Lessons from Holidays Past

Image from: Sofia / Shutterstock

After months of buildup and countless predictions, the holiday 2011 shopping season is here.  Before we all get overwhelmed with this year’s numbers, let’s take one final look at the 2010 holiday season and highlight a couple of last-second takeaways that can be applied to this year’s strategy.

Isolate ‘Cyber Monday’ for All Categories

So much emphasis has been placed on having a huge black Friday or Cyber Monday that it can be easy to forget about the week or two after that. Not surprisingly, traffic was at its peak during the week that includes Thanksgiving during the 2010 holiday season.  However, online retailers also saw a slight bump in traffic two weeks before Christmas.

It is not unreasonable to assume that routine holiday procrastinators rush to make an online purchase around the 12 days before Christmas mark.

In fact, there were a number of retailer categories that are prime targets to cash in after the buzz around Black Friday and Cyber Monday dies down.  There are four retailer categories in particular that will most likely see their peak traffic around December 12 or 13th this year.

Actions to Consider

  • Pure-play retailers (e.g. Petco, Petsmart): Pump up email and paid search campaigns in the days leading up to mid-December.  What about a “Barking Monday” sale that takes a bite out of prices?
  • Mass merchant retailers: This appears to be an enormous opportunity for promotions and strategic pricing in these specific categories.  Imagine shopping on Target.com and being offered 20% online photo gifts when you spend $50 in the store.

Think Bigger Than Making Holiday Sales

There is so much emphasis being placed on holiday given how large of a percentage of revenue it represents for retailers.  However, lost in the race for dollars is the opportunity to make a great first impression with a shopper or the opportunity to win over a shopper when they are shopping online after the calendar turns to 2012.

During holiday 2010, there were some pretty remarkable differences in online behavior observed amongst Amazon shoppers.  Amazon shoppers visited competitor sites at as much as two times as often during November/December vs. September/October.

Compete observed similarly sharp increases in cross-shopping rates amongst Best Buy, Target and Walmart shoppers during the 2010 holiday season. This increase in cross-shopping inevitably means that some percentage of these shoppers are making a purchase from a retailer that they might not traditionally purchase from online.

This should greatly excite retailers such as Best Buy who has been under increasing pressure to turn around its business during the last couple of quarter.

Compete wanted to isolate which categories of might be under the greatest pressure in terms of cross-shopping.  Each category of retailer was grouped together and then observed to see which ones had the highest amount of referrals from another online retailer.

Apparel, toy and home furnishing retailers all received more than 18% of their referring traffic from another online retailer.  This underscores lots of the recent press about the pricing and margin pressures these categories are facing.

Retailers need to stand out if they are going to win shoppers over.  Converting shoppers into buyers online is as much or more about engagement as it is about price.  Here are some ways retailers should consider adopting to turn engagement into sales:

  • Follow through on shopping cart abandonment. Higher cross shopping rates suggests that some percentage of shoppers are reaching the point where they place an item in a cart and then go visit another retailer.  It is crucial that retailers follow-up with an email reminding the shopper of their abandoned cart – this should happen same-day, again within a few days and once more within a week.
  • Offer post-holiday promotions. Retailers such as Kohls have done a great job of getting shoppers to come back by issuing store credit for every $50 that its shoppers spend.  Online retailers should consider a similar online promotion – spend some amount of money and receive an email with a credit to be applied to a purchase made during the first week of 2012.  Help create a new habit vs. having a customer revert back to shopping at their go-to online retailer.

What have you learned from holiday 2010 that you are applying to holiday 2011?