Why This Holiday Season Points to Small Retailer Success

Mobile and local shopping trends level the retail playing field.

Retail giants dominate the holiday sales season. In fact, a mere 10 companies are predicted to account for more than 66 percent of all retail revenue in the final quarter of 2016.

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In many ways, this year will go down as a landmark holiday season.

But two of this season’s biggest shopping trends — mobile growth and local searches — are creating more opportunities for small retailers to reach consumers, too.

Our recent online shopping behavior analysis at NetElixir shows that mobile has brought business local — giving small and mid-tier businesses a stronger chance against the large retailers.

While retail giants still hold a significant share of the national market, consumers are increasingly using mobile to discover local retailers. Smart small retailers are taking advantage of the trend by adopting mobile-specific marketing strategies and strengthening their online presences.


But many small retailers have room to grow when it comes to web and mobile: According to research firm Clutch, nearly half of small businesses don’t even have a website. Of businesses that are online, nearly a quarter of their websites aren’t responsive to mobile devices.

To put it plainly: If you don’t have a mobile site, you can’t compete.

A merry mobile holiday

While the growth of mobile shopping isn’t necessarily new — the retail industry has been tracking mobile closely for the past few years  — this season’s sudden, unexpected jump stands out. Our data suggests that the percentage of online purchases from mobile will nearly double this year to reach 38 percent.


In many ways, this year will go down as a landmark holiday season — no one predicted that so many people would shop with their mobile phones. For small to mid-tier retailers, this mobile growth offers an opportunity to reach new consumers using specialized ads and search-term analysis.

The growth in mobile shopping will likely enable more last-minute purchases, as consumers are able to find retailers on-the-go. Dec. 19-21 are expected to be exceptionally strong mobile shopping days, an important factor for retailers trying to reach consumers at the right moment and on the right device.

Local makes a comeback

The growth in mobile use is driving another trend that serves small retailers: local shopping. Our analysis estimates that ‘near me’ searches are increasing by about 45 percent this year.


The ‘near me’ search increase is an optimistic situation for small businesses: A smart small business in Oklahoma City, for example, can use this mobile power to build effective campaigns and drive traffic not only to their website, but also to their stores.

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The growth in mobile shopping will likely enable more last-minute purchases.

When it comes to specific areas of the country, we’ve also seen that the South is experiencing particularly notable growth: During Thanksgiving weekend, the region’s sales increased by 27.7 percent compared with last year (significantly higher than the runner-up, the Western region, which saw 14.3 percent growth).

This begs the question of whether we’re seeing the homogenization of e-commerce. While everyone knows that metros like San Francisco, New York and Chicago are strong retail centers, smaller cities (which tend to be strong markets for small businesses) should not be discounted.

Are small businesses smart enough and equipped with the right tools to capitalize on the situation? That’s the big question. goldbrown2

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Udayan Bose is Founder and CEO of NetElixir.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.