On Holiday Shopping, Free Shipping and E-Commerce Marketing

On Holiday Shopping, Free Shipping and E-Commerce Marketing


Now that the holiday shopping season is finally over, the time has come to take a look back and see who did well and who did poorly, examine what worked for retailers and what failed them. It is true that we won’t be able to put together the complete picture of what went on until we have all the data, but we do have enough to give us some kind of an idea. We also know that the holiday season has already taken one high-profile victim, which could not prevent hackers from stealing the credit card account information of tens of millions of its customers. Now Target is bracing itself for a tidal wave of class-action suits and governmental scrutiny. For the record, this blogger is sympathetic to the retailer’s plight.


But let’s not digress. This morning I came across a beautiful interactive infographic created by the Commerce Monks, which visualizes the way e-commerce retailers approached this holiday shopping season. It illustrates what online merchants believed were their top marketing channels and most successful promotional tactics. It also shows us a breakdown of the weekly e-commerce holiday sales for the past two years, which is very likely to prove a good base for extrapolating this year’s stats. Oh, and did you know that 17 December is “Free Shipping Day”? It turns out that it is the last day on which most e-tailers offer free shipping on orders to arrive by Christmas day. So let’s take a look at this one and another infographic, which expands on the shipping stats.

Santa’s Gift to E-Tailers


Let’s begin with the raw sales numbers. Citing data from several highly authoritative sources, the authors have produced a chart of the e-commerce sales volumes for the past three holiday seasons in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, showing strong growth in each country.


Santa's Gift to E-Tailers

Holiday Sales by the Week


Now here is a breakdown of the holiday season’s weekly sales volumes for 2011 and 2012. As noted, Cyber Monday is the busiest online shopping day in the U.S. and the U.K., and “Click Frenzy” — its Australian counterpart — is the biggest shopping day in the Land Down Under.


Holiday Sales by the Week


And just to make sure that their point isn’t somehow missed, the authors have produced this holiday shopping calendar, highlighting the “high selling days for 2013”:


Holiday Sales by the Week

Email Is Most Valuable E-Commerce Marketing Channel


Online marketers rate email as the top e-commerce marketing channel, although its share of the votes has fallen from 2011 to 2012. In fact, that could be said about most other marketing channels. Mobile is one of the few items on the list to have gained in perceived value, with SMS and “sending offline traffic online” being the other two.


Email Is Most Valuable E-Commerce Marketing Channel

Free Shipping Is Most Successful Promotional Tactic


In the U.S., free standard shipping is far and away the highest-rated promotional tactic for the holiday shopping season, with two categories of coupons coming in distant second and third.


Free Shipping Is Most Successful Promotional Tactic


As it happens, another infographic, this one produced by Stipso, shows us the last days available for shipping if an order is to arrive by Christmas, across dozens of U.S. carriers. As you see, FedEx’s same-day delivery wins this battle.


Free Shipping Is Most Successful Promotional Tactic

Dealing with “Omni-Channel” Retail


Marketers need to create a “system of engagement”, the Commerce Monks advise us, to coordinate their efforts across all sales channels and offer some data to convince us.


Dealing with "Omni-Channel" Retail

The Takeaway


Finally, the authors leave us with a list of six “key takeaways” from the e-commerce holiday shopping season, with the rise of mobile commerce leading the way. Here it is:


The Takeaway


Image credit: The Commerce Monks.

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