Cyber Week Stunted: 2013 Compacts the Christmas Calendar

Thanksgiving Day is growing up and becoming a major online shopping day. Turkey day sales were up 32 percent in 2012, according to comScore. No longer just a “Black Friday preview” day, the holiday has quickly become a starting gate to the major sales days. The finish line, however, is less defined. Cyber Monday is anchored after the weekend of sweatpants-wearing, coffee-chugging shoppers lining up for doorbusters and deep discounts, and both consumers and marketers don’t want the sales to stop.

So, how does the marketer maximize this time when consumers are aggressively trying to wrap up holiday shopping? Well, with no official beginning or end, the concept of Cyber Week has seen greater adoption in recent years. For the time surrounding the Thanksgiving sales events, Cyber Week promotions represented 7.2 percent of email volume doubling rates from 2011. In 2012, Cyber Week promotions peaked on November 28th. That was the Wednesday after Cyber Monday. The theme flatlined on December 3rd. Clearly marketers are increasingly viewing Cyber Week as the backend of the post-Thanksgiving Day sales. This both extends and better defines a finish line for a valuable shopping period when many retailers expect to generate massive sales.

Sounds like a great strategy, right? Well, not this year.

For the first time since 2008, Cyber Monday will be in December. In fact, falling on December 2nd, Cyber Monday this year is the latest Cyber Monday in more than a decade. (December 1st in 2008 and 2003 December 2nd in 2002.) There are only 23 days between Cyber Monday and Christmas Day compared to 29 in 2012. Six days lost in that time period can have a serious impact on your year-end numbers. If marketers took the same approach as recent years, Cyber Week would extend to December 9th when many marketers typically shift to featuring last-minute themes, shipping deadlines and “finish your list” strategies.

This doesn’t mean you need to completely overhaul your communication planning. The post-Thanksgiving holiday promotions featuring shop by/for, shipping deadlines, in-store pick up, online gift cards, etc… are essential components to making your holiday sales goal, so they should not be sacrificed or compromised because of the condensed time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Keep the promotions, but go into the chaos of the holidays with a clear and in-depth knowledge of campaign successes and flops from the 2012 holiday marketing season. Having this valuable information as a baseline for 2013 campaigns will help you be more agile and successful even with the shorter calendar. Imagine how important it is for a coach to know which players performed the best and worst at various stages of last year’s season. Know your starters from your benchwarmers and knowing who to send in for the Hail Mary pass can win the game.

But don’t rely solely on the ghost of Christmas past to make promotional and segmentation decisions. Consumer behavior has been quickly evolving into a zigzagged, intersecting, looping trail of multi-device and multi-channel shopping. We are likely to see new behavioral trends impacting the success and failure of holiday promotions. Monitor how the influx of gifters are shopping, abandoning and buying, and be prepared to respond quickly to under-performing loyal customers with a personal touch and exclusive offers. Always be ready to modify messaging to new subscribers if your welcome falls flat.

You may have emails that are triggered when shoppers abandon your product pages or shopping cart. While extremely effective methods of recovering potentially lost sales, a generic customer service themed reminder email may not be aggressive enough for customers looking for the best offer. Knowing where your subscribers are falling in the purchase funnel will help you send messages that more directly speak to a specific customer group’s needs. If this sounds like another layer of stress for your already chaotic holiday season, just remember to do your best to “Keep Calm and Carry On.” This won’t happen again until 2019!

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