A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the ways e-commerce sites can and should be testing and responding to the ups and downs of holiday shopping. Now we’re in the midst of it all—numbers are being measured by the minute and the foundation has long been laid for what we hope is your most successful season yet.

But all of this testing and responding isn’t just about driving people to buy right now, it’s also about setting your site up for ongoing success throughout 2014 and well into next year’s holiday season—and even beyond. You might be feeling the seasonal crush right now, but it’s important to try and look ahead, even though the results of your still influx strategy haven’t been wholly recognized or analyzed. Here’s how and why.

So Long, Seasonality

Unless you’re selling heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, school supplies, or Halloween costumes, the Q4 period is the real game changer—at the very least, it’s probably when you turn the profitability corner. Capture the information now and leverage it next holiday. Don’t and you’ll be scrambling to pull, analyze, and implement findings—and you’ll no doubt be missing some essential elements that simply can’t be replicated or culled from any other period.

More importantly, though, because of the volume and influx of new consumers, the holiday season provides an essential period to prepare for what will morph into evergreen promotions and campaigns down the road. Online shopping is less seasonally dependent than ever, and most merchants are gravitating toward ongoing website optimization strategies. The holidays are a great time to capture more information faster than you’d ever be able to during the year.

The most successful, nonseasonally dependent retailers take these lessons, roll out similar optimization strategies throughout the year, and then lean on the specific metrics to keep and retain customers come next December. Look at the example I gave earlier: SmileyCookie tested five different value propositions during one of its peak periods and found one performed leaps and bounds above the rest. Now, that next business day shipping commitment is a core part of the brand and is offered on every order, every day.

Stock Your Trophy Case—Now

Your team fought hard and had—and will continue to have—plenty of well-deserved successes this season. Showcase those successes for the entire organization. As soon as the season is over, you, as a marketer, shouldn’t wait for merchants to tell you what happened. Look at the numbers, see what worked, and start setting the groundwork to grow even more in 2014. Don’t get caught up in the post-holiday crush come January. Start reviewing and touting now when it’s fresh, exciting, and completely topical to the entire organization. At the same time, don’t rest on your laurels from a great 2013. Take this information to line yourself up for success in January and beyond.

What We’re Already Seeing

We’re still weeks from Christmas, but some of the seasonal trends are already emerging. With less than four weeks separating Thanksgiving and December 25, sellers are already scrambling—the shorter season could spell less time for brick-and-mortar buying and push more consumers online. What else should you keep your eye on? According to the Adobe Digital Index assessment, it’s the usual suspects, as well as a few new game changers:

  • Black Friday is expected to be up 17 percent, to $1.6 billion this year.
  • Relative newcomer Cyber Monday is, not surprisingly, expected to be up as well, landing around 3.5 times the average daily online take and topping $2.27 billion.
  • Thanksgiving, now the fastest-growing shopping day on the calendar, is expected to top $1.1 billion, up 21 percent year over year. It could even overtake Black Friday in the coming years. Why? Because stuffed and exhausted consumers know there are sales lurking, but they just don’t want to leave the house. Cue the smartphones and tablets!
  • Mobile commerce is expected to be up 40 percent over holiday 2012, and more and more consumers will turn to their smartphones for bargain hunting and “window shopping 2.0,” making on-the-go engagement even more critical than ever.

It’s too early to say where these trends will net out, but it’s exciting to speculate how these and other relatively new marketing tactics—think connected TV, app/in-store connectivity, and dynamic content outreach—will impact the final shopping stats and, moreover, how they’ll steer 2014. We’ll report back post-holiday, but keep an eye out for these and a host of other unique buyer trends.

For right now, don’t take your eye off the ball (or the turkey, more aptly). But be prepared to show off your successes in the next few weeks, and plan to take a deep dive into what worked and what didn’t so you can tee up a hugely successful 2014—and a bigger, better, more stress-free holiday ever come next year.

Happy holidays—and holiday shopping—everyone.

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