Q4 Shopping Intelligence Report

This year, we’re approaching Q4 with a blend of optimism and caution as the economy rebounds amidst persistent high inflation rates. Throughout this uncertainty, performance marketing remains a safe haven for investment—we’re anticipating a heightened focus on the channel due to escalating pressure on ad spend efficiency, ambiguous consumer demand, and pockets of sectoral challenges. This report analyzes past CJ network data trends to delve into actionable insights for marketers seeking to optimize seasonal shopping outcomes for this pivotal shopping period.

Q4 Shopping Intelligence Report

This year, we’re approaching Q4 with a blend of optimism and caution as the economy rebounds amidst persistent high inflation rates. Throughout this uncertainty, performance marketing remains a safe haven for investment—we’re anticipating a heightened focus on the channel due to escalating pressure on ad spend efficiency, ambiguous consumer demand, and pockets of sectoral challenges. This report analyzes past CJ network data trends to delve into actionable insights for marketers seeking to optimize seasonal shopping outcomes for this pivotal shopping period.
Key Shopping Trends

The season’s most important shopping trends to know.

Mobile Trends

Consumers' use of smartphones for Q4 shopping.

Publisher Trends

Publisher performance across the shopping period.

Ways to Take Action

A few ways to leverage our insights for a successful 2023 season.

Late Fall vs. The Cyber Five

The period known as The Cyber Five, spanning from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, has become a pinnacle of heightened shopping activity, yielding remarkable sales, and a subsequent halo effect for the flurry of ecommerce traffic. Notably, consumers are displaying a sustained tendency to initiate holiday purchases ahead of time, manifesting in a burgeoning sales growth trajectory observed earlier in the season during October and early November. This pattern is anticipated to persist due to an always on shopping mindset, coupled with the inclination to distribute holiday expenditures over an extended period to hop on early season deals as they appear.

In CJ's network, the days with the highest growth in October were Sundays, followed by Mondays. The midpoint of November marked the peak week for growth in revenue, with a 4% year over year (YOY) increase during the week of November 13.

Shifting shopping timelines, in tandem with the ongoing specter of inflation, appear to have exerted an influence on the outcomes of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The prelude to these traditional shopping milestones, evident in the days leading up to Black Friday (11/25) and Cyber Monday (11/28), seems to have impacted their performance, evidenced by Black Friday's revenue receding by 3% YOY and Cyber Monday registering a 2% YOY increase. Notably, the Sunday nestled between Black Friday and Cyber Monday registered the most significant revenue upswing, exhibiting a 4% YOY rise. This phenomenon hints at the possibility that consumers are diversifying their holiday shopping activities across multiple days, or alternatively, are scouting for deals beyond the confines of the conventional shopping weekend.

Overall, the data gleaned from sales patterns suggests that the escalation in revenue growth figures can be attributed more to inflationary pressures than an outright surge in sales volume, a trend underscored by a downturn in network activities throughout Q4. October's growth in sales and revenue over the last few years has effectively initiated the month as the unofficial onset of the holiday season. A parallel pattern is anticipated for the current year, prolonging the shopping season, and conceivably encroaching upon The Cyber Five's market share.

Key Takeaway

As the shopping landscape evolves, brands need to adjust, finding a balance between accommodating the trend of earlier shopping and strategically approaching peak shopping days. Consumers no longer view Black Friday and Cyber Monday as the exclusive days for the best deals.

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Consumers are conflicted regarding these well-established retail shopping events that have long been pillars of the shopping season. While the sales volume they generate cannot be disregarded, the trend of earlier shopping has gradually diminished the fundamental value that these days once held for consumers. CJ

Performance by Day YOY

This chart provides a view of shopping demand by region, country and categories based on daily YOY actions revenue. Move the scroll bar above the graph to view different time periods and filters to view by category and country. Use the "Date Alignment" filter to compare performance for key retail dates such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
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Key Retail Shopping Days Performance & Sector YOY By Week

The key shopping days chart shows each day's YOY change and sector by week. Use the filters above each graph to view different years, KPIs, categories, and performance by selected regions and countries. If you select "All" this gives you the full network performance view.
Data & Insights Powered by CJ Technology
Data & Insights Powered by CJ Technology

Top Performing Categories

The growth in revenue for various categories—including accessories, air, banking, beauty, business, clothing/apparel, food/drink, hotel, and sports & fitness, can be attributed to several factors, such as continued demand, gifting, and of course, the not-so-subtle nudge of inflation. On the other hand, the downturn in select categories might be attributed to a cocktail of inflation's influence, evolving consumer priorities, and a dash of market oversaturation.

