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February 07, 2013

Holiday Lessons Learned Blog Series: Part 1 Overall and Mobile

Now that the holiday fervor has ended and the New Year’s Eve confetti settled, we’re taking a long look at Q4 2012, how it compared to Q4 2011, and what takeaways we can apply to 2013. 


For context, 2011 saw an aggressive “Christmas Creep” with sales growth elevating in early November and holding pretty steady through December.  According to comScore, 2011 holiday sales were up 15%, right in line with its prediction.  ChannelAdvisor customers achieved overall growth of 23% in 2011, exceeding the industry as a whole. 

2012 Holiday in ReviewU shaped

ChannelAdvisor CEO Scot Wingo pointed out an interesting trend in 2012; for the first time since we’ve begun tracking holiday data we had a “U-Shaped” year. 

While we don't report on category data, when we piece together our same-store sales reports through the holiday, we saw an interesting “U” shape that had three parts:

1. Early surge - Driven by Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday (what we call the Cyber Five) promos and early-shopping consumers, we saw an early surge in sales.

2. A mid-December lull - From around Dec 7 - 18 it was unusually quiet this year, which many speculated was due to the looming fiscal cliff and tragic news stories. 

3. Procrastinator pop - From Dec 19-22 we saw an interesting pop in orders that we haven't seen as pronounced in past years.

When you put those three together, you get an interesting U shape.  Scot suggests the procrastinator pop shows that people really trust e-commerce shipments/delivery more than they ever have in the past - as narrow as 1-2 days.

Past holidays had more of a down to the right type shape, so this year the dip and the procrastinator pop at the end were new trends.

Lesson Learned: It ain’t over till it’s over. And even then, it may not be over.

The key takeaway from 2012 is that retailers have to be ever diligent to make sure their paid search ads are populating properly, they are bidding for the best keywords, their inventory is up-to-date, their shipping is timely, etc.  Consumers are becoming more comfortable with e-commerce, so retailers need to maintain that level of confidence with speedy delivery and good customer service.  There is no down time during the holidays; and post-Christmas sales are not to be ignored either. 

Our retailers in the UK and AU, where Boxing Day is celebrated, experienced impressive same-store sales growth on Boxing Day.  For the UK, Boxing Day SSS were up 49.4% on eBay, and 44.7% on Amazon.  Down Under, eBay SSS were up 47.6% on Boxing Day. 


While 2011 saw an interesting uptick in mobile usage (smartphones and tablets), 2012 showed a big jump in the trend as 30.7% of Cyber Five sales were via mobile devices! 

As you can see from the chart below comparing Cyber Five 2011 to Cyber Five 2012, there is a noticeable trend of decline in computer sales in favor of smartphones and tablets.  

  Cyber 5 Computer Mobile Breakdown

The chart below does an even better job showing how computer sales could be heading toward a crossing point with mobile sales.  What’s interesting to note is that the delta between 2011 and 2012 for Computer sales is 13.6 percentage points, and the delta for mobile sales is 13.5 percentage points; however, the percentage increase for mobile sales is 78%, compared with a 16% decline for computer sales.

Computer vs. mobile sales

But the mobile shopping didn’t stop with the Cyber Five.  Many shoppers did a lot of shopping on their smartphones while out in brick-and-mortar stores—75% shopped in store according to a survey by Google. 

Retailers were ready this holiday season; many (Target, Best Buy) offered price-matching to online offers, according to the WSJ and The Verge.  Target has even taken it one step further by agreeing to match prices year round, though the company admits that few shoppers take advantage of the price matching.  Best Buy has reported its holiday figures, and Morningstar Analyst R.J. Hottovy thinks that the online price matching helped boost sales, despite the company’s 1.4% holiday SSS decline.

Internet Retailer magazine talked to several retailers to get their take on the holiday. ShoeBuy (a ChannelAdvisor customer) said that it got 10% of holiday traffic from smartphones and another 10% from Tablets.  Newegg even reported that mobile revenue was up by double-digits. 

According to Google, there was a 173% increase in shopping via mobile devices on Christmas Day.  

Lesson Learned: Mobile is here.  Be ready and optimized.

People shop on Smartphones while they are on the go (Google); make sure your mobile site loads quickly, especially images, to keep their interest.  Design for touch screens—make your buttons big enough that shoppers can click easily. 

How To Go Mo has an excellent list of Mobile Best Practices including: make it easy to convert, simplify navigation, design for visibility and more. 

Also, check out this blog post from our very own David Monterosso: Attracting and Engaging Tablet Shoppers.

Blog post by Delisa Reavis, Sr. Mgr. Global Corp. Comm.; Marketing Director, APAC


holiday-calendar-2013Looking for more ways to get ahead in 2013? Check out our Essential Dates for 2013: A Retailer's Calendar to keep track of important dates, holidays and industry events. 

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