Online Retailers, Here’s How To Avoid The Naughty List This Holiday Shopping Season

It's never too early to start thinking about the holiday shopping season, according to one marketing exec.

Back-to-school shopping season may be in full swing, but holiday shopping season will soon be on deck after that. And one exec from Merkle, the data-based marketing agency with over 100 prominent retail clients, believes retailers need to start planning their holiday shopping strategies now.

Ryan Gibson, executive vice president of marketing strategy at Merkle, provided a series of tips and insights to retailers during a presentation at the eTail East summit in Boston on Thursday (Aug. 18) entitled “5 Ways To Stay Off The eCommerce Naughty List This Holiday Season.”

During his talk, Gibson said that it is never too early for retailers to start thinking about their holiday shopping strategy and planning ways to implement it, because the average consumer doesn’t just start thinking about holiday shopping the day after Thanksgiving or with only a few weeks to go before Christmas.

Many of this year’s holiday shoppers, Gibson noted, have already begun researching potential holiday purchases online or are maybe even buying some early items that are on sale, which is why retailers need to be prepared and have their websites updated with information, pictures and links on upcoming sales and items that might be popular during the holiday shopping season.

“People are already researching going back as far as Halloween, looking to make purchases,” Gibson said, noting that shoppers now want, or expect, info about potential Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals weeks in advance so they can begin their planning for holiday shopping.

The holiday shopping season also accounts for the largest percentage of online sales per year, which Gibson said rose to 8.7 percent during the 2015 holiday shopping season. That’s still a relatively small percentage of overall retail sales, but it’s still a pretty good indication that, when it comes to gift giving, people are going to look online, either for convenience or because they are after a specific item they believe they may not be able to find in a brick-and-mortar location in time for the holidays.

“Q4 is the busiest shopping time of the year, but it’s also the highest percentage of eCommerce sales,” Gibson noted.

Although Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the “Cyber Weekend” that Gibson termed the weekend after Thanksgiving and before Cyber Monday is still usually about a month before Christmas, he said that those days typically result in at least four out of the 10 highest online shopping totals of the holiday season, according to data pulled from Merkle’s retail clients going back to 2008.

And those numbers appear to be rising, especially sales on Thanksgiving Day. In 2015, Thanksgiving day saw a 39 percent increase in online sales, while Black Friday saw a 25 percent spike and Cyber Monday saw a 19 percent increase.

Gibson noted that, during the holiday shopping season, Mondays are the “hottest” day of the week for online sales.

Email click-throughs actually spike at different times of the holiday shopping season — with the two highest days for mobile being, surprisingly, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day (Gibson speculated that is because so many people are traveling and away from home on those days that they might only have access to a mobile device, like a smartphone).

Also, Gibson said, early holiday messaging is important and should not be overlooked. Even during summer months, when shoppers might be more focused on back-to-school sales, is a good time to start seeding early messages about potential holiday sales or products.

Gibson also stressed that it is important to keep in mind that consumers’ shopping habits are different when they are shopping for other people than when they shop for themselves. Retailers should gauge holiday shopping sales accordingly.

“The non-gift-giving consumer is very different than the Q4 consumer,” Gibson said. “We spend less on others than we spend on ourselves.”

Gibson said retailers shouldn’t be too concerned or alarmed if they begin noticing steady or repeat costumers spending less or ordering fewer or cheaper items around the holidays, because those are probably intended as gifts for other people and that same customer will likely return to their normal shopping habits come January (or when the post-Christmas sales kick in).



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