The 2018 holiday season is officially over, but the value and insights from this shopping period will be valuable to marketers looking to optimize their 2019 digital marketing strategies with the latest and most up-to-date information available. Understanding customer behavior and trends behind this key shopping period can help the right marketer identify what compels a customer to keep shopping after the busiest shopping period of the year comes to a conclusion – which they can then leverage into their own strategies.
In our first edition of the 2019 Network Trends series, we take a close look at post-Christmas shopping behaviors. We evaluate what motivated customers to shop after the traditional holiday shopping window, what verticals and product categories performed best, how affiliate publishers were leveraged in these behaviors, and what this will mean for your 2019 digital marketing strategy.
Product Vertical Growth in Post-Christmas Shopping
Post-Christmas shopping has become increasingly popular among US consumers in the past few years. Shoppers are typically out in the first few days after Christmas to return unwanted gifts or use the gift cards they were given from family and friends, and retailers have responded to this trend by offering post-holiday deals to motivate these shoppers to make purchases and spend more. In fact, the NRF discovered that while 20% of shoppers said they planned to use gift cards they received “as quickly as possible”, 42% said they would “watch for a really good sale or promotion” before spending their card. The message is clear: brands must give customers a reason to spend – likely through a compelling sale or promotion.
Think with Google has found that “the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are just as busy as every other day in December” with shopping searches 34% higher on Christmas Day than on Black Friday. Google also notes that many shoppers are out looking for clearance products that retailers are trying to get off their shelves.
We examined Rakuten Marketing Affiliate data on post-Christmas shopping trends in key verticals to identify how those verticals are growing in shopping after the holiday season, and why their growth is critical to building a strategy. Data is presented from December 24, 2018 to January 4, 2019, and is a year-over-year (YoY) same-store analysis, broken down by vertical.
High-End/Luxury Stores +43%
Luxury brands benefit greatly from post-Christmas shopping, likely due to gift receivers looking to make sure they get the exact product they want via exchanges or through gift card usage. Since luxury brands don’t see discounts or deals as much as some of the other categories, retailers who can offer an incentive for post-Christmas shopping can be more effective in driving luxury sales.
There’s not much to guess why children’s products and brands saw an increase in sales after Christmas – parents returning gifts kids didn’t want, or exchanging clothes that were a poor fit. Children typically don’t get gift cards or spend money they were given on their own, so parents are the driving force behind this. However, one thing to consider is that popular gifts that were sold out during the season could get restocked during the week after Christmas, giving parents and children the opportunity to find the hottest children’s toys of the season now that the rush of shoppers has evened out.
Specific verticals that make for classic Christmas gifts, such as toys, experienced a slight surge after Christmas, though less so than the non-traditional gift categories, such as consumer goods & services. Marketers must keep in mind that while toys didn’t see the surge of those nontraditional categories, the growth is highly encouraging because of the vertical’s popularity. This is one of the best indications that shoppers are still making purchases after the holidays, regardless of how or why, and the lesson is that marketers must adjust their holiday strategy to factor in post-Christmas shopping.
Video Games +12%
Much like toys, video games were extremely popular during the traditional shopping season (even during events like Single’s Day), so the post-Christmas shopping growth should be taken as a sign of consumer preferences as well as the fact that these shoppers are spending money even after the holiday season. Part of this also factors into video game releases during December, such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, as well as availability for more popular video games, such as Red Dead Redemption II.
Entertainment Stores +33%
Entertainment stores are an aggregation of some of the most popular gifts and products, so it’s not surprising that customers flocked to these stores after Christmas to check off some items on their gift list they didn’t get, as well as exchange their gifts for other products. What’s important to keep in mind is that because entertainment stores encompass a range of different products that this is a bigger indication of what type of spending customers are going to be doing after the holiday season. They’re not looking to spend conservatively, or only spend on what they need – much like Single’s Day, post-Christmas is a “treat yo’self” opportunity.
Department Stores +28%
Department stores, the one-stop-shop for a majority of customer needs, saw a YoY growth in post-Christmas sales, the strongest indicator that customers are making purchases after the holiday season. The reason for this growth is a culmination of everything mentioned above, but the reason this is important for marketers to consider is that it defines the breadth of products that customers are shopping for. While some vertical-specific products will be more sought after than others, the fact that customers are confident in their spending after spending so much during the holiday season indicates an opportunity for any brand to increase sales and win the business of new and existing customers. The reason brands need to be aware of this is so that they can build this into their marketing strategy for future holiday seasons, as well as to be mindful of how they build their promotions and offers.
