17 Dec It’s all in the timing
The holiday rush isn’t over in December
Traditionally, it begins every year as we watch Santa navigate that final turn onto 34th Street in Manhattan on Thanksgiving morning, but in truth, the retail holiday shopping season has been opening earlier and earlier every year for a decade or more.
But a newer digital shopping trend identified in data from 2013 shows an evolution of the holiday season in the other direction – beyond the major holidays and six days into each new year that retailers are well-advised to start paying attention to with all of their digital, social and email marketing strategies.
First Week a shopping week
In 2013 and 2014, online orders over the first six days of the year outpaced Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday combined, according to Stitch Labs. In fact, online orders in January 2014 were 15.2 percent higher than January 2013. And there is no evidence in the data to believe that it will be any different this year and years beyond.
Retailers have been battling each other for their fair share of the gift-buying public through the month of December since the first Macy’s parade balloon marched downtown through New York City in 1924. In an effort to leverage more of that multi-billion dollar pie, they’ve been promoting sales and opening for business earlier each year until many of the largest retail operations started doing business by 3:00pm or earlier on Thanksgiving Day itself.
The digital revolution and a 2005 announcement by the National Retail Foundation (NRF) naming the day gave birth to Cyber Monday. Retailers that had e-commerce applications began taking advantage and retailers that didn’t began building them.
Finding a new edge
In a world where upwards of 30 to 40 percent of annual revenue is made over the holiday season, retailers are always looking for an edge to get consumers into their stores – both bricks and mortar and digital. Up until the past few years, the focus was still on the “traditional” holiday season running from Thanksgiving through Christmas with Black Friday being the biggest single shopping day and Cyber Monday being the overwhelming favorite for online shoppers.
But considering this first week in January phenomenon, retailers really should start to look at other weeks in the calendar they can leverage.
What’s in a name?
All the hot retail shopping days of the holiday season have names. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Small Business Saturday. This phenomenon of the first six days of the year has been noticed, but not named. More evidence that First Week seems to be a naturally occurring consumer behavior and one that can be naturally leveraged by retailers.
Clearly, over the past two or three years, something began to change. Black Friday, while still a massive opportunity, began to shrink in overall numbers. And while it’s too early to see reliable data for 2015, estimates are running at about 1.5 percent down for both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday – $1.8B and $10.4B in total sales, respectively, according to ShopperTrak. Cyber Monday, on the other hand, is up by double digits, to more than an estimated $3B, also according to ShopperTrak.
Home on the holiday
There’s a new trend among big retailers affecting all of this, too. Dozens of the biggest names in the industry announced this year that they would opt to remain closed and stay home on the holiday itself. A move that was spearheaded by outdoor retailer REI. Considering this new trend, sales on the holiday itself are almost sure to drop further over the next few years at least.
The retail holiday season has never followed a static set of rules. President Franklin Roosevelt moved the celebration of Thanksgiving to one week earlier in 1939 in order to extend the holiday season during the Great Depression. It was a move celebrated and denigrated in equal measure at the time as “Franksgiving.” The idea of Black Friday took hold in the retail industry after that. Opening hours evolved on a sliding scale depending on which strategy seemed to work best for a given retailer on any given year to the point that today, most big retailers open on the Thanksgiving Holiday itself.
Digital evolution gave birth to Cyber Monday – an overwhelmingly effective effort to direct shoppers to retailers’ e-commerce sites on the first Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday. Cyber Monday was such a success that companies began noticing a measurable drop in productivity among office workers on that day as they shopped during office hours.
Add together the estimated overall online sales numbers for Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday and the first six sales days in January outperform them, combined. That’s without a name coined to describe the first week of the year or outsized marketing promotions or extensive beginning of year sales designed to increase online traffic for that week.
To date, there are no real explanations for the phenomenon. It could be a simple holiday hangover effect or a natural consumer desire to shop for themselves after shopping for gifts throughout the holidays. Research into the reasoning has yet to be conducted, but examination of the numbers is undeniable. Consumers truly are spending in the first week of the year. Strangely, the holiday season seems to have naturally extended itself past the actual holidays. Retailers need to be looking toward First Week with digital and email strategies designed to support this proven consumer interest.