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Aruba, November 21, 2016 - How Target, Walmart, and Amazon are facing the ultimate challenge on the biggest shopping days of the year

Retailers spend all year gearing up for this moment: the launch of the all-important holiday shopping season.
The months of November and December are the most critical time of the year in retail, accounting for as much as 30% of annual sales for many retailers, according to the National Retail Federation.
Shoppers are expected to spend $655.8 billion in the two-month period this year, an 3.6% increase over last year's spending, according to the NRF.
Online sales are forecast to grow between 7% and 10% over last year to as much as $117 billion.
That means a website glitch — even if it lasts only a couple minutes — or running out of stock on a popular item can cost companies millions of dollars in lost sales.
For that reason, retailers work hard all year long to get the holidays right.
For Walmart, Target, and Amazon, that has meant overhauling websites and shopping apps, speeding up shipping, and using predictive analytics to try and determine the right amount of product to stock up on for the busy holiday season.
Target last year broke a record in online sales on Thanksgiving, so it has been focused over the last year on ensuring that its website works seamlessly during the high-traffic holiday period.
The company says it has made "dramatic" changes to to speed up the checkout process and to make it function more fluidly across desktop computers, tablets, and smart phones.
It also widened its toy selection by 15% over last year, since the holiday season accounts for 50% of Target's toy sales.
"We’ve made back-end platform changes that are designed to enhance day-to-day functionality — from account management to checkout — and build more capacity and flexibility as we head into the holiday season," Target spokesman Eddie Baeb said.
The company has also made significant changes to speed up shipping for online orders.