How to Get Your Share of the 2017 Holiday Shopping Pie

Blog Post
November 20, 2017

Overall, Holiday 2017 is looking good. Holiday spending expectations continue to rise in large part due to improved household finances. In fact, almost 80% of consumers expect to spend the same or more this holiday season. 


Amazon is (unsurprisingly) expected to dominate this year. 38% of all 2016 Holiday ecommerce took place on The ecommerce giant’s revenues as a whole grew 42% during 2016 and slightly above 20% for the holiday. And would you believe that 35% of shoppers who made a purchase in a store (any store) went to Amazon first? This was typically to compare prices or check out reviews before buying.

But this doesn’t mean your brand is doomed. There are still ways in which to make sure your brand performs well this holiday season and gets its share of the shopping pie. Check out the following three holiday shopping trends and how you can take advantage of them—quickly.

Trend 1: They’re Shopping on Smartphones 

Mobile sales in Q4 2016 jumped 45%, giving “mcommerce” (mobile commerce) a 20.8% share of total ecommerce, up from 16.9% in Q4 2015. In addition, during Q4 2016, 51% of Google search ad clicks came from mobile phones. Across search engines, 47.4% of paid search clicks came from mobile phones, up from 32.6% in Q4 2015.

That’s a lot of mobile. What it means for marketers is that we need to pay particular attention to online channel shop/buy CTAs and smartphone-related (small screen) mobile optimization efforts. For example, make sure to design to the “thumb scroll:” it’s fine to present multiple products/topics/options/etc., but be sure to optimize for easy mobile scanning, such as using horizontal dividers between topics or zones. Also, make CTAs large, and “stack” them (orient vertically) rather than organizing them horizontally.

Make sure to also streamline mobile checkout. Eliminate anything that impedes progress, and promote digital wallets that customers use. Pull out and optimize key factors upon each customer's purchase, such as speed and load times and length of time it takes customer to complete mobile journey.

Trend 2: They’re Shopping Earlier

Marshal Cohen, Chief Industry Analyst for Retail at The NPD Group summed it up:

 “Retailers will soon have a challenge in the vocabulary—they can call it Cyber Week but now it’s Cyber Two Weeks, and they can call it Black Friday but it’s Black November. Retailers increased the times and frequencies, and the longevity and start dates have moved up. They changed the game.” 

With that in mind, we’re well into our holiday shopping period, even before Thanksgiving. In fact, more than half of consumers started holiday shopping before the Thanksgiving weekend. This builds on a trend from holiday 2016, where we saw many retailers begin their Black Friday discounts days before Black Friday. Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon all started big discounts a full week or more before the big event.

Your brand can take advantage of this by teasing Black Friday deals earlier in the week (e.g. NOW; consider the week before next year!). You’ll also want to announce deals earlier on Thanksgiving Day (everyone loves a little side of shopping with their turkey). 

Also remember to send your reminders—one and done is not enough when you’re competing with other brands. Reminder emails (usually the same body content with different subject lines and possibly different headlines/headers) sent either to those who responded (opened/clicked but did not convert/buy) or did NOT respond makes it more likely you’ll generate incremental sales above what would have been achieved if relied only upon a single send. 

Finally, be sure to balance in-store and online CTAs. One of the biggest advantages retailers still have over Amazon is their ability to “mix it up” online and offline. For example, you can drive shoppers to the store on Thanksgiving day (when stores open at 5:00 or 6:00 pm) and of course on Black Friday. People are looking for an excuse to get out of the house and seek some excitement. Also drive shoppers to the store late in the season when it’s too late to ship. You can drive shoppers online for flash sales and other events to maintain momentum throughout the holiday season.

Trend 3: They’re Shopping Last Minute

In addition to shopping early, consumers are also shopping late. The National Retail Federation reports that. as of December 16, 2016, 90% of people were still holiday shopping. But brands weren’t necessarily helping these procrastinators out—over 80% of holiday emails sent in December offered free shipping, but only 10% emphasized when the key shipping dates were to get orders in time for the holidays.

So, December still represents a big opportunity for brands to pick up late-season gift buying laggards. But it will be important to emphasize guaranteed delivery dates (like Amazon does), as well as the ability to buy online and pick up in store.

And don’t forget about post-holiday shopping—58% of consumers plan to buy for themselves after the holiday season. Consider encouraging shoppers with messaging about focusing on themselves, such as “It’s all about you now.”

Don’t Lose Sight of Value and Experience

During the holiday madness, brands are often reduced to intense price competition to make the sale. Expectations of near-constant sales and promotions pervade the season. But it’s important not to lose sight of the bigger picture: offering value to customers through their experience with your brand. Nearly 70% of customers would be willing to pay up to 15% more for your product or service if they could be guaranteed a positive experience.

REI takes advantage of this fact with its #OptOutside program, in which it shuts its doors on Black Friday and encourages everyone to get outside—a reflection of its well-loved brand values. In fact, the brand has become somewhat notorious for this audacious event, and customers love it. 

So, while it’s still important to test out your CTAs, draft out-of-this-world Turkey Day email copy and optimize your ecommerce site for a deluge of mobile shoppers, make sure to always keep your eye on what the experience looks like from your customers’ perspectives. 

It’s a sure way to stand out in a very crowded holiday marketplace.