Spring may have just arrived, but it’s not too early for affiliates to be thinking about this year’s holiday season.
And with researchers predicting this holiday period to stretch for an even longer duration, it’s imperative affiliates understand shifting consumer shopping habits as well as how online retailers plan to tackle the holidays.
The Christmas Creep
Thanks to ecommerce, consumers can shop 24x7x365 on nearly any device. And better fulfillment options allow for delivery up to the last minute during the holidays. That’s good and bad news for affiliates. Those factors enable affiliates to promote holiday offers for a longer period and earn more money. But, it can also cause some consumers to become numb or even turned off at the barrage of holiday offers that start too early or last too long.
For Christmas studies show that many consumers begin shopping as early as Labor Day. In 2016 some 34 million people had already started their holiday shopping in early September, according to CreditCards.com and close to one million were already done by that time.
Consumers are becoming a little more accustom and slightly less annoyed by early holiday promotions, according to a survey by RichRelevance. Still, more than half of those surveyed (55 percent) said they were annoyed or very annoyed by holiday goods appearing in stores (and online) before Halloween. However, that’s down from 71 percent in 2014.
A week of Black Friday?
Complicating matters are evolving patterns related to individual shopping days, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In the past these single-shopping days often dominated the holiday season. But a shift has been taking place and these single-day events have also grown to encompasses multiple days. In some cases brands are divorcing these terms from the actual holiday period and also using them for other seasonal promotions (think Black Friday sales in July).
Research shows that recently Black Friday has gone on much longer than just the day after Thanksgiving. In fact, there are cases where it lasts for weeks. A recent Econsultancy study cites Amazon as an example of an online retailer stretching out a Black Friday event for up to 14 days.
In the Econsultancy survey, retailers were asked about the duration of their Black Friday events. Fully 35% characterized it as the four-day weekend (from Black Friday to Cyber Monday), while 45% said it extended beyond four days.
What Days Matter
According to Adobe, Cyber Monday was the largest online shopping day of 2017, accounting for $6.59 billion in sales. Black Friday ranked second with $5.03 billion. And Thanksgiving Day has also become a shopping holiday in its own right, responsible for $2.87 billion in retail ecommerce sales last year.
This research seems to underscore multiple points:
- Black Friday promotions are continuing to bleed into the surrounding days.
- Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to be as important as ever.
- New individual shopping days are emerging.
- Consumers remain responsive to big holiday shopping days.
- These individual holiday promotions may be less about getting deals and instead about consumers’ desire to participate in the actual events.
But just as many consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier, many are also waiting until the last minute. According to MasterCard, the second largest weekly growth rate in US retail ecommerce sales during the 2017 holiday season occurred the week of December 17, when sales increased 23.7%. And December 23, a Saturday, was the second highest shopping day of the year. Now digital shoppers are postponing purchases until the eve of Christmas Eve.
So, it’s to the affiliate’s advantage to spread out the holiday sales since there is less likelihood of retailers’ websites crashing and delayed deliveries. But the surge of shoppers starting sooner, can also result in returns, which impacts affiliate commissions.
The bottom line is that affiliates must delicately balance the idea of seizing the multitude of holiday promotional opportunities, but not alienating or frustrating consumers.