Yes, it’s that time of the year again when the frenzy of Cyber Week and the holiday shopping season hold so much promise for anybody who is even remotely connected to the e-commerce industry. And with this year’s super short holiday shopping season, we can’t help but look at market trends and consumer behavior to better predict how those influences will affect the affiliate channel.

Bringing together affiliate insider tips and a closer look at industry trends, below are five predictions for the upcoming Cyber Week along with specific recommendations to help advertisers and publishers make the most of this short holiday season.

1. Cyber Monday will be bigger than Black Friday.

More recently, Cyber Monday has been a bigger e-commerce day than Black Friday. Two of the biggest reasons for this are that more people are shopping online and Black Friday deals are now being offered earlier in the week, therefore diluting the impact of actual sales that occur on Black Friday sales.

Depending on what you’re in the market for, Cyber Monday may present better deals that Black Friday. Savvy shoppers have tuned into this fact and have been regularly monitoring prices on their must have items. If the past is any indication of the future, consumer electronics are best purchased on Black Friday while Cyber Monday tends to bring better deals on clothing and shoes, according to a recent study.

Of note, the latest Adobe Digital Index predicts the upcoming Cyber Monday will break records with an estimated $2 billion in online sales. While sales tend to peak during midday when employees are shopping online and sharing offers with colleagues, we can also expect a huge online traffic spike in the hours after dinner.

Affiliate marketing recommendation:

Advertisers may want to consider increasing the amount of Cyber Monday specials they offer and boosting special incentives to affiliates driving sales on that day. Meanwhile, affiliates may want to consider developing more Cyber Monday-specific content to help them rank higher in search engine results.

2. There will be more parking spaces at the mall.

The continued rise of e-commerce, which generated $231 billion in sales for US retailers last year, is expected to experience continued growth with Forrester estimating it will reach $262 billion by the end of this year.

At this rate, online commerce will outpace sales growth at brick-and-mortar stores over the next five years, when it reaches an anticipated $370 billion in sales by 2017.

Affiliate marketing recommendation:

While more people are expected to be shopping online, don’t forget that they are just one click away from finding a better deal offered by a competitor.

If you want to convert price savvy, deal hungry shoppers, consider presenting them with special offers. Since the recent Google Ipsos ‘2013 Holiday Shopper Intentions’ research found that nearly two out of three shoppers don’t have their minds made up on what they’re buying, a deal can make a difference when it comes to shopping decisions. 

This tactic can also work especially well for new or little known retailers. In fact, that same study found that more than half of holiday shoppers are open to purchasing from a retailer they haven’t considered in the past.

3. Only grinches will require full shipping fees. 

With free shipping considered table stakes for today’s consumers, those e-tailers that don’t offer free or reduced shipping charges are putting more than holiday sales at risk. They’re also missing out on the opportunity to create longer-term customer relationships. Not to mention that free shipping helps reduce the likelihood of abandoned shopping carts.

From a competitive standpoint, e-tailers should note that a recent Internet Retailer survey of the top 1,000 e-tailers found that 623 advertise free shipping on at least some products as the holiday season ramps up and that 255 of those e-tailers ship products for free regardless of the order value.

Affiliate marketing recommendation:

Heavily promote your free shipping offers. This includes putting it front and center on your website and the order page as opposed to burying it in the small print.

4. Mobile sales will be higher than last year but won’t overtake e-commerce transactions conducted on laptops.

We can all pretty much agree that m-commerce will eventually overtake laptop sales in the near future but it won’t happen in 2013.

However, m-commerce can be quite lucrative for the affiliate channel this year considering that eMarketer estimates that holiday m-commerce sales will reach $61.8 billion, up from last year’s impressive $53.7 billion. The steady growth of m-commerce shows no signs of stopping as eMarketer also predicts that retail sales made on mobile devices will reach over $100 billion by 2017. 

Affiliate marketing recommendation:

While mobile is a growing, hot category, there is the potential for technical glitches that may impact the affiliate channel.

For this reason, make sure that your affiliate network is regularly and rigorously testing and validating its tracking technology on the most popular mobile devices to ensure advertisers and publishers will be properly credited for mobile transactions.

5. Expect more international shoppers.

The great deals and excitement around the holiday season don’t stop at the border as more international shoppers are visiting U.S. retailers during Cyber Week.

Based on sales data and a survey conducted during last year’s holiday season by international e-commerce provider Borderfree, international sales more than tripled for US retailers as consumers in more than 100 countries took part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping specials.

Affiliate marketing recommendations:

To appeal to global shoppers, consider the following three tips:

  • Advertisers should tailor programmes to fit specific countries.
  • Websites should support multiple languages and currencies.
  • Prepare to cover some or all of the international shipping costs. 

It’s clear that the affiliate channel is poised to reach $4.5 billion by 2016, as estimated by industry analysts at Forrester. By following the best practices outlined above, you’ll be able to see that green Christmas all the way into the New Year and beyond.

For more insight into this topic, download the free report Key Trends and Best Practices Selling Globally Via the Affiliate Channel at the Rakuten LinkShare website.