A Look Into Holiday 2015

With the crisp September chill in the air, it’s only a matter of time before consumers start their preparation for holiday shopping. This, of course, signals that these next weeks are critical for retailers. Aligning and optimizing channels, developing high-impact copy and creative and preparing outreach campaigns are all key tasks on every retailer’s plate right now. With so much emphasis placed on holiday as an indicator of success for the year’s overall performance, it’s important for brands to identify opportunities ahead of time. As a part of our Holiday Planning series, our research and Paid Media teams have pinpointed some key statistics about when and how retailers can increase and maintain their exposure throughout this very important holiday season.

Back in 2014, the retail sector saw its strongest holiday ecommerce growth in three years, reaching a total of $53.3 billion (excluding mobile commerce), a 15% year-over-year increase from 2013. This year, online holiday sales are projected to see a 13.9% YOY increase, strongly supported by the critical mobile channel, which is expected to see its own 2015 total YOY increase of 32%.

The Screen Shift to Mobile

As we continue to witness the monumental “screen shift” movement by consumers, the mobile device has proven itself to be one of the most vital points on the customer journey. Its key role in top-of-funnel content, in addition to being a growing platform of choice for actual purchases, makes mobile more important than ever to the overall success of this holiday season. In 2014, we saw 31.2% of all online traffic occur on mobile, and overall, retailers saw a significantly increased willingness from consumers to buy via their smartphones; in fact, paid search sales multiplied by nearly four times over the previous year. Additionally, mobile impressions were up 520%, conversion rates up 158% and sales up 284%. This year, mobile and tablet device traffic is expected to increase by 56%, with sales increasing by 26%. In terms of the key timeframes for optimizing mobile, we saw it play its most essential role early on in the holiday season, and then later near shipping cutoffs. Mobile search sales specifically surged on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the days leading up to Free Shipping Day.

Paid Search Growth Continues

In 2014, paid search sales experienced a YOY increase of 13%, which supported the overall surge in ecommerce across the board. More specifically, SEM impressions outperformed clicks and sales, which was largely due to the incremental success of mobile and Google Shopping (PLA) ads. Though it’s been some time since Google implemented paid Google Shopping, marketers must be armed with the right tactics to achieve maximum visibility for their ads during the 2015 holiday season. This involves maintaining the right competitive mix between AdWords and Google Shopping and being more strategic with ad copy.

Top Search & Sales Days

 Although Cyber Monday continued to dominate the rest of the holidays in terms of online sales, some key paid search growth actually occurred on Thanksgiving in 2014. Many retailers elected to start their promotions early, resulting in some major YOY increases in orders (51%), sales (57%) and overall conversion rates (29%) on Thanksgiving Thursday. This aligns with the consumer trend of searching for “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” products and promotions much earlier in November. Search queries for “Black Friday” experienced a steady increase between November 1 and November 28. Though at a slower pace, “Cyber Monday” searches also saw an increase, more specifically between November 17 and December 1. A change to more general search terms, like “holiday gifts” and “gift ideas” occurred after the these two major events, which opened the opportunity for marketers to engage consumers with helpful top-of-funnel content, shopping guides and customized product recommendations.

 

Retailers should keep these key consumer trends in mind when planning out their holiday strategy. Stay tuned for our first channel-specific guide to Holiday 2015!

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