If you were watching TV the week of Thanksgiving, you no doubt saw plenty of ads promoting “door busters” and other Black Friday discounts—and plenty of news reports showing masses of shoppers lining up hours before stores opened to grab the best deals. The total media saturation makes Black Friday appear to be a growing phenomena, which makes reports of an 11 percent decline in sales this year over last all the more disheartening.
This decline, however, is not the whole story. Instead, the growing enthusiasm surrounding what is widely accepted to be the kickoff to the holiday shopping season obscures an important and surprising fact: Average in-store spending on Thanksgiving weekend has been in steady decline for nearly a decade. At the same time, online shopping has been increasing—and not just on Cyber Monday. Online sales on each day of Thanksgiving weekend have continued to increase year-over-year and, perhaps most interesting, the gap between online sales on the Friday and Monday have decreased. This shows that while the discounts offered during this weekend drive consumers toward purchase, ecommerce retailers have successfully expanded the holiday shopping volume across several days and, increasingly, weeks.
So what does this mean for ecommerce retailers approaching the end of the year? There are three important things to keep in mind as you plan your last-minute sales and promotions:
1. Holiday Shoppers are Extremely Price Sensitive
During the holiday shopping period, more people are purchasing more items than during any other time of the year. This, combined with pervasive discounting across brands and retailers, means consumers are looking for deals—and often demand a discount as a condition of purchase. Recent research from Adobe Digital Index found that a strong correlation between pricing and sales activity.
2. Mobile is an Important Purchasing Opportunity
We all know that mobile has become a critical shopping tool—and optimizing for mobile research, webrooming, showrooming, and other behaviors was essential to prepare for the holiday shopping season this year. But research from Adobe Digital Index illustrates another important behavior: More sales are being completed early in the morning than ever before. This indicates shoppers are checking sales and promotional emails on their phones first thing in the morning—possibly even from bed—and actually being driven to purchase as a result.
3. Every day is Black Friday, every minute is Cyber Monday
Commenting on the mixed results of the Thanksgiving weekend shopping period, National Retail Federation President Matthew Shay pointed out “the holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint.” Referencing several sales campaigns that started before Halloween, he added “every day is going to be Black Friday, and every minute is going to be Cyber Monday.” Obviously, the success of the season rests on more than a single weekend or an individual campaign—it’s a long period that demands continued efforts.
Takeaway: It’s important to think about the holiday shopping season as a single point within a much longer consumer experience—optimizing before and after is essential and the data collected in the heat of the moment is essential for growth.
Whether your testing and optimization program is picking up to maximize sales or frozen through the holidays, it’s important to track a few trends impacting the entire ecommerce industry—these shifts in behavior provide key indicators that can inform marketing and optimization well into 2015.