Worrying about what beach to go to on the weekend or where the annual company picnic in the park will be are common thoughts on people’s mind during the summer months, but thinking about shopping for the holidays is not usually on the minds of many. For online retailers, however, now is the time to begin gearing up for the 2009 holiday season. With consumers’ attitudes more cost conscious this year, retailers need to understand exactly when the holiday shopping season takes place, be aware of the nature of the market, and learn how consumers think and what they are looking for.
Beginning in early October and lasting through the end of December, the holiday season accounts nearly 50% of the annual sales revenue for some retailers. Although many people believe Black Friday is the heaviest shopping day of the year, a day within the first week and a half of December actually has the highest sales for e-retailers. Last year it was the 10th, and sales were up 1% from the year before. Cyber Monday, the first Monday following Thanksgiving, is the second busiest day for online shopping, and last year profits on this day were up 15%, while profits on Black Friday, the third most critical day in online shopping, was up 1%.
Even though these specific days saw an increase in sales, last year’s total sales were down 3% from the year before according to comScore, indicating that this year in particular, retailers need to be especially aggressive if they want to stay afloat during the current economic recession. Consumers will not continue to be too shy of the online retailers, however, because they too are seeking to maintain financial stability. Finding deals not found in typical brick and mortar stores is the number one reason for online shopping. Price comparison websites are predicted to be particularly popular this year because they give the consumer the ability to “shop around” and maximize their purchasing power. Typically, most online purchases are made mid-week, but during the holidays, the highest spend takes place on Mondays. One speculation of this is that consumers carry their shopping habits over from the weekend because they are searching for products that may have been out of stock or not easily found.
Because customers will be spending less on holiday shopping this year than years before and will also be looking for the best deals, it is imperative that online retailers begin devising their plans to drive traffic to their sites. The competition for sales toward the end of 2009 will be fierce, and only by noticing the change in times and adapting their campaigns will retailers be able to come out on top.