In the retail universe, it’s never too early to start thinking about planning for the holidays. Most traditional retailers experience trends in terms of 1) ‘Holiday’, a time when sales peak at the end of the year and 2) ‘Non-Holiday’, when aside from promotional impacts, sales are generally lower and more consistent throughout the year.
At Brooks Bell, we work with a wide variety of eCommerce clients, so we have the opportunity to see various trends and understand that not all clients will follow the same general trends we hear throughout the industry. I offer the following insights to help you better understand a few patterns across more specific segments including product type, visitor type, and target market, and consider how these seasonal trends might affect your testing roadmap.
First, what exactly are Holiday and Non-Holiday?
Based on our most current internal analysis of the past two years, the online holiday period begins on Thanksgiving Day.
There are two primary drivers behind this: 1) promotional start dates and 2) decreases in in-store shopping on Thanksgiving Day as supported by national campaigns to deter such shopping behavior. Holiday then ends about two days prior to Christmas Day, as many retailers now have shipping offers for those procrastinating last-minute shoppers.
- Non Holiday: January 1st – Thanksgiving Eve
- Holiday: Thanksgiving Day – December 23rd.
Luxury products are resisting the mobile trends
As anyone who has been working in the retail industry knows, there has been a noticeable shift to mobile in online shopping behavior. We have been warned of it for years now, and while I see it in the results of most of my eCommerce clients, there are some interesting caveats.
While a portion of share of revenue has shifted from desktop to mobile as compared to the previous year, a smaller percentage is shifting for luxury brands. On average, 10% of total revenue has moved from desktop to mobile for most of our clients with what I will call a “regular” price point. The exception is luxury brands with higher price points and a target market that is also generally more mature. In 2016, this type of retailer has only had approximately 3% of revenue shift from desktop to mobile as compared to the previous year.
Desktop is holding on to higher order values for the 30 years+ audience
For retailers targeting a more mature market (30 years+), traffic remains much higher on desktop, as compared to mobile, across both non-holiday and holiday time periods. The difference for desktop ranges from 56% to 38% more than mobile order value.
Where we do not see the same trend is with a group of retailers who are appealing to a younger audience, primarily those in their teens through their 20’s. While desktop order value is still higher (11% to 1%), the difference is much less pronounced when targeting a younger demographic.
Though there are no more of them, new visitors are ready to shop
There’s an assumption floating around in which many retail professionals believe that holiday results in more new visitors coming to their websites to shop. Interestingly, over the past 2 years, the ratio of new to return visitors has been consistent from non-holiday to holiday.
What does change during the holiday period? Order rate. We know that order rate increases during the holiday; however, what is interesting is that new visitors are much more likely to make a purchase during the holiday as compared to non-holiday (+108% – 110%). Return visitors are also more likely to make a purchase during holiday (+75% – 77%), but the change is not as significant.
To best understand and respond to industry or holiday trends, the key is to understand your own data and respond or optimize accordingly. The one-size-fits-all industry trends are useful to point you to the metrics you want to evaluate, but understand that your product type, visitor type, and target market can often expose some surprising learnings.