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The Ghost of Holiday Shopping Past: How 2013 Will Impact Online Advertising in 2014

Written by: Juliana Casale, Director of Marketing

With the back to school shopping frenzy in our rearview mirrors, it’s time to focus on eCommerce’s most wonderful time of the year: the 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas. October may seem too early to plan out holiday campaigns, but in reality, you have less than 8 weeks to put together and test images, copy, calls to action, landing pages and targeting groups — not to mention analyze what worked best last year.

Speaking of which — here’s a glimpse at the ghost of holiday sales past:

2013 Online Retail Holiday StatsScreen Shot 2014-10-06 at 4.57.11 PM

  • Average order value up 9.3% in November and 13.0% in December compared to 2012
  • US Black Friday sales over mobile devices surged to 43% YOY
  • Cyber Monday online sales grew 20.6% in comparison to the same event in 2012
  • Shoppers who accessed retail sites via social networks spent $148 million online; Facebook users had the highest AOV at $97.81
  • Mobile AOV in November 2013 was highest amongst iOS users ($121.48) vs. Android users ($88.98)
  • Tablet users averaged $124.16 per order in November 2013, vs. smartphone users at $108.34

2013 Online Retail Holiday Challenges

Cart abandonment is a real concern for online retailers during the holidays

  • Shopping cart abandonment reached a new high of 72.1% last July, and hovered at 70% around the holidays
  • The November 2013 conversion rate was 11% lower than November 2011
  • Average time on site sank to 7 minutes and 9 seconds in September 2013; a new low for recent years
  • The short holiday shopping season spurred more last-minute orders than shipping services could handle
  • Many online retailers missed delivery dates due to service bottlenecks and the Midwest snowstorms that hit FedEx and UPS hubs

Predictions for 2014

This year, online retail is riding the wave of two major trends: increased sales of smartphones and tablets driving up mobile usage, and a strong year for US retail sales overall. Here’s what’s in store (pun intended) as we close in on November and December:

  • Mobile site sales and traffic will hit record highs this holiday season
  • The short window for sales between Black Friday and Christmas will mean earlier ad campaigns and aggressive bidding for high-value customers
  • It will also mean more last-minute shoppers

10 Ways to Prepare for the Upcoming Holiday Season10 Tips for Online Retail 2014

  1. Evaluate whether your customers use your mobile website primarily to shop or gather information
  2. Give mobile browsers access to product images, pricing, and reviews; give mobile shoppers easy access to their login, make buy buttons prominent, and allow guest checkouts
  3. If you have brick and mortar locations, offer in-store pickup to minimize delivery disruptions
  4. If you have an app, send push notifications about sales; try to personalize messaging based on past customer purchasing behavior
  5. Test out any coupon codes well in advance
  6. Be clear about shipping charges; this will mitigate high cart abandonment rates from shoppers who leave your site upon learning the actual cost
  7. Prepare creative to specifically retarget cart abandoners; use Website Custom Audiences to keep ads relevant to items that were abandoned
  8. Continue to advertise in the beginning of January; customers will have extra money from returning gifts and receiving certificates
  9. Advertise two-day shipping to capture customers thrown off guard by the short holiday shopping season
  10. There’s nothing you can do about bad weather, but you can focus on customer service — keep shoppers in the loop about delays; establish realistic expectations about updated delivery dates

Of consumers surveyed by IBM, 55% said they “expect retailers to use purchasing and behavioral data to offer relevant promotions.” For a data-driven dive into ROI and CPC trends from Q4 2012 and 2013, check out our Senior Optimization Analyst’s holiday post from 2013:

Read “Advertisers Go Fishing For ROI On Facebook This Holiday Season”


IBM’s Seventh Annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report
Internet Retailer’s Cyber Monday Shatters the Online Spending Record and Start Prepping For 2014’s Short Holiday Season Now, Says IBM
comScore’s Black Friday Billions
eMarketer’s Holiday Shopping 2014 — Online Trends and Forecast
UPS/comScore’s Pulse of the Online Shopper Executive Summary

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