What’s Hot Online This Black Friday & Holiday Season

What’s Hot Online This Black Friday & Holiday Season

You know what’s going to be really hot this holiday shopping season?

No, I’m not talking about the spicy new chile mocha hot cocoa from Starbucks. Although it sounds delicious, I’m referring to ecommerce.

I know, that seems a little self-serving coming from this blog. But according to eMarketer, ecommerce sales are expected to boom again during the 2016 shopping season, while retail sales will remain “tepid.”

One of the major reasons is that shoppers can now do a lot more of their last-minute gift buying online, thanks to improvements in next-day and on-demand shipping services like UberRUSH and Postmates.

To help you capitalize on this online holiday shopping heat wave, let’s explore key trends and hot products to feature and use during heavy online shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Mobile Black Friday & Cyber Monday Sales Are Gonna Soar

As Shopify Plus blog contributor Ott Niggulis explains, “on Black Friday alone, online sales have more than doubled from $1.39 billion to $2.74 billion” over the last four years.

And mobile shopping is playing an increasingly bigger role in that online sales growth -- having “more than doubled in the last three years.”

According to Think with Google, mobile in-store searches for price comparisons and reviews, and YouTube video reviews for “the best” products by category are key influencers of online and offline mobile user purchases during the holiday shopping rush.

Image via Think With Google

Likewise, consumer and shopping expert and on-air talent for TV shows like Dr. Oz and Good Morning America Lisa Freeman says there are some promotional trends to consider when targeting customers online this holiday season.

“Last year, we saw many deals that included generous gift card offers. Target, for example, offered a $100 gift card with the purchase of an Apple Watch,” says Freeman.

She predicts more of these types of deals in 2016 as big box retailers try to boost their website (and in-store) traffic by enticing people to come back to shop with gift cards.

Freeman also expects to see more flash sales “thanks to Amazon’s continued success with limited-time-and-quantity deals (aka "lightning deals").” Likewise, she predicts that more doorbusters will be offered online this year. “We'll also see more Amazon-style countdown deals leading up to the big day too, starting in early November,” says Freeman.

Check out this post to learn how to use Shopify Scripts to achieve some of these promotional tactics on your Shopify Plus store.

Freeman adds that many big box retailers will be lowering or waiving their thresholds for free shipping again this year.

“I think in-store pickup for online orders will continue to grow in popularity this year—it offers convenience and time savings but also nearly instant gratification,” she says.

Finally, she predicts that app-only deals will become a factor in 2016 since retailers like Amazon and Walmart want to drive more traffic to their mobile apps.

Ott Niggulis has covered additional key sales drivers and marketing strategies on this blog to maximize your efforts during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday online shopping bonanzas.

But what products should you feature and use on some of the biggest online shopping days of the year? First, let’s take a look at some of the hottest gift trends by product category.

Hot Products to Feature on Heavy Online Shopping Days

In 2015, toys and electronics were the most popular gift items bought at Target (both in-store and online) on Black Friday. With that in mind, here are some hot gifts to consider featuring on Black Friday and Cyber Monday for the 2016 online holiday shopping season:

I. Nostalgic Toys, Games, and Apparel

Perhaps the popular Netflix show Stranger Things is responsible for this growing trend? Or maybe it's just time for a reboot of some oldies but goodies. Here are some trending items and suggestions for you to consider featuring or competing against on your store:

Teddy Ruxpin 2.0

Image via Pocket-lint

If you were a kid growing up in the 1980’s, you likely either owned or knew someone who had a Teddy Ruxpin. Now that those kids are all grown up and may have children of their own, the talking teddy bear is back with a digital twist.

Upgraded features include “color LCD eyes that show 40 animated expressions synched to the stories that he tells,” an internal hard drive that comes with ten stories on it but you can download new ones and a “companion app that lets kids read along with him.” This will likely be a hot item, so consider how you can compete by featuring similar or companion products.

