A second consecutive chaotic and stressful holiday season is over. And just like last year, it’s tempting to close the books on it and never look back. However, that would be a mistake. There are always lessons to be learned from Christmas Past that can help with our Christmas Future.
Here are five digital marketing takeaways to carry with you into your planning sessions for this year and the upcoming holiday season:
1. Early Start to Holiday Season Has Staying Power
Bemoan the Christmas creep all you want, but October is now officially part of the holiday season. Supply chain problems — on both the supply and delivery end — have spurred more consumers than ever to buy their gifts early.
In fact, nearly half of consumers started their holiday buying before November last year, according to the NRF. While that’s up significantly from previous years, early shopping has always been popular, with around 40% of consumers buying before November on average over the past decade. So we probably should have been including October in the holiday season all along.
Related Article: Holiday CX Lessons Learned: An Operating Guide for the Future
2. Marquee Shopping Days Are Losing Luster
The Thanksgiving-to-Cyber Monday time period is still a huge sales generator, and a great time for marketing efforts. For example, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were respectively the No. 1 and No. 2 highest days of the year in terms of revenue per email, according to Oracle Marketing Consulting data.
However, these days have been slipping in importance. Thanksgiving has declined because more stores are closing out of respect for the holiday and for employees. And Black Friday has diminished because it’s traditionally been an in-store sales day and the pandemic has kept shoppers away.
While these marquee shopping days have declined, the surrounding shopping days have more than picked up the slack, which brings us to the next takeaway …
3. Adopt Wider Windows for Measuring Performance
Whether you’re looking at the performance of your stores, website, email marketing or another channel, comparing days year over year makes less and less sense given changing consumer behaviors. For example, Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping has spread out from those days, making it more insightful to examine the performance of Black Friday week and Cyber Monday week instead. In general, trailing 7-day time periods are much more useful than looking at single days.
Beyond that, when looking at holiday performance on a monthly or season-long basis, remember to include October as mentioned above. Disregarding all of the demand that has been pulled forward into October over the past two years will surely lead to artificially depressed holiday sales numbers.
Related Article: Hit an Analytics Bottleneck? Here’s How to Get Unstuck
4. Improve Cross-Channel Attribution
One feature of the pandemic has been the huge jump in ecommerce sales in 2020 — due to store closures, store capacity restrictions, and overall health and safety concerns — followed in 2021 by a rebound in store traffic and a return to more typical ecommerce growth. While that has caused legitimate soul searching about the future role of stores, it has also distorted the perceived performance of many of our channels because of antiquated attribution models.
For example, email marketing programs had a banner year in 2020 because of reduced store activity. That caused many more promotional email subscribers to click through and make purchases that could easily be attributed back to email. However, as stores regained some of their influence in 2021, some subscribers reverted back to old behaviors such as getting an email from a brand and then going to their local store to convert. Most retailers aren’t able to capture this well-established and common email behavior, so email performance appeared to suffer last year. If Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection hasn’t caused your company to take a more holistic approach to measuring customer activity, then these pandemic-driven shifts in channel usage should.
Related Article: Multi-Touch Attribution Has Come a Long Way
5. Communicate Product Availability Better
Out-of-stocks have been another enduring feature of the pandemic. For example, the number of out-of-stock messages on product pages was up 325% in October 2021 compared to October 2019, according to Adobe. However, many brands still don’t do a good job of handling them.
For instance, few brands give shoppers the opportunity to sign up to be notified by email or SMS when a product is back in stock. It’s also rare for brands to do a good job of recommending similar products, beyond the usual “customers who bought this also bought these” messaging, or to tailor their browse abandonment messaging to acknowledge that the out-of-stock probably drove the abandonment.
Again, while it was tempting to dismiss the 2020 holiday season as a one-of-a-kind event, sadly many of the challenges of that holiday season were repeated in 2021, including supply chain problems and hesitancy around in-store shopping. With the pandemic far from over and supply chain issues and inflation likely to persist, make sure your company fully learns the lessons of the 2021 holiday season and takes action to improve results.
Chad S. White is the author of Email Marketing Rules and Head of Research for Oracle Marketing Consulting, a global full-service digital marketing agency inside of Oracle.