Following on from Part I of our our Five Part Series on Holiday Sales, we’ll be diving into the period from the beginning of December through to the beginning of 2019 and everything you need to know about the sales days and peak periods that will cap of 2018 in ecommerce.
If you thought online shopping in December was all about Christmas presents, you’d be wrong. Sure, the rush to buy for our loved ones is a key driver of the biggest month of the year for ecommerce but half of shoppers in December are also buying for themselves. With Boxing Day and Green Monday sitting either side of the big day itself, there’s plenty of opportunity to sell just about anything to anyone across the 31 days of Christmas.
Aside from a slight lull between the pre-Christmas delivery cut-off and boxing day it’s pretty much a full month of increased sales for any online retailer so having all your ducks in a row well in advance is a must. This includes planning out your promotions, marketing and most importantly having forecasting your inventory and having a fulfilment plan in place; nothing is more heartbreaking for a seller than running out of stock on your key items half way through the busiest month of the year.
While the bulk of sales volume will occur in December, most shoppers will start sniffing out their gift purchases in October and November so leveraging your remarketing lists and collected emails is essential to make sure your products stay front of mind all through the month to ensure they end up under your customers’ Christmas trees come December 25th.
Where: USA and Global
When: 10th of December
As the lesser known about Monday of the holiday calendar, you might be surprised to hear that the second Monday in December is the second biggest day for online sales.
Traditionally Green Monday was the last day for online shoppers to get their orders placed in time for Christmas, but with shorter delivery windows particular through Amazon Prime that restriction has been lifted somewhat, but that hasn’t stopped the major marketplaces and retailers from pushing the day as another opportunity to inspire an online shopping frenzy.
- With shipping times getting shorter and shorter, some of the shine around Green Monday has worn off, but savvy shoppers still recognise it as a day where the majors will roll out some heavy price discounts.
- Previously marking the last day for sales before shipping cut-off, Green Monday is now more about the ‘first’ day of ‘last-minute’ shopping.
- Start running your ‘last minute’ Christmas shopping promotions now. While the shoppers that have been stretching out their shopping for the last two months are already wrapping their presents, the time-poor, fast to purchase crowd will start swooping this time of year, offering discounts on products or shipping is a great way to convert this type of shopper with a typically shorter customer journey.
- Leverage remarketing and email lists hard, if they’ve been browsing your store and haven’t bought yet it’s now or never for bringing them home.
Where: USA and Global
When: 22nd of December
The last Saturday before Christmas is huge for physical retail as people dash out for the weekend to buy last minute gifts, but it can also be a significant boost for online sellers.
With Christmas day falling on a Tuesday this year, Super Saturday will be best suited for those with prime eligible products in Amazon FBA or their own fulfilment ability for same-day service.
Depending on your fulfilment abilities, at some point in the lead up to Christmas you’ll hit a day when you can no longer sell products and expect them to arrive to customer before Christmas.
- If you’re selling through your own online store, take a balanced approach to setting your cut-off date. Remember that with such high volume of orders you may not be able to rely on your usual fulfilment providers to meet delivery deadlines, but you can rely on your customers to blame you if they don’t, so be careful about making promises you can’t keep and set a conservative date and time to stop guaranteeing delivery before Christmas, and have a discussion with your fulfilment providers well in advance about their on-time delivery percentages this time of year.
- If you have eligible products in Amazon FBA, chances are your Amazon cut-off will be much later than through other channels, so switch over your marketing and start directing customers to your Amazon listings when your other channels reach cut-off.
- Keep your customers notified through email and via your website on when your cut-off time is. Have countdown timers on your site and include times in emails. You can even use your cut-off times as part of your last-minute shopping campaigns – an outbound email to your lists notifying them that they have 24 hours left to buy from your store in time for Christmas delivery is a great way to get them back to your site to finish off their shopping.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Where: USA & Global
When: December 24th and 25th
Once you hit your delivery cut-off, sales will likely drop off a cliff until at least late Christmas day. Enjoy a couple of days with the family and celebrate a good few weeks of holiday sales but be sure to spare a bit of time to realign your sales channels from pre-Christmas sales to Boxing Day sales.
- Don’t forget to turn down the dial on your marketing channels. With conversion rates through the roof in previous weeks, you’ve likely boosted spend and increased bids; to avoid a nasty surprise comes Christmas morning be sure to reign in your increased marketing activity the second your shipping cut-off comes into effect.
- Have your boxing day marketing campaigns and promotions ready to go well in advance so that you don’t spend your holiday pulling it all together.
- Expect lots of browsing traffic on Christmas Day, people sniffing out what to buy on Boxing Day. Have remarketing and lead capture plans in place in anticipation.
Just when you thought it was all over, you’ve got one more sales day to make it rain.
Unlike the rest of December, Boxing Day sales are more focused on shoppers buying for themselves, a shift that will need to be recognised in the way you communicate your promotions.
In the lead up to Christmas, sweeteners like fast/discounted shipping, gift wrapping, bundling, etc. can be used to help tip conversion for gift purchasers, the expectation for Boxing Day customers is very much centred around price competition. They’re looking for the kinds of bargains they’ve been waiting all year for, so your Boxing Day sale should have plenty of “buy-one-get-one-free”, “half price”, “20% off selected styles” type promotions.
- Over 50% of holiday purchases online are tipped to be on mobiles in 2018 , expect even more for Boxing Day as shoppers spend their time off work buying from the couch instead of from their desk.
- Continuing the trend of sales days spilling over into sales weeks, expect increase traffic from bargain shoppers to stretch right up until New Year’s Eve.
- Start previewing your discounts on-site and through email on Christmas day.
- Try as you might, you’ve probably run out of stock on a lot of items and few things annoy customers more than being marketed an out of stock item. Clean out your catalog and create new pages or ‘collections’ for your sale, tagging only those products with pricing promotion and available stock.
- Just like all the other sales days, use your email lists to let your best customers know about it. Consider including additional discount or free shipping codes exclusively to those one your email list; any percentage off for email customers will be offset by the saving on marketing spend required for bringing new users to your store during the sale.
With another year over and a record holiday sales peak to cap it off, you’ll be starting off 2019 with a smile. But after such a good coda to the year, you could easily get a case of the January blues once those sales dip right back down.
The January Blues Equation
The Slowest Month
Typically, January can be the slowest month for ecommerce sales as shoppers start to receive their credit card bills from the last quarter and reign in their purse strings as part of a slew of new year resolutions.
+ High Rate of Returns
If December was your biggest month for sales, when do you think your biggest month is for returns? You guessed it. January.
If you don’t prepare for high return rates, you’ll be in for a nasty surprise. Why? Maths.
Even assuming a constant return rate of say 4%. If you sell four times more in the last two weeks of December than you do in the first two weeks of January, and all those returns come in after the new year, 16% of your already lowest sales month of the year is going to be cancelled out by returned products.
Add to this the higher likelihood for December gift purchases to be returned as unwanted gifts, and you should be factoring in a return rate as high as five times a normal month.
If you’re selling on Amazon through FBA and having to contend with their A-Z Guarantee returns policy, you can expect a sizeable chunk of your sales to be corrected for returns.
Whilst slower sales and high returns can’t be avoided, factoring the January slump into your forecasts will help you prepare financially and mentally for the drop.
January might not be a huge sales driver, but it is a great time to start planning and forecasting and evaluating the previous years performance to set plans in motion for an even bigger and better 2018.