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Holiday shoppers will find that the fight for their dollars will be even more fierce this season because of a peculiarity of the calendar. While online sales are still expected to grow, this year’s super short season will cost retailers in potential sales. Mobile and social are set to change the purchasing process. Retailers will look to make up ground by incentivizing early shopping on Thanksgiving Day and capitalize on mobile strategies to take a greater share of spend.

Adobe Digital Index analysis of nearly half a trillion visits to retail websites, representing possibly the largest and most accurate sales prediction model, is out with its annual forecast. This year, double-digit growth is expected early on Cyber Monday (up 15%) and Black Friday (up 17%) while Thanksgiving will be the fastest growing online shopping day (up 21%) in 2013. Cyber Monday, in particular, will break records as the highest single online shopping day ever with sales above $2.27 billion.

Shortest online shopping season since 2002

This year will be the shortest online shopping season with only 27 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.CompressedShoppingSeason By comparison, there were six more days to shop in 2012. While online sales are still expected to grow by 12%, the shorter season will cut a whopping $1.5B in potential online sales from retailers. Typically retailers launch big holiday promotions on Black Friday, a date that moves around each year. As a result, they have conditioned consumers to wait for the best deals and this year there simply won’t be as much time to shop. Successful retailers will offset losses by helping early shoppers know that they don’t need to wait until Thanksgiving weekend to get the best deals.

The changing role of Thanksgiving

On a brighter note, the late start and pent-up consumer demand will translate into strong year-over-year online sales growth on Thanksgiving, which is expected to break into the “billion-dollar-day” club with online sales up 21% to $1.1B. Although many retailers have announced that they will be open, consumers still prefer to stay home with relatives on Thanksgiving, ThanksgivingGrowingFastestbut they don’t want to miss out on the deals. This makes Thanksgiving a natural online sales day for couch surfing mobile users to get a jump on their shopping. Brick-and-click retailers will benefit most from online shopping that day as they receive the lion’s share of online spend early in the season. In 2010, Thanksgiving was a below average sales day, but over the last three years it has grown faster than any other day for online sales. If current growth rates continue, brick-and-click retailers are expected to sell more online on Thanksgiving Day than on Black Friday within the next five years.

The importance of mobile devices

MobileOptimizedLast year, retailers saw in-store mobile shopping start to take off. This year, consumers say they will shop even more on smartphones and tablets. While waiting in long lines on Black Friday or visiting family over the Thanksgiving weekend, consumers say they will shop 40% more from their mobile device than last year. Current trends indicate that both mobile and “local” will matter more than ever, but the divide between the best marketers and the rest is widening. Adobe predicts that mobile optimized U.S. retailers will transact more than 20% of their online sales via mobile devices, a new record, while the average retailer can expect closer to 14% of sales via mobile.

Consumers also say they’re more likely than ever to engage in showrooming, which is the practice of going to a store just to see items that can be purchased online. Retailers that offer more sophisticated, holiday-focused mobile apps, geo-fencing, and location based promotional strategies will benefit from giving consumers a reason to pull out their mobile devices and shop online while waiting in line.

With social, it’s all about the purchasing journey

SocialAttributionVsInfluenceAdobe Digital Index expects only 2% of shoppers to jump directly from a social network to a retailer, but 36% of U.S. consumers say that a significant portion (about 30% or more) of their holiday purchases require them to consult social media before making a final purchase decision. As we noted in our recent Social Media Intelligence Report, with ads in the newsfeed and promoted tweets and pins, advertising impressions on sites like Facebook are up 85% versus last year so consumers should expect to see more relevant advertising on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Retailers need to understand the value of social media in the purchasing journey to effectively use social to drive online sales and not measure social marketing by just looking at direct referrals.

New holiday shopping experiences

Losing six days will mean a more frenetic, distracted shopper — one who will need a highly personalized marketing offer to capture their attention. Retailers will be able to offset those lost days and drive online sales by focusing on special holiday apps, innovative social media campaigns, free express shipping for last minute shoppers, and early promotions well before Black Friday. This shopping season will be very different than ever before – for consumers and for retailers.

Follow me on Twitter (@tyrwhite) and I’ll keep you posted on any new retail trends we find. You can also follow @AdobeIndex for the latest digital marketing trends and insights from Adobe’s Digital Index team.

About the prediction

Adobe’s predictions come from analysis of 450 billion visits to 2000+ retail websites over the last seven years and a survey of thousands of consumers around the world. The model’s accuracy last year was within 1% of actuals due to the breadth and depth of the data available for analysis, the most accurate prediction in the industry of its kind. According to figures from Internet Retailer, 72% of the online sales revenue from the top 500 U.S. retailers is generated by companies using Adobe Marketing Cloud technology. Combining this large market share with aggregated and anonymous behavioral data allows Adobe Digital Index to accurately foresee this holiday season’s shopping trends. No specific shopper data is viewed or tracked and, as such, no demographic information including whether the shopper was male or female can be included in the data.