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Did Holiday ’07 Online Happen Early, Or Are We Yet To See A Last Minute Surge?

Even as online sales show strong year over year growth going through the holiday peak, it appears that again this year we are seeing a relative shift in purchases to earlier in the season.

Aggregating across our primarily B2C clients, sales have grown each week since Thanksgiving. However, looking at year over year results, we have seen smaller percentage lifts each week.

For the week of Thanksgiving, we saw a 35% median lift over 2006, this fell slightly to 30% for the week beginning on “Cyber Monday” and then again the following week to 18%. Excluding the top and bottom 10% and taking averages gives us higher numbers, but a similar trend:

Week Median Sales Lift Mid. 80% Sales Lift
Thanksgiving Week 35% 44%
Cyber Monday Week 30% 32%
Following Week 18% 22%

So what’s going on here?

Assuming in aggregate our clients have about the same advertising efficiency targets this year versus last, we’d expect the year over year lift to be reasonably consistent week by week.

Instead, it appears that consumers are increasingly taking advantage of the strong promotions online retailers have been offering early in the season, and that retailers are compounding this effect by strengthening and expanding the scope of these promos.

With a 32% median year over year sales lift, the hype surrounding “Cyber Monday” is creating the reality as increased media coverage raises public awareness and retailers and vendors step up their own efforts to get the word out through PPC, email and on-site text and banners.

If our Thanksgiving week numbers are any indication, it also appears that more and more consumers are skirting the brick-and-mortar crowds on Black Friday in favor of making purchases online. Again, online retailers are doing their part to drive this trend by offering more and better discounts.

Finally, we can’t overlook the potential impact of Chanukah, which can move around each year on the Gregorian calendar. This year, Chanukah began at sundown on December 4th, a full 11 days earlier than it did last year.

What can we expect as we close out the season?

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues over the next few days, or if instead we will see another spike in year to year growth as shoppers rush to make last minute purchases. If online retailers can offer a few more great deals, we may see a strong finish to mirror the exceptionally strong start.

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  • Mark Ballard
    Mark Ballard is Director of Research at RKG.
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