If the recent Prime Day 2023 performance is any indication of this year’s trends, this year may see a shift in top categories. Categories that drove sales during Prime Day shifted from the previous year—home goods, household essentials, fashion, and consumer electronics were the most popular purchases during the event. Influencers also played a significant role in promoting these categories, demonstrating their increasing influence on consumer preferences.

During Q4 2022, despite a historical lull in booking volume, travel managed to stand tall, propped up by rising demand and accompanying price hikes. Meanwhile, the world of financial institutions saw its star ascend as inflation-fearing consumers sought sanctuary in their offerings, resulting in a notable uptick in their activity during those crucial months.

This year, we expect a combination of retail growth coming from two fronts: the dominant categories like clothing/apparel and beauty, and the categories that have recently faced declines, such as computer & electronics and home & garden. The potential renewal of significant purchases in these categories, which previously hindered their growth, could play a pivotal role in shaping the growth trajectory in the next quarter.

Key Takeaway

Expect seasonal favorite gift staples such as clothing and accessories to dominate, and a possible return to growth from some high-value electronics categories. Due to an increase in value and influencer trust, retailers should consider collaborating with influencers and focusing on popular categories to drive sales. 

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[Ecommerce] channel growth will normalize to produce an 11.9% increase to $260.56 billion in 2023. Ecommerce will account for less than 20% of holiday retail sales but contribute nearly half of incremental spending gains—with [mobile] commerce having an outsize influence on that number. Andrew Lipsman, Principal Analyst, Insider Intelligence.

CJ Global Category Performance

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Age of Mobile-First

The addictive small screen in your pocket has become quite the shopping platform. In the span of a few years, consumers have consistently been transitioning their shopping preferences from desktop to mobile, feeling increasingly at ease when it comes to making purchases on their phones.

According to eMarketer, last year, mobile shopping drove over half (51%) of sales during The Cyber Five period, per Adobe Analytics data. They predict US retail mobile conversions during the holiday season sales will increase by double digits this year, reaching $129.24 billion. CJ data confirmed that shoppers this year were as comfortable as ever with making their seasonal gifting purchases via smartphone, especially on Black Friday and the weekend days immediately after. On Black Friday, retail’s share of revenue from smartphones was 39% and then jumped to 42% on the Saturday and Sunday that preceded Cyber Monday. In 2022, we observed a significant growth in mobile phone usage for peak season orders, with 40% of all network orders being completed on mobile devices between October and December. Additionally, revenue generated from mobile devices accounted for 36% of all network revenue during the same period, marking a notable 4% YOY increase.

As shopping experiences on mobile devices constantly improve, it becomes crucial to have the most comprehensive tracking of mobile web and in-app purchases to ensure the success of your programs including leveraging CJ's integration with Button's PostTap App™. 

Key Takeaway

Any loss in mobile tracking will equate to an underreporting of affiliate’s contribution to brands’ peak shopping success and compromise future investment. Complete mobile tracking like CJ’s solution with Button captures all mobile orders, including in-app transactions, creating a better customer experience overall—without any heavy integration lift.

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As app usage continues to grow, it will be a major contributor to sales growth, especially with Millennials and Gen Zers holding massive spending power. These tech-savvy users have the ability to boost volume, as they’re more likely to do a wider share of shopping on their smartphones. eMarketer

Mobile & Desktop Performance

This chart shows revenue and actions by desktop or mobile device. Use the filters to view the share of revenue or actions by sector, and category.
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The Power of Publishers

As more brands are activating the influencer and creator community, last year content publishers and influencers reveled in a growth spurt, boasting a 32% YoY and 11% YoY surge, respectively.

Google’s “Messy Middle” analysis explored what happens inside the infamous shopping funnel,  and found that being "present" is the secret sauce. Affiliate publishers, particularly, make a huge contribution during the exploration and evaluation phase. They're your ticket to constantly staying present during this pivotal stage, making sure certain brands and projects stay top of mind with potential buyers.

A vibrant mix of publisher models thrive in the channel and cater to evolving consumer needs, spinning ecommerce innovations like basket abandonment and flexible payment technologies. And, despite the notion that most affiliate customer journeys involve multiple publishers, they usually don't compete for conversions. Instead, they work in harmony, adding layers of value to the customer journey. Now’s the time to embrace ongoing recruitment and diversification, embracing publishers of all shapes and sizes. This approach empowers advertisers to connect with fresh, unique audiences through publishers who cater precisely to particular consumer desires, paving the path toward efficiency and sustainable growth.

Key Takeaway

Diversifying publishers ensures your presence across multiple stages of the shopper's journey. The influencer community's surge as trusted advisors offers novel collaboration opportunities for retailers and publishers, enabling shoppers to make informed decisions. 

