Marketing The (Shorter) 2019 Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday shopping season is here!

Yes, it’s only October, but retailers are already decking the halls and rolling out the deals in hopes of spreading the holiday cheer early on, and of course, maximizing consumers’ holiday spending.

In simpler times, before the ubiquity of connected devices and the convenience of buying with a few quick taps of our thumbs, the holiday season officially began the day after Thanksgiving. But as retailers have made it oh so easy to buy through compelling offers and making free shipping pretty much a standard practice – not just at holiday time – there’s less of a reason to wait for that ultimate post-Turkey Day deal.

And, marketers are definitely getting more creative in their methods of reaching holiday shoppers. Ultimately, isn’t that what marketing is all about?

Why wait until Black Friday?

The holiday season is beginning earlier and earlier every year, and that’s partially thanks to Amazon’s Prime Day. It’s credited with kicking off the shopping season early in Q3 with about half of Americans making a Prime Day purchase; and 70 percent of those people included a holiday gift in their order.

Half of Americans make a Prime Day purchase; 70% of those include a holiday gift

Of course, in the spirit of competition, other retailers jumped on board with their own July deals and created somewhat of a buying frenzy that can only be matched by Black Friday. And with all these summer deals, why not go ahead and get some of that holiday shopping out of the way?

While retailers are indeed concerned that the six-day-shorter timeframe between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year will hurt their bottom line, Black Friday is still expected to be the top shopping day for 2019, with Cyber Monday coming in second and Cyber Saturday rounding out the top three.

Although shopping season has already hit the ground running, there’s still a great opportunity for marketers to win the holidays by minding some of the current trends outlined below, as well as thinking outside of the box (ahem, holiday gift-wrapped box) to provide a unique, memorable customer experience.

thinking outside of the box

Mobile’s continued growth

Digital commerce has undeniably been on a trajectory of growth in recent years, thanks in large part to our mobile devices. Mobile spending share of total digital retail commerce continues to grow at a higher rate than desktop. According to a comScore State of Retail report, in Q4 2018 (last holiday season), mobile commerce had grown 44 percent over the previous year, while desktop had grown just 13 percent.

Mobile commerce has grown 44% YOY while desktop has grown 13%

TIP: Take advantage of those large-screened devices and optimize your mobile experience, so you’re not leaving money on the table.

Retailers stepping it up

Currently, only about one in three Americans are even aware that there’s a much shorter shopping season this year. But, not to worry: 44 percent of retailers will call out the shortened time frame in their advertising this year, 54 percent will run the deals earlier and 55 percent will deepen their discounts even greater than they normally would.

Retailers to call out shortened holiday shopping timeframe

TIP: Don’t wait. It’s better to start communicating your deals now, as opposed to waiting until Black Friday. And if your price isn’t necessarily the lowest, focus your advertising on the benefits to your prospective customers – the value they’re getting for their money should be clear and undeniable.

Shipping: Free required, fast negotiable

Thanks to Amazon (again), consumers have become accustomed to fast and free shipping. They expect to receive their purchase within a matter of days, or in some cases, hours. While other, larger retailers have been able to compete on the “fast and free” level, smaller retailers sometimes have to choose – and research shows that “free” prevails over “fast” with over 84 percent of holiday ecommerce transactions in 2018 offering free shipping.

But that’s not to say speed isn’t unimportant, either. Fast shipping speed was ranked number one (at 62 percent) when digital shoppers were asked how they define positive experiences with digital brands or retailers, in a recent Avionos survey.

Another case for free shipping? RetailMeNot’s Holiday Insights guide shows that 58 percent of holiday shoppers will not complete an online purchase without free shipping.

Fast shipping is the most important factor

TIP: Do we need to say it again? Offer free shipping to make it on consumers’ nice lists this year – and make it fast if at all possible.

Channel overload

While email messaging is the O.G. of digital marketing, offering the highest returns for marketers at an average of 42:1 return on investment, the sheer volume of other channels and growth of digital media options overall can leave advertisers a little lost on how to best choose the right channels to reach their prospects at the right time.

Email has the highest ROI for marketers at 42:1

eMarketer’s Email Marketing 2019 report shows that email is still a top digital activity for consumers, as well as a preferred means of communication with brands. Virtually all age groups use email, and around half of all emails will be read on a mobile device.

TIP: Definitely use email marketing since it’s an owned channel for your brand, with great ROI potential and has an opted-in audience. For guidance on other channels, consult a professional to help optimize your holiday strategy.

See also: Top Ways to Win at Holiday Email Marketing

Let’s make a deal

Before we dive too far down the rabbit hole of “do this, not that,” let’s summarize the overlying theme of holiday marketing success: deals rule. Seven in 10 shoppers say that price is the No. 1 factor when purchasing holiday gifts.