Food & Drink +50%
Food delivery, grocery shopping, planning for New Year’s feasts and parties – food and drink saw a post-Christmas jump in a YoY analysis. This could be attributed to needing groceries after a big Christmas dinner with family and friends, but be mindful that many will be shopping for their New Year’s parties that they’ll be hosting or attending, and looking to provide for their guests or thank their hosts.
Consumer Goods & Services +78%
Consumer goods and services include a wide range of different offerings, but the scope encompasses subscriptions, rideshares, and services such as health and legal. With such a wide range of subcategories in this vertical, it can be hard to identify which ones were the biggest drivers, but given that many likely received gift cards or cash for the holidays it can be hypothesized that many put that money to good use through some of these services to meet their individual needs.
After-holiday sales are a compelling reason for shoppers to pick up something they’ve wanted, or they could use the sales as an opportunity to get a discount on a phone upgrade. While some of the latest model smartphones weren’t on sale, shoppers could find a post-Christmas deal on slightly older models, or use offers they’ve discovered as a way to get value for their purchase, such as cashback or rewards. The solution to compelling post-holiday shoppers with this category (and other bigger purchases) isn’t necessarily a price drop – though that’s compelling – but rather incentives for making the purchase.
But wait, the holiday season is over!
Don’t assume that because the holidays are through for the 2018 season that you can ignore this information until it’s time to start planning for the 2019 holiday season. This is not the case. Customers are actively purchasing outside of traditional shopping periods, including the holiday season. However, a good product alone won’t do the trick – the incentive or deal needs to be right for the customer. The brands must take on the responsibility of identifying opportunities throughout the year that they can target their customers (and prospect potential new customers) through compelling deals.
Affiliate Publishers Driving Post-Christmas Shopping Results
After a windfall of research, purchase decisions, and gift-giving, the question every brand should be asking is ‘how are customers finding our products after the holiday season?’
Though the channels are similar to the traditional holiday season, post-holiday will require agility on both the brands and publishers in order to deliver a seamless post-Christmas experience through various publisher platforms.
Below is a look at publisher performance in a YoY growth by publisher platform, using the same date range as the product verticals above. This will review the growth as well as discuss the reasons behind that growth.
The largest YoY growth in a specific publisher platform was in loyalty and rewards programs. Cashback sites are successful during the holiday season because they can provide value and savings to a customer’s purchase, even if the actual price tag on a product stays the same. Some brands upped their cashback post-Christmas to incentivize customers to start shopping even sooner, but even having some offer was enough to motivate shoppers. Keep in mind that the mindset of customers after Christmas – they have gift cards and cash to spend, and they’re still going to be hungry for deals on products they saw throughout the traditional holiday shopping season. While there may not be as many “Black Friday Doorbuster” deals out there, a strong offer through a loyalty or rewards channel can make the difference.
Coupons and vouchers were the second-most successful method for getting customers to convert on a purchase after Christmas, with a 25% YoY same-store increase in sales. The reason is unsurprising: people just came out of an entire season dedicated to sales, and likely still want to take advantage of any offers they can for their post-Christmas shopping. Customers value deals that can reduce the overall price of their purchase or the price of an individual product, and coupons deliver that at the right time. This could be equally important because it empowers gift-returners and gift card-redeemers to get a deal on a product they otherwise would have missed out on because their purchase time is out of the traditional holiday sales period scope (in the US at least).
Content saw a 24% YoY growth in sales after Christmas, which aligns with other observations about the usage of content during holiday shopping for things like research, product and price comparison, and brand discovery. Content has been seen as a “first touch” opportunity in many affiliate journeys, but the increased amount of sales coming through that particular publisher model illustrates an important behavior: customers want the extra insights and commentary on products they’re going to be purchasing. Whether they’re making a purchase because they’re exchanging one product for another, they didn’t get something they wanted, or they got something and it didn’t function as intended, customers want knowledge and information on their next choice. This also includes video content creators, bloggers, podcasters, influencers, insta-celebs – a wide range of different creators using different mediums to deliver the information that a shopper needs to complete a purchase.
So, what does this mean for 2019?
Good strategy starts with brands making the right partnerships and putting the right touchpoints in place for the consumer to engage with when they’re needed. What brands must do is pay attention to recent trends in their own data and optimize these touchpoints as best as possible, while being mindful of where a customer might be at their point in the path-to-purchase. What the post-Christmas shopping period reminds us is that needs will vary, and customers will seek out what they need – failure to deliver on what they need risks you losing their business or not being noticed during their research and discovery.