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Affiliate partnerships are omni-present in the omni-channel customer journey. Partners can complement, activate, and amplify outcomes that engage with consumers at every stage. The combinations are endless, but they are always measurable, and always performance based. Sommer Urias, SVP of Client Strategy and Influencer Solutions, CJ

Publisher Performance

This chart shows performance of different publisher models through selected years. Use the filters above the graph to view the YOY change by actions, revenue, and country.
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Savvy Shoppers Seeking Value

In today's landscape, it's evident that consumers are on the hunt for value that stretches their hard-earned cash. By teaming up with Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) publishers and introducing flexible payment options for the holiday season, you can magnetize budget-conscious customers seeking affordability. Extending BNPL's allure to physical stores opens the door to additional purchases, especially for those aiming to make every dollar count during festive times.

For those seeking an early shopping spree, October and November promotions are your golden ticket to ushering in purchases ahead of the curve. While kickstarting anticipation with early promotional calendars, it's wise to preserve some aces up your sleeve for the busiest shopping days and eleventh-hour deal seekers. Elevating the shopping experience entails serving up more than just bargains—think free shipping and returns, enticing product bundles, and a smooth checkout process, which can all contribute to elevated customer experiences and future unwavering loyalty.

Amid the backdrop of global inflation's sway over shopper sentiments, retailers must accept adaptability. Smartly navigating this terrain involves strategically leveraging the affiliate channel, unlocking key consumer segments, and ushering them toward conversion, thereby amplifying your Return on Investment (ROI). By extending the promotional frontier earlier in the season and tapping into CJ's network of deal & comparison publishers, you can spotlight the finest pricing and discount that will resonate with price-savvy consumers.

Shoppers Trust Authenticity

As the spotlight shifts onto the influencer and creator community, their role is paramount, as aptly demonstrated by this year's Prime Day performance. Influencers emerged as power players in broadcasting top-category promotions, underlining their emerging sway in molding consumer preferences. For retailers, a strategic approach with influencers and a deliberate focus on popular categories can ensure a sales strategy that resonates.

And here's where CJ Influence takes center stage—a nexus of social finesse and performance prowess. Seamlessly partnering with the creator and content domain becomes a breeze, thanks to robust, pinpoint tracking across channels and every twist in the customer's journey. The seasoned CJ Influence team collaborates in a harmonious fusion of experience and strategy, ensuring results that meet your goals.

In the realm of personalization, eMarketer suggests leveraging customer data for a tailored touch. By harnessing the potential of first-party or third-party data partnerships, brands can craft messaging that sings to individual preferences, elevating the shopping experience and stoking engagement. CJ Leads, CJ’s pay-for-performance leads marketing managed service solution, can help build brands' CRM with first-party data that will allow them to more specifically personalized their messaging. 

Meet the Mobile Market

There's a resounding trend among shoppers—an increasing comfort with mobile purchases, with phones becoming their favored shopping hub. This significant shift in consumer behavior has propelled mobile engagement in affiliate marketing to outpace desktop usage, underscoring the need for marketers to optimize the mobile shopping experience across all touchpoints. As the peak shopping season beckons, crafting tailor-made strategies to captivate and convert mobile shoppers becomes paramount, catering precisely to their preferred shopping platform, be it mobile web or in-app.

Branding campaigns that tout exclusive benefits act as catalysts, propelling mobile sales and driving app adoption. Apps seamlessly thread together cross-channel shopping journeys, weaving together the fabric of loyalty. Instead of grappling with in-house development, tapping into CJ's strategic tech partnerships, including the likes of Button, elevates your mobile tracking prowess. This synergy allows for a seamless and top-tier mobile shopping expedition, further enriching the performance marketing realm. Button's PostTap App solution, equipped with landing page finesse and on-site enhancements, empowers advertisers to harness the full potential of the shopping season with precision, crafting an enhanced experience for loyal shoppers.

CJ's Customer Journey insights dovetail elegantly with a robust mobile strategy. This data allows for optimization with publishers who excel in driving shoppers during both the evaluation and decision phases of the shopping journey. Armed with an unprecedented wealth of insights, CJ's clients can not only uncover but also strategize with new partners delivering exceptional outcomes in terms of mobile shoppers and sales. By harnessing these insights and embracing a mobile-first ethos, retailers unlock the gateway to heightened engagement and triumph in the ever-expanding realm of mobile shopping, meeting consumers precisely where they prefer to indulge in retail therapy.

Methodology notes:
CJ's 2023 Q4 Shopping Intelligence Report draws upon the global networks’ 2022 holiday season performance. Growth values in this report were factored in by using transactional data for advertiser programs active in the CJ network during Holiday 2019 through 2022 and cover the calendar period of October 1 – December 31.