This blog post was contributed by Oracle Data Cloud's Heather Dix, Senior Client Analyst, and Tricia King, Senior Director of Retail Partnerships.
Retailers are putting the final touches on holiday marketing strategies, and this question continues to bubble to the surface: “How do we adjust for Thanksgiving being so late this year?”
We did an analysis of holiday trends dating back to 2013—the last time Thanksgiving was so late—across multiple retail industries including home decor, children’s, apparel, and electronics. The results revealed an interesting trend that impacts how retailers should plan their holiday campaigns.
People use Thanksgiving as their marker for when to start and finish their holiday shopping. Sales ramp-up in the 2-3 weeks prior to the holiday no matter which week it falls, but decline sharply if it falls earlier, and gradually if it falls later.
But let’s unpack this a bit more.
Thanksgiving landed week 48 in 2013, 2014, and 2015 (the same timing as this holiday season). The sales trends were very similar in each of these years: Sales peaked in week 48 but had a gradual decline until Christmas.
However, Thanksgiving has been earlier the past three years, occurring in week 47, which allows for more buying time in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sales also peaked in week 47, and the weeks leading to Christmas were much shallower with spending.
Let’s further clarify what’s happening here.
When there is a shorter period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas (i.e. this year), there is a more gradual decline in sales after the peak, offering more opportunities to generate sales with campaigns.
The opposite is true when Thanksgiving is earlier. There is a steeper drop in sales and consumer interest which reduces the chances marketers have to drive conversions with their campaigns.
The goal should be to ride the sales rush as long as you can to generate as many sales as possible. The question is: How? We’ve put together the following tips to help you (retailers) make the most of this year’s holiday season and maximize sales through to Christmas.
No matter how early the decorations start going up, the early seasonal buzz doesn’t necessarily translate to sales. People won’t buy until they’re in the mind-set to do so, which coincides with Thanksgiving.
So have your campaigns ready to launch with creative, messaging, media plans, and tools all set for the week of Thanksgiving—or as close to that time as possible.
Consider including additional mail drops to drive home the message and take advantage of the gradual decline in sales after Thanksgiving. With interest remaining high for a longer period of time this year, this approach is worth considering, as you may increase the chances of making the sale.
These are the biggest shopping days of the year, so it goes without saying that they play a central role in your holiday strategy. Consider increasing or focusing mail drops on these days for maximum effect.
There are many moving parts to direct mail—from finalizing messaging and creative to navigating delivery and fulfillment teams—so it’s essential to have your ducks in a row to avoid or reduce any last-minute panic. And an emergency action plan can also pay dividends should things go awry or the unexpected happens.
For example, in previous years, we’ve seen clients struggle with unexpected demand, and the ensuing backorders of popular products quickly turned into canceled orders and lost revenue. Another common challenge is not having enough staff to handle order fulfillment—it’s amazing how many marketing managers end up in the warehouse to accommodate the rush!
The point is, you need to anticipate the holiday season chaos. It’s the busiest time of the year, so don’t make it harder than it needs to be by not adequately preparing. It will not only give you peace of mind but also help calm your teams so they can better perform throughout the holiday period.
Plan on riding the holiday wave in 2019, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Oh, and if you’re in the jewelry industry, “Congratulations,” as this shorter season doesn’t impact those in our lives who don’t start shopping until minutes before Christmas!
Tricia King is Senior Director of Retail Partnerships at the Oracle Data Cloud, where she is responsible for managing sales and solutions across the company’s Data Collective advertising solutions.
Heather Dix is a Senior Client Analyst with Oracle Data Cloud. She has demonstrated an exceptional ability to drive measurable improvements for clients. Exceeding their marketing objectives and results in the direct mail industry.