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What Kind of E-Commerce Holiday Season Can We Expect This Year?

What Kind of E-Commerce Holiday Season Can We Expect This Year?

December 2023

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E-commerce has been a steadily growing part of the holiday experience for a long time now.

Every year, we hear that more people are turning to the online option as a way to cash in on end of year deals and get a jump start on their holiday shopping. Crowds are less crazy at brick-and-mortar stores, with much of the retail chaos shifting over to those who are processing and delivering packages by the truckload every day throughout December.

As an impressive holiday e-commerce season emerges this year, the question on many leaders’ minds is whether it will last. Are we finally entering another era of stability and prosperity, or is the fragility of the past few years going to strike again?

E-Commerce Is Looking Up

Let’s start with the splashy stats. According to multiple data reports from reputable sources, such as Adobe and Salesforce (both via TechCrunch), both Thanksgiving Thursday and Black Friday sales outpaced expectations in 2023. 

While e-commerce remains a surprisingly low total of all retail activity (around 15%), consumers spent billions online on Thursday and Friday. Salesforce reports that the total spent by the 1.5 billion consumers it tracks equaled $16.4 billion domestically and $70.9 billion globally. The CRM platform added that a record 79% of all browsing and buying traffic took place on mobile handsets.

All of this is great news for e-commerce leaders whose companies have struggled, by and large, to shake off the sluggish recovery from the pandemic. Military conflict, inflation, supply chain struggles, and other issues have plagued the global economy in the past couple of years. 

In contrast, the 2023 season has started strong. Inflation has finally started to slow down. On the Tuesday after the holiday weekend, The Conference Board also reported that the monthly Consumer Confidence Survey for November found that American consumer confidence increased after three straight months of decreases.

Building Opportunistic and Resilient E-commerce Leadership Teams

As the holiday season kicks off, things are looking good in most areas. But it’s important for leaders to remember what we’ve just been through in recent years. Political and economic instability have been par for the course. Unexpected events, like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, had and continue to have far-reaching consequences, and runaway inflation (and its accompanying high-interest rates) could still be an issue going forward. Fuel prices have remained elevated, and supply chain concerns and labor shortages remain ongoing issues.

The goal isn’t to paint a gloomy picture in the midst of upbeat economic activity. On the contrary, it’s important for leaders to take advantage of the late-year momentum to build steam heading into 2024. At the same time, if the last few years have taught us anything, executives from all parts of the C-suite must stay ready to pivot when things don’t go as planned.

Executives from all parts of the C-suite must stay ready to pivot when things don’t go as planned.

Leaders from all industries must remain ready to adapt if and when a new crisis arises. In fact, some of this adaptation has already begun to proactively take place at the top of many organizations. Some companies, for instance, have proactively invested in hiring a Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO) to oversee ongoing fluctuations in that area. Chief ESG Officers are also becoming commonplace as companies grapple with increasingly sophisticated rules, regulations, and expectations.

Whatever the executive needs are at your company at the moment, it’s important to be aware of them and address them while the economy builds in a positive direction. Working with an executive search partner is a great way to identify skill gaps in the C-suite and ensure that you fill these with competent, forward-thinking individuals. That way, you can work together to take advantage of the current momentum and remain ready to react if and when the winds shift again heading into next year and beyond. 

About the Author

Scott Bretschneider is a Director at Stanton Chase Los Angeles. Scott has more than three decades of retained international and domestic executive search consulting experience. His global experience includes living and working in Japan, across the United States, and completing assignments around the world, including in China. 

Scott previously placed the first VP Marketing of Amazon.com and a Director of Merchandising of eBay and has been tracking and engaged in e-commerce leadership position searches.

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