A bunch of down-to-the-wire football games have been on TV lately. The Eagles and the Lions clashing in a half-foot of snow a couple of weeks ago. And Baltimore winning last Monday night with a 61-yard field goal as time expired—football in December doesn’t get better than that.

For our customers using Adobe Analytics’ real-time reports this holiday season, the last few weeks have been like watching an edge-of-your-seat football game. Of course, it started with a lot of pregame preparation. Prior to Black Friday, the Adobe Engineering Services and Experience Consulting teams were slammed, helping our customers build real-time dashboards for the big event. Some of the dashboards I’ve seen are impressive.

Since the shopping season got underway a few days before Thanksgiving, through Black Friday, and Cyber Monday (which quickly evolved into Cyber Week), we’ve been hearing great things from our customers. For them, real-time reports are a mainstay in their marketing war rooms—with everyone from analysts and marketers to CEOs huddled around desktops and tablets watching real-time marketing campaign data, product sales, and conversion stats unfold.

We’re in the fourth quarter of this shortened holiday shopping season now, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out through the rest of the year.

This year’s shopping season may end up as one of the most exciting and innovative, with marketers reeling to get back on the field next year with new strategies for maximizing the impact of real-time reporting. We’ve been collecting data throughout the holiday season with the Adobe Digital Index. Here are a few highlights, plus key takeaways marketers should watch in 2014.

Mobile’s Increasing Role in Campaign Productivity

  • Mobile sales shattered records at the start of the holiday shopping season. For instance, on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, nearly a quarter of all online sales came from mobile devices—both smartphones and tablets.
  • On Cyber Monday, sales from mobile were strong, with tablets accounting for more than $400 million in sales or about 13% of online sales.

Key Takeaways: It’s no surprise that mobile continues to grow as more customers adopt tablets and smartphones to surf the web and, increasingly, shop online. There’s a divide growing between tablets and smartphones, however.

Tablets enjoy a higher conversion rate, and the data shows customers prefer shopping via tablet. Smartphones, on the other hand, aren’t converting as efficiently. For instance, on Cyber Monday, smartphones accounted for nearly 30% of traffic to retailers’ websites, but conversion rates were much lower. Thus, a trend to watch in 2014 will be that push toward optimizing the smartphone shopping experience.

Real-Time Reporting Enhances Data-Driven Marketing

  • Aided by real-time reporting and tools such as Adobe Target and Adobe Analytics, customers haven’t stopped testing offers, promotions, and brand messages since the holiday shopping season began. 
  • Continual testing and optimization boosted Cyber Monday conversions to all-time highs, both via desktop and mobile.

Key Takeaways: Highly specific real-time data is enabling marketers to optimize campaigns, offers, and promotions faster and more efficiently. For analysts, highly specific nuggets of data are easier to uncover. Bottom line, data-driven marketing is getting more sophisticated, and on-going testing and real-time optimization will continue to enable retailers to push conversion rates even higher. In 2014, it will be interesting to see how marketers and analysts leverage real-time data and testing to optimize on the fly.

Social Media Referrals Boost Sales throughout the Holiday Season

  • Throughout the first half of the holiday shopping season, from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, social media referrals accounted for $150 million in sales.
  • Twitter referrals have grown year-over-year by nearly a quarter.

Key Takeaways: Social media referrals made a small but steady contribution to holiday sales, coming in at 2% of all referrals. But don’t let that number fool you. Social networks are a useful tool in the marketer’s arsenal, and on Cyber Monday, we saw some social campaigns drive close to 30% of total onsite traffic. Moving into 2014, retailers will continue to find creative ways to engage and grow their audiences via social networks, but how will the influence of referrals continue to grow? In 2014, we’re keeping an eye on that trend.

These are just a few trends we’ll be watching in 2014. One thing is clear: Our customers are utilizing real-time marketing in impressive ways. Happy Holidays to all! Here’s to a healthy and successful 2014.

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