7 in 10 shoppers say price is the no. 1 factor in purchasing holiday gifts

TIP: Offer a unique deal in which customers can see the clear value and benefit they will receive. Holiday shoppers will no doubt research deals for the items they’re seeking, so make it easy for them to find the best offers.

Time will tell

In summary, marketers must look beyond Black Friday advertising (although still a crucial part of your strategy) and find a creative approach to making your brand stand out from the competition. Consumers want value, not just in the form of lowest price, but also in the buying experience and brand interaction.

Technology has enabled better brand experiences – through social channels, personalization capabilities and advanced targeting tactics, just to name a few – but at the same time has made it more challenging for marketers to identify the most efficient and effective strategies to reach potential customers.

This holiday season, there’s no doubt we’ll see marketers employing unique, creative tactics on one end of the spectrum, to dependable, less exciting methods on the other, in order to try and win their share of the holiday budget. Chances are that most marketers will be using a mix of approaches, and ultimately, consumers will decide which brands make the nice list.


Need help connecting with consumers? Contact Mindstream Media Group for digital, traditional or holistic media strategies that deliver the results that matter most to your business.

Advertising and Amazon Prime Day 2019

Prime Day is here! This 48-hour sales event of summer is primed (see what I did there?) to eclipse past years’ sales and outshine Black Friday. As a consumer and marketer, I’m eager to explore both sides of the coin, and of course, add everything to my Amazon cart.

Let’s dive in.

Prime Day for Consumers

Some experts caution shoppers to jot down their needs (and wants) prior so you avoid impulse shopping, but know those coveted lightning sales and general sales may not be the best bang for your buck.

Consumers still value shopping around to find the best deals possible. While 68 percent of Adlucent survey respondents are planning to shop Prime Day, they’ll still comparison shop to find the best deal. Companies like Target, Walmart and eBay are eating up this opportunity to not only compete but take advantage of this shopping holiday. Walmart – the biggest Amazon competitor – claimed nearly 50 percent of online sales outside of Amazon, according to Marketing Land.

Prime Day for Advertisers

It’s easy to get caught up in the 48-hour window media planning frenzy by spending high dollars in paid search and social, but long-term ecommerce media planning is key. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Advertisers should examine their product listings to maximize Prime Day shoppers, but set themselves up for later back-to-school and holiday shopping. A Profitero study of more than 1,600 products on Prime Day 2018 found increases in sales were dependent on the sales discount.

Discounts of less than 20 percent delivered a two-time increase in sales, while not severely impacting profit margins – sales of 21-30 percent delivered sales gains of 493 percent, while 31-40 percent discounts generated a boost of 767 percent, according to eMarketer.  Some of this revenue and product movement comes from Lightning Deals, which is limited-quantity, limited-time offers that can give products a broader reach/exposure. Lightning Deal prep is a perfect opportunity for companies to gear up presence – both organically and paid – to participate in these coveted deals since they’ve since closed entry in May.

Joe Kaziukenas, CEO and Founder of Marketplace Pulse says, “The lift in sales you’re going to have by doing a Lightning Deal is obviously going to be multiple times greater than if you just expected an organic lift off a Prime Day. If you want a big increase in sales, and thus a big increase in popularity on Amazon, then a Lightning Deal is probably the best way to do it. Ultimately, you kind of give up the market for it.”

The Prime Day Halo Effect

Profitero conducted an analysis of “more than 13,000 products that grew traffic at least 50 percent on Prime Day 2018 vs. two weeks preceding the event to examine how the products performed post-event. The results found a strong halo effect where 66 percent of products analyzed had elevated sales levels two weeks after. And of those products experiencing a halo effect, there was an average traffic increase of 37 percent during the two-week, post-event period as compared with the two-week, pre-event period. Conversion rates declined from 24 percent to 22 percent during those times, but given the significantly higher traffic levels, brands still came out way ahead in driving post-event sales.”

Prevailing Beyond Prime Days

Prime Day is just two days in a long season, so what’s the big deal for your media plan? The estimated $5 billion in sales over the next two days should pique your interest, but your presence in the Amazon powerhouse can show long-term growth for your brand. (Learn more in our previous Amazon ad blogs.) An estimated 57 percent of brands utilize paid advertising on Amazon, and of those, 69 percent saw revenue growth over time. When talking dollars and sense when looking at Prime Day advertising cost on sales versus an annual (total) Amazon cost on sales, you’ll end up with the better deal long term.

You’ll see an incredibly high advertising cost on Prime Day, but simultaneously kickstart a flywheel effect that drives reviews and future organic sales. And everyone wins when my Prime packages arrive, and our clients see leaps and jumps when adding Amazon to their cart.

Amazon Prime Day 2018: Top Takeaways for Brand Marketers

Monday marked the fourth annual Amazon Prime Day. This year, Prime Day will run for 36 hours making it the longest version of the holiday yet.