Drones Are the New Remote Control Airplane


According to Tom’s Guide, remote control drones like the Hubsan X4 Quadcopter with FPV Camera Toy will be all the rage this year -- allowing grown-ups to reminisce about their remote control fighter planes when they were kids, and kids to spy on their parents. If you sell toys or tech, you definitely will want to feature something like this.

Vintage Game Systems

Image via eBay

Matt and Katie Dupuis, brother-and-sister co-founders of editing and design firm Chick & Owl Design Co. predict that “with Nintendo’s upcoming release of a miniature version – the new one has 30 built-in games) you’ll definitely catch people in a nostalgic mood.” They recommend snapping up a vintage system in mint condition.

People will be seeking these gems on second-hand marketplaces like eBay, Kijiji, Craigslist and Facebook MarketPlace. But if you sell consumer electronics, why not offer them in your store as well?

1980s Alternative Movie Posters & T-Shirts

Image via SOCIETY 6

“This cult classic turned 30 earlier this year, so obviously we couldn’t let that milestone pass without acknowledging it. We figure this is the perfect pick for the ‘80s,” says Katie and Matt Dupuis. If you sell film-related items or swag, consider featuring something along the same lines on huge online shopping days.

Image via Threadless

Matt and Katie Dupuis also believe that vintage T-shirts are perfect for the Gen-Xer in your life (or Millennials who are into vintage fashion). “Created to mark Clueless’s coming-of-age (it turned 21 this summer), we could just picture Cher Horowitz doodling this doozy in her notebook. It’s also a bonus for fans of the original Beverly Hills 90210 cast,” says the brother-and-sister duo.

1990s Fashion Revival

Image via Buzzfeed

Staying on the topic of ‘90s throwbacks, baby doll slip dresses (often worn over a t-shirt, with opaque tights and 8-hole Doc Martin boots), bomber jackets, choker necklaces, and velvet are all back in fashion. Perhaps it won’t be long until women are sporting “The Rachel” hairstyle again too?

So go watch an old episode of Friends or Buffy the Vampire Slayer to reminisce about the “vintage” fashion references (man, that makes me feel old) and be inspired to feature these products front and center for gift and holiday party outfit ideas.

II. Popular Consumer Electronics

Bluetooth Speakers & Sound Systems

Image via ThinkGeek

Consumer expert Lisa Freeman predicts this will be the year of Alexa. Amazon Bluetooth speakers that use a Siri-like personal assistant—the Amazon Tap, Echo, and Echo Dot—will be the hot new gift that everyone will be buying.

And she’s guessing Amazon will be offering Black Friday shoppers huge markdowns on all of its devices. So, if you offer similar speakers, like this ThinkGeek Death Star speaker, or JBL Portable Bluetooth speaker listed as hot 2016 gifts on Tom’s Guide, consider special offers to entice customers to shop with you instead (e.g. providing a gift card with purchase as Freeman suggested earlier).

Tech Lifestyle Products

In the tech lifestyle category, Tom’s Guide suggests touch gloves for touchscreen devices are great if you’re stuck on what to get someone because who doesn’t own a smartphone or tablet these days?

And if someone you know is already hooked on Amazon Alexa-enabled products, these groovy Phillips Hue LED Starter Kit Bulbs are a great add-on to their internet of things home. Finally, you can save the coffee lover in your life the mental anguish of having to decide between a single serve machine or a full pot option with this hybrid Hamilton Beach Single Serve Coffee Brewer and Full Pot Coffee Maker.

III. Last-Minute Ideas & Stocking Stuffers: Playful Fashion, Beauty, and Lifestyle 

In addition to the most attractive deals on toys & games, consumers are always seeking unique gifts online that they can’t find anywhere else. If you sell to a niche audience, Black Friday & Cyber Monday offer an opportunity to feature deals on hot products to attract new customers to your online store. Here are a few items suggested by Matt and Katie Dupuis to inspire you:

Warm and Whimsical Mittens and Accessories 

Image via 

These are obviously Canadian-made, considering their strategic design to keep snow out of a kiddo’s mittens during epic snowball fights. Unique gloves and socks fit well in a stocking too and are loved by people of all ages. These should be front and center during online holiday sale days.

