A few quick thoughts on the holiday shopping season:
November 1st marks the officially official opening of the holiday shopping season. This year we saw a tremendous number of promotions kick-off on November 1st. Walmart kicked off its campaign at midnight and Amazon launched its Black Friday Deals Store, offering “Deals of the Day” through Dec. 22 and weekly “Lightening Deals.” Amazon is also allowing third-party sellers to participate in the holiday deals featured on the site.
Starting Early. Despite November 1st being the official start of the holiday shopping season, many retailers got an early start this year. BJ’s recently announced they were spreading deals across Black Friday week (and more than doubling the number of offers over last year). Santas will be at Belk stores on Saturday November 16th for Santafest. Walmart and Kmart both ran their first holiday promotions on September 13th. But not everyone is supportive. There is a Facebook campaign to boycott shopping on Thanksgiving. And of course, retailers are opening their doors early on Black Friday. Which has really become Thanksgiving evening.
True Start of Black Friday is 12:01 AM Thursday. Yes, retailers are opening their doors earlier. But this year – for the first time – the success of Black Friday will be dictated by what happens online. And retailers will start this at 12:01 AM on Thanksgiving.
A Social Push. Starting on November 18, Target began highlighting about 100 holiday products across all areas of its stores that have been trending well on Pinterest. BJ’s is launching a Facebook coupon program. Starting on November 22nd shoppers can vote on two different featured products and the individuals who voted for the winning product will have a coupon emailed to them.
Gift Guides. This year I feel like I’ve seen more retailers publish a gift guide. ToysRUs has long published their Great Big Toy Book (called the Great Big ToysRUs Wish Finder this year)Amazon launched an electronics gift guide.
Free Shipping. The battle over the 2013 holiday is going to take place online. According to a Shop.org survey from earlier in the year, roughly 35% of retailers said they offer free shipping all year, up from 23.1% a year earlier. Of the retailers not offering free shipping all year, 16% said they would begin offering it as a holiday promotion in 2013. A study from MarketLive finds 91 percent of consumers say they would take advantage of free standard shipping offers this holiday season. Lands’ End recently standardized their free shipping policy (to include all orders over $50) and many others are utilizing free shipping promotions.
Ad Previews. Over the past few years, Black Friday ads were leaked which caused retailers to issue take-down and cease and desist letters. But retailers are quickly jumping on this bandwagon – releasing previews of their own ads. Macy’s used Pinterest to provide a preview of items that would be included in their Black Friday promotions. Historically retailers didn’t wanted their Black Friday circulars public until Thanksgiving Day. Now most if not all retailers have released their Black Friday promotions two weeks ahead of Black Friday.
Flash Deals. Retailers are again using “flash deals” to promote timed deals. Retailers are also holding some deals for last minute promotions – outside of their traditional Black Friday circulars. These were printed and distributed at stores at the Black Friday opening in past years, but increasingly I think they’ll be pushed through the retailers’ own apps.
Multiple Door Busters. Earlier this year I predicted we’d see multiple door buster periods with earlier opening times. That is exactly what is materializing. OfficeMax will have doorbusters at 8PM, 11PM, and 5AM. Walmart will have multiple doorbuster periods as well and is again publishing three different circulars.
Increase in Mobile. Recent research from Google suggests a 17% increase in overall smartphone shopping in 2013. Google also found one in four smartphone owners plan to use their devices to make a purchase — a 21% year-over-year increase. Google expects mobile holiday shopping to increase on the weekends – especially the weekend after Black Friday. Cross Device: Google’s research found 80% of consumers will use more than one device at once while holiday shopping, and 84% will start on one device and finish on another. Shop.org survey of online retailers found 55 percent saying they are optimizing e-mail for mobile as part of their holiday marketing strategies. 45 percent will use smartphone paid search campaigns and 21 percent will utilize text message campaigns while 17 percent will use QR codes or other bar code scanning promotions.
Leveraging Smartphones Apps. More retailers are starting to utilize smartphone apps, but I expect even more activity in this category. Toys”R”Us recently launched they Toys”R”Us Wish List Wizard, an app allowing parents to scan items they want in-store for automatic inclusion on a digital wish list.
Price Matching. Target expanded their price matching policy beyond the typical 7 -day window during this holiday season. Target will match prices for products purchased between November 1 and December 21st. Staples introduced a new price matching policy as well.
In-Store Pick-up. Target expanded their in-store pick-up program to all stores by November 1st. Best Buy and others continue to promote a multi-channel shopping experience.
Attacking Showrooming: BestBuy is taking showrooming head-on in some of their marketing and commercial spots with the slogan “your ultimate holiday showroom.”
Parlay Momentum. With a late Thanksgiving and fewer shopping days, retailers are making a big push to carry the momentum of Black Friday into the remaining holiday shopping weeks. Last week Target released their Black Friday preview ads circular. Target is offering 20% of one shopping trip between December 1st and December 7th if you spend $75 or more on Black Friday. Target is opening at 8PM on Thanksgiving so most of their traditional Black Friday shopping will shift to Thanksgiving Day. To keep up momentum they are encouraging shoppers to return on Friday and spend at least $75 which in turn will give them 20% off a shopping trip in the following week. If successful, Target will turn one shopping visit into three.
Here are some great stats on how marketers are approaching the holiday season.