For almost half a decade, the mid-summer tradition has been disrupting the holiday-shopping calendar, with this year’s festivities kicking off July 16th at 3 p.m. on the East Coast.

Even with some initial hiccups this year (more on that soon), Prime Day is still a force to be reckoned with for online and brick-and-mortar retailers alike. Here are the top takeaways for brand marketers from Prime Day 2018.

A dog day afternoon

You might expect some websites to crash from an onslaught of traffic, not Amazon though… right? Well, sure enough, the rush of shoppers on Prime Day was enough to cause significant issues on Amazon’s website and mobile app.

According to reporting from The Verge:

The outage is restricted to the US, and it appears to still be affecting large parts of California and the New York as of 5:30 p.m. ET, with a smattering of smaller outages in the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the country.

Some users have reported being able to access product pages but not the Amazon.com homepage. Some are not experiencing issues at all, while others are seeing the company’s well-known “dogs of Amazon” page, which is the company’s placeholder art during full-blown outages that highlights well-known pets of Amazon employees.

According to downdetector.com, the problems began pretty much right as Prime Day began Monday afternoon.

Problems with Amazon's site during Prime Day

Somewhat ironically, I was able to replicate this issue while shopping for dog beds around 7:30 p.m. ET, hours after Prime Day began.

Sorry! Something went wrong - Problems with Amazon on Prime day

Not everyone experienced this issue and apparently, there are ways around it. According to Amazon, despite the glitches, this year’s Prime Day still got off to a better start than 2017.

Primed for growth

With an extra six hours of deals, Prime Day 2018 is expected to be the most lucrative edition for Amazon yet. According to projections from Internet Retailer:

Shoppers will spend $4.04 billion on Amazon during its fourth annual Prime Day this year. That’s a 67 percent jump from the Internet Retailer-estimated $2.41 billion in sales on Prime Day last year (held on July 11, 2017). In the U.S., shoppers are expected to spend $2.5 billion, Internet Retailer estimates. Comparatively, last year Amazon grew its overall Prime Day sales by 60 percent year over year during the 30-hour sale.

Amazon Prime Day: Better than Black Friday?

Amazon’s efforts to drive sales during a typically slow season for retail is gaining steam. While it’s still not at the same level as Black Friday, reporting from Business Insider shows Prime Day is starting to close the gap.

Cowen & Co. estimates that Prime Day generated about $1 billion for Amazon last year, while e-commerce sales totaled $5.03 billion on Black Friday, according to Adobe.

But the deals are better than what shoppers might find on Black Friday, according to BestBlackFriday.com. The website analyzed Amazon’s deals on Black Friday and Prime Day in 2016 and found that 77 percent of Prime Day prices were better than comparable deals offered on Black Friday.

According to numbers from the National Retail Federation, Prime Day isn’t just increasing in popularity, it’s also hurting Black Friday shopping numbers. In 2017, roughly 174 million customers shopped in-store and online over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, down from 226 million in 2011.

Local retailers not ready for Primetime

The majority of retail shopping – roughly 90 percent – still happens at local stores. However, Prime Day made a serious, albeit temporary, dent in that rate in 2017.

According to research from Foursquare:

As compared to an average summer week (excluding July 4th week), we found that all major retail categories saw a dip in foot traffic around Prime Day, with some recovery seen the week following (July 17 to the 23rd).

How Amazon Prime Day impacts foot traffic to local stores

Other retailers are fighting back

For years, retailers have been experimenting with ways to compete with the e-commerce juggernaut that is Prime Day. This year, retailers continued to ramp up those efforts.

According to reporting from Business Insider:

JCPenney, for example, held its biggest two-day sale this week ahead of Prime Day, and will hold another three-day promotion, called “Cyber-in-July,” starting Monday.

Macy’s, meanwhile, is holding a “Black Friday in July” promotion this week offering 25 percent off most of the site, and Lowe’s is offering 10 percent off sitewide on Monday and Tuesday for new and existing MyLowe’s Customers. Lowe’s is also giving out free Google Home Mini devices to shoppers who spend more than $150 on Lowes.com.

In addition to running their own promotions, many retailers will price-match Amazon’s Prime Day deals. These retailers include Home Depot, Staples, Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond.

For its part, Target put on a one-day sale offering online deals store-wide today. A wink to Amazon Prime’s free shipping perk for members, Target is also offering free same-day delivery memberships for six months for shoppers who spend $100 online.

Target responds to Amazon Prime Day

Image source: Target

Apparently this effort to jump on Amazon’s bandwagon is working for retailers. According to data from Adobe Analytics data:

  • Online visitors to major retailers on Prime Day last year were 35 percent more likely to make a purchase.
  • Non-Amazon e-commerce outlets saw a 17 percent increase in online purchases.

Related: Advertisers Wake to Amazon’s Giant Opportunities


Want to Fast-Forward your brand’s online sales? Contact Mindstream Media Group to learn about our e-commerce solutions.