Lip Balms and Care for Cold Winter Days

Image via Epic Blend

These all-natural, hemp-based lip balms are a great price for a winter of relief. Citrus Kick is one of eight scents. Lips balms are always a hit during the holiday season. And they’re great to bundle with other beauty products as an upsell opportunity.

Self-Expressive Smartphone Cases

Image via Senay Studio Floral Phone Cases

The floral watercolors you’ll see in this shop—on everything from mugs to iPhone cases—are all painted by the artist owner in Mississauga, Ontario. Unique phone cases are fabulous stocking stuffers for people of all ages. So, be sure to put these items front and center during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Artisanal Coffee Blends

Image via Rave Coffee

This fun coffee brand from Canmore, Alberta, offers up single origin and whole-bean blends with mouthwatering tasting notes. Coffee makes a great stocking stuffer as well for coffee aficionados. So be sure to feature your unique or holiday blends for less on heavy online shopping days.

Throws and Pillows When You're All Out of Ideas

Image via Tonic Living

Offering gorgeous bolts of fabric for sewers or already-completed throw pillows for the non-craft set means something for everyone. Pillows and throws are ideal when you’re stuck on something to get for someone. They’re also more affordable than buying a brand new couch. So, they are great to feature during holiday sales to spruce up a living space.

Hot Shopify Plus Products to Help Your Store Stand Out

Now that we know what’s hot from a consumer perspective, let’s take a look at what Shopify Plus products and services will give you a competitive edge online this holiday season.

Facebook Messenger “Shop Now” Feature

Earlier this year, Shopify made it possible to chat in real-time with your customers via Facebook messenger chatbots. Now, Shopify has announced the ability to sell directly to those customers via a “Shop Now” button that you can offer within those conversations.

Once a user taps on the button, they will have access to your online store catalog and can buy products directly from within the messenger app.

To enable this free tool, simply add the “Messenger channel” via your Shopify admin, add your Facebook business page, and identify the products that you want to sell via your customer conversations.

Shopify Scripts for Discount Customization 

Want to run a special door crasher sales offer on Black Friday via your website? What about a buy-one-get-one-free sale? Shopify Scripts makes it easy to customize your discount or special promotion to help you drive more conversions during big online shopping days. Here’s a helpful overview of what is possible and how to get started.

Re-designed Mobile Shopify App Available for iPhone, iPad and Android

Can’t be in the office all of the time ‘cause you have meetings to attend, holiday parties to celebrate or need to do some last-minute holiday shopping yourself? Now, you can download the re-designed Shopify app which enables you to manage your entire store from your phone. Problem solved!

UberRUSH & Postmates for Same-Day Deliveries

As I mentioned earlier in this post, holiday ecommerce shopping is growing in popularity, partly because people can now order last-minute gifts online and rely on their parcels to arrive before Christmas.

Last October, Shopify announced its partnership with UberRUSH and Postmates to a select number of U.S. cities. Learn more about the Uber partnership and how you can get started here. Also, here are some creative ways to increase sales using UberRUSH this holiday season. And here's an overview of the Postmates partnership.

Keep New Customers Coming Back Through the Holidays & Beyond

Whether your Black Friday and Cyber Monday goals are to meet year-end sales targets or to acquire new customers, we’ve got you covered with stories of increasing conversions, segmenting email lists, improving your customer experience, and more.

Have a look at some of these posts on our blog for more seasonal sales inspiration:

Have questions about making the most of the online holiday shopping season? Please let us know, and we’ll aim to answer them in a future article.

About the Author

Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who writes about Canadian SMEs, marketing, and digital media trends. Follow her on Twitter.