In the End, will this Holiday Shopping Season be “Ho Hum” or “Ho, Ho, Ho!”?

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The dust is settling from 2019’s initiation of annual holiday spending and the analysts are busy evaluating and declaring the winners and losers of this year’s big game. For those whose life’s profession is marketing, the results of post-Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday consumer shopping are as anticipated as the arrival of Santa Claus on December 25. While this may be a sad state of social behavior for many, the results of consumer spending for this important sales period often determine the fate of marketing professionals. The early results are already a matter of history and range from “Ho Hum” to “Ho, Ho, Ho!” to “I told you so!”

As easily predicted, E-commerce retailers continue to be the biggest winners on Black Friday. Digital sales were up nearly 20%, reaching $7.4 billion for the break-out period. Shop online and pick-up in store purchases rose by 43 percent over last year. The strategy of combining online channels with traditional brick and mortar retailing appears to be a winning play.

Some brick and mortar retailers continue to experience a decline in the total numbers of consumers who venture onto the street for their gift giving purchasing, but consumers who did spent 1.6 percent more than last year. Mike Sansone from A.T. Kearney said, “My sense is that the winners continue to be those retailers that can offer a broad assortment, but also the combination of online and brick and mortar. Some of these retailers are realizing that they have to leverage promotions to drive traffic. I will be curious to see whether that additional 10% is enough to drive you to the store.”

The good news for this retail segment is that Small Business Saturday posted a record $3.6 billion, with strong performances spread over both large and small retailers. According to a spokesperson from Publicis Sapient, “The holidays are still a very social time. People seek out experiences, they want the winter wonderlands, and you can’t get that online. That’s still part of the culture, that portion of it is still healthy. The question is still whether people buy when they’re in there, or not. That’s where deals come in.” The best performance for traditional retailers continues to be rooted in their ability to produce a desirable social experience for today’s consumer. The “I told you so” award this season clearly goes to those that predicted the effect of mobile and social on the holiday sales performance.

Consumers turned to mobile devices and social media platforms in record numbers this year. Seventy-three percent of all digital traffic came from a mobile device as mobile buying reached 56%. Social media influenced a record number of purchases the day before Thanksgiving, leading many marketing professionals to predict a continued, bright future for social media channels. It appears that digitally savvy retailers are beginning to reap the benefits of a well-developed digital and mobile marketing strategy. “This is the year that will go down in the history books as the tipping point between digital and real world,” says Jon Reily, head of global commerce strategy at Publicis Sapient. “We knew it was coming and 2019 is the year.”

The Holiday Shopping Season is still in progress. For those players who front-loaded their marketing spend, the season’s final results may be diminished as retailers who took a more season-long strategy may reap a greater benefit from season ending consumer sales. Who was it that said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over?”

 

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