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Trends in Natural Search

The holiday shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas was six days shorter in 2013 compared to last year, leading many analysts to question how an abridged advent might impact online consumer behavior.

Would shoppers spend heavily later into the season out of necessity? Or would they be reluctant to increase their spending rate to compensate for the compressed holiday season calendar?

With the 2013 holiday season now in the books, our natural search data at Covario indicates that year-over-year online retail sales growth for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday was actually quite strong.

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Sales indexed to Black Friday 2012

Black Friday retail sales were up 13 percent year-over-year on average, while Cyber Monday sales growth was 37 percent. Both were encouraging results, but the relative strength of Cyber Monday’s growth may speak to some interesting points.

First, most analysts speculated that the late start to Black Friday weekend would leave shoppers more eager to start making purchases as soon as the post-Thanksgiving promotions kicked in. We found just the opposite, though, as online shoppers seemed to wait the weekend out, making Cyber Monday the biggest shopping day of the year. We’ve noticed that retailers are increasingly moving towards running one promotion from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, and even beyond, leaving many online shoppers hesitant to “pull the trigger” on a purchase early in the season.

E-commerce data from the weeks leading up to and even the week following Christmas seem to support this view.

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Sales indexed to Christmas 2012

Sales growth hit a peak three weeks out from Christmas (+161% Y/Y) and then spiked again on Christmas Day (+154% Y/Y), with tremendous year-on-year increases appearing over the entire month of December.

Marketers can breathe a sigh of relief. Our data suggests that the condensed holiday shopping season encouraged online consumers to up their spending rate with Covario clients, especially in the weeks following Cyber Monday.

With a similar holiday calendar in 2014, brand marketers and retailers can expect positive trends next year as well.