A confluence of rare events will likely make this year's holiday shopping season a bit different than years past. The three events with the greatest potential to upend 2013 holiday shopping sales:
The fact that Thanksgiving Day and the first day of Hanukkah fall on the same day (Thursday, November 28)
Thanksgiving Day, falling late in the month, means the 2013 holiday shopping season will be the shortest in recent memory
One of the season's key shopping holidays, Cyber Monday, slides into early December (due to the above mentioned late Thanksgiving)
The first event, a coinciding of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, could result in a sustained sales boon for Advertisers and Publishers. The Hanukkah holiday is a week-long event during which many families exchange gifts, so gift demand in November could certainly rise in advance of this holiday. Daily CJ network sales for November usually show a strength over daily October sales, but this will hopefully boost sales up even more. To be sure, retailers will be doing their part to spark sales activity in early November—49% of retailers in a recent Experian survey said they plan to launch their holiday media campaigns in late October versus waiting until early November, the traditional norm.
Key Strategy: Publishers should take a cue from Advertisers this year and push up their holiday promotions by a few weeks. If consumers are seeing holiday campaigns in their other online and offline exposure, they'll likely also be receptive to gifting and holiday content on affiliate sites. Small updates to a Publisher site, such as adding seasonal images, can subtly signal to shoppers that they should also be shifting into holiday purchasing mode (and reinforces that the site is a go-to place for shoppers to discover or research gifts).
Robust Turkey Day Sales
Social taboos about shopping on Thanksgiving have fallen away both online and offline. As a result, Advertisers and Publishers should consider Thanksgiving as the new de facto start of holiday shopping and deal hunting. Last year, CJ Network sales show that shoppers used Turkey Day to heavily shop for consumer electronics, appliances, tools and clothing—equally important, increased click activity suggests that in addition to shopping, there was a lot of advance Black Friday browsing. This year, considering the lateness of Thanksgiving Day, sales activity in the week leading up to Thanksgiving and on the day itself should be robust.
Key Strategy: When creating promotions for Thanksgiving Day, consider that shoppers may not be near a desktop or laptop computer for most of the day, yet can likely be reached via their smartphone. Mobile strategies should figure largely in Publisher and Advertiser plans on this day, as should email promotions—48% of marketing emails are now opened on smartphones, according to eMarketer.
T-minus: Twenty-Five Days
Many online shoppers still treat Black Friday as the unofficial start of holiday shopping, and if that remains true this year it could have a real impact on sales. With just 25 days between Black Friday and Christmas--six fewer than last year's 31--shoppers are simply going to run out of time to shop online. Instead of being beaten by the calendar, here are some ideas to make the most of the situation.
Think gift guides. Shoppers are going to need easy and efficient tools to help them get the job done and gift guides fit the bill. Advertisers should make an extra effort this year to have gift guides available on their sites and then create tracking links to them so that Publishers can drive shoppers right to them. Publishers, in turn, can connect shoppers with these guides by either highlighting them in some way (or in some place) on their own sites. Or, recognizing that gift guidance can be a real conversion tool this holiday season, Publishers may want to use CJ product catalogs to create unique gift guides for their audience.
Be prepared for Cyber Monday. Last year Cyber Monday sales in the CJ Network increased 24% YoY, one of the highest gains of any single day of the holiday season. Since its inception in 2005, Cyber Monday has been the strongest online purchasing day of the year so being prepared is (nearly) a given. But Cyber Monday 2013 falls on December 2, just three weeks from Christmas Eve. As a result, Advertisers and Publishers should anticipate cyber-shoppers will be particularly primed to shop and feeling pressure to buy due to the great values at hand and the close proximity to Christmas. Cyber Monday 2013 has the potential to be a huge day for Advertisers and Publishers, but not for those who sites crash. Site outages during the holiday season happen every year, to Publishers and Advertisers, big and small. This year make sure it doesn't happen to you on Cyber Monday.
Expedited Shipping. Predicting that many shoppers are going to be feeling the loss (essentially) of an additional shopping week, Advertisers can step in to help. Expedited shipping offerings will likely be very attractive to shoppers during the week before Christmas, and Advertisers who offer this should highlight it in banners that launch in mid-December. Additionally, upgrading to “free expedited shipping” during the last few days could make the difference in sales staying online or going to offline retailers. Publishers can also play a strong role in helping to keep sales online by highlighting Advertisers who have expedited or free expedited shipping offers.
Mondays in December. This holiday season, no single day will likely match the activity of Cyber Monday and Black Friday, but collectively the first day of the week can be powerful sales days. Once Cyber Monday (Dec. 2) is past, online marketers should tee up promotions for the remaining Mondays in December (Dec. 9, 16 and 23). Traditionally the 2nd Monday of December (coined “Green Monday” by retailers) is the clear leader for online sales because it is still 10 days or so from Christmas. But this year's truncated shopping season could result in December 16 being as active of a sales day, as long as confidence in delivery methods remains high. When sales for delivered goods tapers off after Free Shipping Day (Wednesday, Dec. 18), the market for gift cards should go up and the Monday before Christmas (Dec. 23) is a great day for all online marketers to focus on these as part of a last effort to claim online sales.