3 lessons from the holiday shopping season
January 07, 2014

Small and midsize businesses interested in improving their credit card processing technology in 2014 may want to look to the recent holiday season for some valuable guidance. Because the retail industry has experienced such dramatic growth and innovation in the last several years, many economic experts anticipated the last few weeks of 2013 would represent a major turning point for stores across North America.

Business activity in December did, in fact, shed light on some major trends that will likely continue to gain foothold as the new year unfolds. Here are three major takeaways:

  1. Multichannel retail is the new normal - The 2013 holiday shopping season was a record-breaking year in terms of e-commerce. According to the latest data from comScore, retail spending from desktop computers in the U.S. throughout November and December reached a total of $46.5 billion. That number represents a 10 percent increase from the same measurement one year ago. In other words, businesses that aren't able to accept credit cards online are missing out on valuable sales opportunities in today's market.
  2. The economy is on the upswing - Small and medium-sized enterprises are always concerned about future economic activity. In fact, a recent survey from the Small Business Authority found 53 percent of more than 800 entrepreneurs are wary about making long-term growth plans in a shaky economy. However, if the most recent holiday season is any indication, consumers are feeling more confident than they have in several years. If these trends continue, stores can fortify their revenue streams by investing in more robust multichannel operations.
  3. Gift card programs function as a long-term customer retention strategy - The 2013 year-end holidays also proved to be an especially strong season for gift card sales. Not only can these tools attract customers who would otherwise be overwhelmed by the number of product options available, but they can even lead to additional sales from the same shoppers in the long run. For instance, the online publication Market Watch said retailers have major opportunities to boost profitable revenue in the early stages of 2014 by encouraging gift card holders to make purchases as soon as possible.

"Retailers want to 'upsell' the customer coming who is exchanging a present and/or using a gift card," Scott Tuhy, an analyst at Moody's, told MarketWatch.

Gift card programs are a particularly effective strategy for getting shoppers through the door, even long after the holiday shopping rush has passed.

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