiny form fields on your way to the checkout page. That's thanks in large part to integrated mobile payments like Apple Pay and Android Pay. In fact, Apple said in May that Apple Pay transactions in Q2 grew by 450%. On retail sites that have Apple Pay available throughout the journey (including PDP, shopping cart and checkout) we expect 7-10% of iPhone orders will flow through Apple Pay this holiday.

 

You’ll do more online shopping on Black Friday than on Cyber Monday - again

Last year was the first holiday where Black Friday surpassed Cyber Monday as the year’s biggest digital shopping day; we expect even more shoppers to go online on Black Friday this year. Why is this important for shoppers? It indicates that they’re not waiting for Cyber Monday as the digital shopping day to score the best deals. And this is not just a U.S. phenomenon - Black Friday has become a huge digital shopping day in Canada, France, Germany and the UK, which all registered faster online growth on Friday than Monday last year.

Shopping won’t end with Cyber Week coming to a close. While 50% of holiday shopping will be completed by December 3, we anticipate that 80% of holiday shopping won’t be complete until December 15. As consumers play discount chicken with retailers, they will have to balance the risk of obtaining the best deal with ensuring that the hot product is still available for purchase.  

 

Better click and collect - finally

Click and collect (or “buy online, pickup in store”) has been available for some time. Sixty percent of shoppers aged 25-44 are already interested in using click and collect, according to this 'Shopper-First Retail' report, and many will act on it this holiday. But as many who have tried it have realized, the experience has been less than stellar. But retailers are finally making the investments to make sure you have a smooth experience, starting with the parking garage, to help consumers navigate the pickup process. On a recent visit to a mall near Boston, I noticed large, bright Nordstrom signage in the underground garage: “Picking up? Yes? Head up to 1.” They’re directing click and collect shoppers to their pickup location before they even enter the store. It’s so simple, but it helps to solve problems and break down friction, which will increase satisfaction and loyalty throughout the holiday season.

Happy shopping!