Sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas can make or break a merchant’s entire year, with 20-30% of retail sales captured across just 7% of the year. While American consumers continue to spend more money on gifts each holiday season, both for others and for themselves, holiday shopping behavior has shifted away from a reliance on in-store Black Friday deals and toward a more consistent buying season in which consumers interact with retailers across multiple channels.
The NRF expects that online retail will grow 8-12%, up to three times higher than the growth rate of the wider industry. For context, brick-and-mortar retail, which still comprises the vast majority of sales, is expected to grow at just 2.8%. That’s slower than the average rate of growth for the overall industry.
The NRF’s predictions drive home the point that online is going to be the major driver of growth for retail moving forward. This means that while in-person sales are still important, finding ways to capitalize on rising ecommerce, like through the addition of new channels or hybrid omnichannel functionality, will be increasingly important.
The good news is that, while the pressure to convert at a higher rate still exists, there is no longer one single date that will dictate a retailer’s success in the holiday season. There are several key dates that an ecommerce retailer can leverage to surprise and delight its customers, and drive sales and revenue, all season long.
In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, customers eagerly await the start of the holiday season. While these days do not generally translate into sales, they should be utilized to build up excitement in your customer base, providing a peek into special holiday items, gift guides, and what to expect once the holiday season officially kicks off. Retailers have been executing discounts on both specific categories and basket sizes during this time to capture early sales and extend the buying season.
November 23: Thanksgiving Night
Thanksgiving continues to be the unofficial start of the holiday season, and retailers have adopted new and exciting ways to captivate their customers. Despite much controversy, it has become typical for brick-and-mortar stores to keep their locations open and operations running leading into Black Friday. Physical retailers are focused on creating more excitement in stores, and offering better service. As for ecommerce, the focus remains on sitewide sales, limited-time discounts, and holiday and gift-themed experiences.
November 24: Black Friday
What was once the highlight for brick and mortar retailers, Black Friday continues to evolve. In-store foot traffic is strong, yet revenue has dropped as shoppers slowly but increasingly turn to ecommerce. Last year, US ecommerce revenue hit a record $3.34B in sales on Black Friday, growing 21.6% since 2015. Retailers can prepare for the crush of customers by varying offers across in-store and online channels, embracing “webrooming” (using a smartphone to check prices, reviews or discounts and then purchasing in store) and “showrooming” (going into stores for this information and then purchasing online), and creating a seamless experience across across channels and devices.
November 27: Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday generally offers the best online deals, and consumers have definitely taken notice. Sales on this date continue to grow to great response. Traffic numbers and concurrent users spike in response to flash sales, daily deals, discounts, promotions, contests, and other special offers. Bear in mind that shoppers still very much rely on email marketing to learn about your deals, so ensure you have your email strategy in place well in advance.
December 14: Shipping Deadline
Landing seven business days before Christmas, this date represents the last day shoppers can choose regular shipping and receive their order by Christmas. Some retailers offer free shipping on this day. Though the date isn’t set in stone, the deadline for guaranteed delivery by Christmas should be well advertised on your site so your customers feel the sense of urgency to place their orders ASAP. Reminder emails, countdown clocks on your landing pages, and messaging in checkout will help to ensure a timely order.
December 23: Super Saturday
In a 2016 NRF Survey, 66% of shoppers planned to shop on Super Saturday, more than those who said they planned to shop over Thanksgiving Weekend. Despite retailers’ best marketing efforts and ongoing deals over the prior weeks, 1 in 10 shoppers still wait until the last minute to buy their holiday gifts. Promises to get orders to arrive before Christmas are difficult to keep, and 2 day or overnight options get expensive. As a result, ecommerce retailers can execute a few campaigns featuring digital gift cards to compete provide the immediate satisfaction of (and compete with) in-store purchases.
Your sales shouldn’t stop on December 25th. According to research by American Express, more people than ever before plan to shop after Christmas to take advantage of post-holiday sales and newly received gift cards. Therefore, you shouldn’t forget about attracting customers and boosting your profits through well-timed post-holiday sales.