Christmas trading in 2014 – the lessons to learn from Christmas 2013

Posted: Wednesday 8th October 2014 in Paid Media, Retail Strategy, Thought Leadership.
Tips for a bumper Christmas 2014

Insight from Christmas 2013

So we’re here – the first week of October marks the start of Christmas peak for many retailers. In a matter of weeks the Christmas ads will be out and Harrods will have their famous Christmas Grotto up and running.

As part of our Make The Most of Peak 2014 we’re sharing some of the insights we uncovered by analysing our clients’ Christmas 2012 and 2013* trading data.

Key Retail Trading Dates for Christmas

Black Friday and Cyber Sunday and Monday

The US, leaders of the free world and consumerism, have shaped Christmas as we know it. One of the more recent trends they created is Black Friday, a retail sales frenzy of crazy proportions occurring in stores the day after Thanksgiving. US online retailers were quick to translate this behaviour for their benefit, and by 2003 Cyber Sunday and Monday were born. Although these trading days are tied to a US holiday with no relevance to the UK, retailers here were happy to jump on the bandwagon thanks to the press coverage that comes our way each year. Here in the UK last year, Black Friday was the largest revenue-driving day over the peak period, growing by 6% on the previous year. The next biggest trading days were Cyber Sunday and Monday. So if you’ve not planned a sales promotion or advertising activity around these dates we highly recommend you start planning. The dates this year are 28th and the 30th November.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Customers continued to purchase products for home delivery after the last delivery date although the mix of click-and-collect increased by 7% between the 20th and 24th December. It appears that when it comes to online shopping customers apply the brakes around Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – no doubt due to delivery dates and the impending post-Christmas sales.

Mobile Device Insights

Changes in shopping behaviour over the Christmas holiday period

The holiday season invokes more relaxed retail browsing, so we saw an increase in shopping on tablets over the Christmas holiday period in 2013. This changed back to browsing on desktop as people went back to work in early 2014.

We expected an increase in sales through mobile devices and our stats showed an average 34% of sales coming through mobile devices from 1st October till 5th January. A full 47% of sales were through a mobile device over the two week Christmas period (24th December to 5th January). No surprises there and we’ve worked hard through 2014 to ensure our clients have developed sites that accommodate these shopping habits.

Post-Christmas Sales Insights

Hold your nerve and don’t launch your sales too soon

One of the biggest stories in the post Christmas reviews was about the impact on margins and post-Christmas sales by retailers who launched sales super early last year, i.e a few days before Christmas day. We’ll be surprised to see any retailers making the same mistake again this year. We’re advising our retailers to hold their nerve and focus on having their sale ready and automated to publish just after midnight on Christmas night/Boxing Day morning. Some retailers are pushing to launch their sales on Christmas day. We are seeing more and more people online on Christmas day so this can give you a first-to-market advantage. Just be sure you have digital and tech staff available on Christmas day to deal with any issues and that your warehouse can deal with the orders that will accumulate over this period and may cause a backlog.

Can your technology support the Boxing Day rush?

With that in mind we did see a greater concentration of sales activity on Boxing Day than in 2012 with 18% of all post-Christmas sales completed on this day alone. Make sure your IT team or your hosting partner are prepared for this huge rise in traffic.

Loyal customers are the most prevalent sales customers

We discovered the number of new customer visits reduced over peak, especially within the sale period. Indicating the brand and loyalty building that retailers had done over the year paid off as customers returned to purchase their Christmas presents and all those nice things they eyed while shopping for others.

Mind your margins

Our data showed the post-Christmas sales period impacting average order value (AOV) more significantly than 2012, with a 10% reduction year on year. This could indicate a few things, but it’s most likely to be that retailers are discounting at higher rates or offering lower thresholds for free delivery, which is often a spending benchmark for shoppers.

There is still time to sharpen your Christmas plans. We’re here to help, so if you have any questions, contact [email protected]

* The data is based on all of Summit’s clients’ data for 2012 vs 2013 (aggregated so it is anonymised). We have compared clients on a like-for-like basis, however we’ve removed any clients whose core trading peaks sit outside of the Christmas peak period.