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Omnichannel commerce | Marketing

6 Holiday Learnings That Will Help You All Year Long

image: diagram chart of yearly trends
Consumer behaviour in the run-up to Christmas offers lessons regarding channel preferences, promotions, and more

As we wrap up the 2016 holiday shopping season, shopping patterns and trends haven't delivered much in the way of surprises. But that's good: The findings of the festive season confirm just what it is merchants need to do to win over consumers during other major promotional seasons as well, such as Easter and back-to-school. What's more, these learnings might help you boost sales and loyalty at other times of the year as well.


So what were these findings?




Shoppers are frugal... or value-driven.

Discounts and value have been and still are the key drivers of Cyber Weekend shopping activity. Based on more than 100,000 in-store and online deals that shoppers of digital marketplace RetailMeNot were exposed to in the U.S., the average discount on Thanksgiving and Black Friday was 34%. On average, retailers had Black Friday–related promotions running for a 10-day period, according to Marissa Tarleton, chief marketing officer, North America for RetailMeNot.


"There is a new Thanksgiving-to-Cyber Monday retail strategy: It's powered by promotions, it's omnichannel, and promotions are on the market longer. The general trend we saw from retail marketers was early, omnichannel promotions that lasted through Cyber Monday," Tarleton says. "Retailers sought to capture market share early, with a focus on driving ecommerce sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, which have traditionally been big days for in-store."




They are omnichannel shoppers.

The 2016 International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Thanksgiving/Black Friday Shopping Report shows that omnichannel retailers reaped the lion's share of business, with 89% of shoppers spending at stores with both a physical and an online presence.


What's more, 80% of spending took place with retailers that have a physical presence, whereas only 18% occurred with pure-play etailers. For those shoppers who purchased online and picked up the item in the store (28%), an impressive 64% went on to buy something else when they collected their purchase. This is an increase of six percentage points year-over-year—and yet another reason to offer this and other online/offline delivery options. You're likely to earn back whatever investment you need to make with additional in-store sales—and you'll also earn the loyalty (and repeat purchases) of customers.




They make mobile purchases.

Over Thanksgiving weekend in the States, mobile accounted for 56% of digital visits (smartphones: 45%; tablets: 11%) and 37% of ecommerce sales (smartphones: 25%; tablets: 12%), totalling $3.46 billion, according to Adobe Digital Insights. Black Friday became the first day in retail history to drive more than $1 billion in mobile revenue: $1.2 billion, to be precise—up 33% from the previous year.


Cyber Monday also made a good showing for mobile use, with clients of solutions provider Kibo reporting 42% of transactions occurred on mobile. So if your website still isn't mobile-friendly, making it so should be a priority.




And they use mobile chat.

Mobile chat is a newer and less widely deployed feature than desktop chat, present on only around 25% of sites analysed by chat solutions provider LivePerson over Cyber Weekend. Yet mobile chats represented a disproportionately high 33% of all interactions. This makes sense when you think about it: The original function of phones, unlike that of computers, was to enable one-on-one conversations,


This marks the first year that mobile chats have been more popular than desktop chats on a per-visit basis. The shift to interactions on smartphones was even more significant, seeing an 83% increase over 2015.


For its part, LivePerson handled a record-breaking number of visitors on its platform during Cyber Weekend, with 530 million site visits to brands serviced by its messaging, 11% higher than last year.




They want free shipping.

According to ecommerce solutions provider ChannelAdvisor: Four of every five orders placed with ChannelAdvisor clients were shipped for free. That's a 14.2% increase over Cyber Weekend 2015.


Per analytics firm comScore, as of the third quarter of 2016, 60% of ecommerce transactions shipped for free. What's more, when asked which factor was "most important" for shopping online, 53% of shoppers surveyed for comScore's State of US Online Retail Economy for the quarter indicated free shipping.


Offering free shipping can really eat into a retailer's margin—yet another reason to consider offering customers the ability to pick up their online purchases in-store. One to minimise the bite into your bottom line is to offer free shipping only on orders over a certain value—and that value should be higher than your average order value. You want to encourage shoppers to spend more to earn the free shipping, so that the additional revenue offsets your additional cost.


Another option: Charge for "free" shipping, a la Amazon Prime. Encourage customers to pay a one-time free for unlimited shipping over a specific time frame. Once consumers pay for the shipping, chances are a significant number of them will make repeat purchases from you during the time period. One caveat: Clarify whether expedited shipping or oversize parcels are exceptions—and if they're not, budget accordingly.




Thanksgiving isn't that big of a deal (sort of).

Obviously American Thanksgiving isn't a big deal at outside of the United States. But even in the U.S., consumers will still shop on the holiday, even if they have to do so while basting the turkey and worrying whether they have enough pumpkin pie for everyone.


But despite all the social media outcry about retailers opening their doors to opportunistic shoppers on Thanksgiving Day, it's not the most popular shopping day of the Cyber Weekend.


According to a report from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, the most popular day to shop online was Black Friday, up 1.3% from last year to 74%, followed by Saturday (49%), Thanksgiving (36%), and Sunday (34%). Of those who shopped in store, 75% shopped on Black Friday, 40% on Saturday, 35% on Thanksgiving, and 17% on Sunday.


As far as when people showed up in-store on Thursday and Friday, the survey found that 29% headed out after 10 a.m. on Black Friday, up from 24% the previous year. Early Thanksgiving Day in-store shopping dropped by 19%, with only 7% of consumers heading to stores before 5 p.m.


So with sales on Thanksgiving Day falling, retailers may want to reconsider the fad of opening their stores on the holiday. It was something that made more sense when Thanksgiving Day fell on Nov. 28 in 2013, or even Nov. 26 in 2015. But with Thanksgiving Day falling on Nov. 23 in 2017 and Nov. 22 in 2018, creating even more shopping days until Christmas, consumers will have to second-guess the immediate need of rushing to the malls under the influence of tryptophan—especially when they can just shop from their tablets and smartphones.



author: Tim Parry

Tim Parry

A freelance business writer, Tim Parry was formerly managing editor of Multichannel Merchant.



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