Retail’s Biggest Shopping Season is Expanding

December 6, 2019

Flashback moment….

The year is 2005. You’re at work with a few free hours away from the family, ready to knock off some more of the items on your holiday shopping list that you didn’t get to on Black Friday. Maybe you’re snagging the amazing deal on a new Xbox 360 or racing to get the latest iPod, while enjoying the lightning fast internet connection graciously provided by your company. Excitement is definitely in the air.

It didn’t take long for us industry folks to notice the significant year-over-year increases happening in online shopping the Monday after Thanksgiving. And so, in 2005, “Cyber Monday” got its name from the Shop.org team within the National Retail Federation (NRF), and the momentum born in these earlier years of online shopping continued to grow.

Flash forward to 2019, and we’re talking about a new story. The earlier portion of retail’s most important season is expanding. While Cyber Monday is hands down still the biggest day of the season, growth potential is undeniable in the days leading up to what some today call “The Cyber Five” (the five days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday), a trend we’ve seen emerge over recent years as shopping goes increasingly digital. Many clients included in our holiday season analysis have been onboard with ForwardPMX for several years, further supporting the significance of these trends.?

It is worth noting that a record 190 million consumers shopped throughout the five main days in the U.S., according to the NRF, which is a major win for retail. Additionally, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday all broke records for total online sales, at $4.2 billion, $7.4 billion and $9.4 billion, according to Adobe Analytics data.

We dug into client SEM performance to understand growth from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday and where it was predominantly coming from, as well as a look at just how big the earlier growth potential was this year We also dove into “Cyber Tuesday” to see what happened with the continuation of Cyber Monday buzz.

Here are a few of the biggest numbers and trends that we found:

  • The 10 Day Lead Up: There was a 16% growth in revenue driven by SEM in the “10 day lead up”, i.e. November 18th through November 27th. November 22nd and 23rd showed notable revenue growth at 27 and 28% respectively.?
  • Thanksgiving was a huge day on mobile for clients, seeing an incredible 69% year-over-year growth in mobile sales generated, despite clicks only being up 34%. Mobile made up 41% of total revenue. Thanksgiving was also a big day for topline sales, seeing 41% year-over-year growth.
  • Black Friday’s online story was even bigger than years past. Topline click through rates (CTR) grew 69%, with mobile CTR equaling that growth.
  • Cyber Monday still wins for volume, but cannot be counted on for growth. The day generated 4% topline year-over-year revenue growth and 8% growth in mobile, much smaller in comparison to other days
  • “Cyber Tuesday”, the spillover from Cyber Monday, and what our nonprofit partners would call Giving Tuesday, saw higher growth than the big CM! Topline SEM sales grew 15% and mobile sales grew 33%.

?Digging in some more….

Early Opportunity Continues

Our strategic focus on early season awareness to bring more customers into the funnel has been an important shift in how clients view their investments for the entire holiday season.

Why the early growth? Over the years, we’ve seen consumers get hungrier and hungrier for early deals, which has caused brands to ramp up their strategy accordingly. This year in particular, people knew they had six less days on the shopping calendar than in 2018 given how late Thanksgiving fell, so we don’t doubt that consumers had already done their research and shopped with the mentality that they were ready to hit the purchase button.

PLAs Remain an Important Part of the Story

PLAs were certainly more front and center in the growth story in prior years, but still prove to be an important part of the overall push. Thanksgiving Day saw a 46% increase in click growth and a drop in costs-per-click (CPCs) by 5%. Despite this, conversion rate (CVR) was down by 9%, possibly indicating that people could have been browsing, but converting on Black Friday, as CVR kicked back in on Black Friday, growing 22%. It is interesting to note that in 2018, CVR in PLAs was down year-over-year across the board over Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, whereas we saw more of a boost kick in this year.

Another possible scenario for lower CVR: Some advertisers experienced challenges with query matching, causing less relevant products to come up in shoppers’ searches.

Still More Shopping to Come!

Early season success was a fantastic win for clients, but late season opportunity is crucial to capitalize on, particularly as we get closer to shipping cutoff. Our teams will be hard at work ensuring clients’ programs are ready to deliver on shopper demand in the coming weeks!

?ForwardPMX Holiday Performance updates leverage performance data across a diverse mix of retail brands from bid management platforms such as DoubleClick Search and Kenshoo. All data has been anonymized to protect confidentiality.

 

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