NetElixir’s Complete Guide To The 2023 Holiday Season

NetElixir's 2023 holiday readiness logo

The 2023 holiday season marks NetElixir’s 16th annual holiday forecast. A cornerstone of our forecast is our e-commerce holiday calendar, which details the expected online sales volume of crucial days throughout the holiday season. Marketers can use this calendar to know when their customers are more likely to be active online so they can more effectively schedule their most attractive holiday promotions and maintain their budget. Our e-commerce holiday calendar is especially crucial this year, as this year is a longer holiday season, with extra days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day compared to prior years.

NetElixir’s Holiday Forecast: 9% YoY growth this year.

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2023 Holiday Trends Marketers Should Know

Securing Attractive Deals

Customers are deal-hunting this season so keep promotions rolling. Consider discounting a different product or product category each week to entice customers to return to your brand. To encourage more units per order, leverage hyper-personalization and AI on top product and category pages and frequent nudges to influence shopping behavior.

We’re seeing a decreasing pool of pandemic-era savings and the highest every point of outstanding credit balances; there is not as much cash flow as customers had in prior years, so they will be extra vigilant about securing the best deal and sticking to a budget. Keep an eye on different trends to ensure your product portfolio is evolving, relevant, and in line with changing customer preferences.

Recent Online Sales Boost

Since the latter half of August, NetElixir has noted upward trending online sales. Back-to-school sales have been fairly strong and are always a good indicator of how holiday sales will fare. The holidays may continually show a demand spike around sales events before a significant post-holiday slump. Sales events, like Amazon’s second Prime Day (Early Access) trigger a surge in demand, but also see a significant, post-event sales drop. Keep promotions consistent to balance out early holiday shopping and the long-term bargain hunters.

Role of Mobile

The role of mobile in searches and orders is only growing. Between comparison checks with other online offers while browsing in store, downloading apps for exclusive deals, mobile-only offers, and simple convenience, people are opting to shop from their mobile phone more often. Categories like beauty and apparel have seen the most notable rise of mobile orders within NetElixir’s dataset.

Expanding Customer Journey

So many factors, influences, and touchpoints go into every purchase, so it is important for brands to be wherever their customers are searching and shopping. We expect marketplaces and retail media to account for 55-58% of total online holiday sales this year. TikTok emerged as 2022’s hottest advertising channel, rivaling Google and Meta, so we expect the social commerce trend to continue.

As 2023 is the first truly AI-powered holiday season, it is important for brands to leverage AI to create hyper personalized content to engage with customers and nudge them along the funnel.

What We Learned From The 2022 Holiday Season

Key e-commerce trends from the 2022 holiday season include:

  • Customers are increasingly savvy shoppers — if sales were not up to their expectations, they did not make a purchase.
  • The holiday season is only expanding. Customers are getting headstarts on their shopping with lucrative deals in September and October in hopes of avoiding inventory issues and stretching their budget to cover bigger gifts. The second Amazon Prime Day (Early Access) in October has become a new norm to kickstart holiday shopping.
  • Performance Max campaigns accounted for 48% of paid search orders during Cyber 5 2022 and will continue to play a crucial role in brands’ advertising strategy.
  • Flexible financing options, such as BNPL and BOPIS, drove a high percentage of last-minute sales as customers liked the assurance of having the perfect gift now.

A Breakdown Of NetElixir’s 2023 Holiday E-Commerce Forecast

We feel cautiously optimistic going into the 2023 holiday season.

For the week of November 12th, we predict strong teaser promotions spurred by sales events leading into Black Friday and the rest of Cyber 5. These teaser promotions and previews will be the next step from pre-holiday promotions that began in September and October to get people excited about their Black Friday must-have lists.

We foresee Black Friday promotions beginning the Monday before Thanksgiving on November 19th. As we saw last year during Cyber 5, (which starts on Thanksgiving Day and lasts until Cyber Monday), we expect week-long Black Friday deals that highlight a specific product or category each day. We believe the trend of deep discounting will continue throughout the entire week and that brands will get creative with their specific promotions to keep customers engaged.

The last week of November and first week of December will be highly competitive; however, there will be ample opportunities to capture consumer demand, so a powerful marketing strategy — as well as a backup plan to stay agile — will be necessary. Some large retailers may test creative promotional strategies this week or run special mini-holiday deals of their own. Smaller businesses will need to remain nimble and be ready with their game plans to seize any opportunities they can. 

During the week of December 10th, we expect BNPL (buy-now-pay-later) models to continue to be a prime driver of online growth. BNPL started to pick up traction in the beginning of the year and we expect momentum to continue with a 20-25% increase in BNPL compared to H1 2023.

The week of December 17th, a day or two before the last shipping day, will most likely see a rise in BOPIS commerce. Many retailers will begin lowering their ad spend this week to better ensure online orders arrive in time for Christmas morning. However, this could be a time for smaller brands to promote their BOPIS options or brick-and-mortar offerings, so be sure to showcase every advantage your store has and leverage the greater online activity inspired by big brand deals and last-minute frenzies. However, inventory issues are likely to persist this week as many retailers stocked up early; be sure to keep your website updated with what you have in stock and offer alternatives for popular sold out items.

Finally, deep discounts on post-holiday inventory will influence the “Me-Buy” week following Christmas and leading up to New Year’s Day. Consider changing your promotional language to highlight your sales and cater to your high-value customers’ self interest.

Methodology Behind Our E-Commerce Forecast

Since 2013, NetElixir has been releasing our E-Commerce Holiday Calendar to forecast the day-by-day online sales volume to help marketers create an effective holiday strategy. We aggregate and analyze weekly data of website visits, website sales, channel-wise investments, and CPC data across different retail industries within our dataset. We track this data throughout the year, segregating based on device, and compare it to the previous years’ week-wise key metrics. Using our proprietary AI-powered customer intelligence platform, LXRInsights, to track and analyze the real-time weekly data.

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