Skimlinks report: International e-Commerce Holiday Buying Trends Revealed

Skimlinks report: International e-Commerce Holiday Buying Trends Revealed
Predictions on how Marketers Can Hack the 2013 Purchase Funnel

Skimlinks is fortunate to have insight into billions of impressions, and millions of clicks and purchase decisions across different types of sites, verticals, devices and countries. With five years of historical browsing and shopping data on our hands, we have our finger on the pulse of online e-commerce trends, which we enjoy analyzing and sharing with a broader audience.

Data from Black Friday and Cyber Monday (both the U.S. and U.K version) is particularly fascinating because it’s a phenomenon that differs around the world and is a unique barometer to assess how accurate our (and other experts) predictions on e-commerce trends are. And as we laid out in the Skimlinks’ annual holiday e-Commerce infographic, the amount of online holiday spending is, well, crazy. 2012 holiday sales will reach $925 Billion in the U.S. alone, so this report covers a lot of ground.

This year’s analysis was particularly interesting as it gives us insight into e-commerce trends, but also pulls back the curtain a bit on human psychology and our online shopping habits.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s success in the U.S. demonstrates the effectiveness of Coupon Driven Marketing

Somewhere, Pavlov is having a field day. Condition people to the idea that they should shop during certain stretches, and it turns out they will. Internal Skimlinks data shows that sales on Black Friday weekend in the U.S. were 50+% higher than a typical holiday season weekend, as U.S. consumers are increasingly primed to shop during this period and await BF and CM specific deals. The idea of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale is no longer tied to the specific day according to our data, as themes of these sales come out earlier and last longer, spreading out the shopping over a broader period of time.

“Black Friday” has become so ingrained in the psyche of American Shoppers, that they now seek out the term Black Friday in and of itself as a search term and jump off point for their online shopping. This is fascinating – people are searching for deals, sometimes before specific products. At Skimlinks we monitor an internal rankings list of the keywords that are most influential in driving clicks and sales when surrounding content. In 2011, when the words Black Friday or Cyber Monday were near product mentions or links, it increased the likelihood they were going to be clicked on, and purchases made. In 2012, the phrases ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ showing up near links was one of the strongest indicators we had for both an increase in clicks and conversions. Human psychology dictates that we constantly look for guide posts to make life more navigable. Logos/Brands/Ideas can serve as those guide posts, and it’s clear that “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” fall into this category.

U.S. marketers have taken advantage. Knowing that shoppers are eager to get their hands on Black Friday deals, marketers create huge campaigns focused entirely on Black Friday and wisely name their coupon codes after the day. Initially named Black Friday because this was this often the first day that physical retailers became profitable (they went from red into the black), the phrase is now synonymous with deals.

Shopping trends are still a unique reflection of a country’s culture

It’s interesting to compare Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the world. While in the U.S. they are practically national holidays (thanks to a unique combination of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend combined with the upcoming holiday rush), other countries haven’t embraced them in the same fashion. Retailers in the U.S. are savvy with their promotion of branded deals for this weekend, and this comes through in click and sales data. Where coupons and deals are being thrown, sales follow. In the U.S., Thanksgiving weekend clicks rose 53% compared to the weekend prior, 30% in Canada, and a sharp drop off from there to other European countries. Spain saw a rise of 14%, Germany 11%, France 10% and in Great Britain, only 5%.

But wait, you say! “Cyber Monday” in the UK is not the same as Cyber Monday in the United States. True, and the proportionate rise in sales and clicks in the UK on Cyber Monday is not nearly as drastic. This year the closest UK equivalent happened to be December 3rd, and it is called ‘Cyber Monday’ simply because it is the biggest online shopping day of the year. The “UK Cyber Monday” exists because this is the first day in the office after the British have received their pre-christmas* monthly pay-check. It does not have the same cultural association with deals as it does in the U.S. and it is, as of now, not marketed as heavily.

Hacker’s note: smart retailers will run sales right after payday.
*Fun fact: Whereas Americans refer to the ‘holiday season’, the British are very ‘Christmas’ oriented and are typically only paid on the 1st of each month.

Marketers will increasingly ‘hack the purchase funnel’ by offering highly personalized coupons.

It might only be a matter of time before a coupon driven holiday permeates other countries around the world. However possible as that may be, it is not even close to the certainty with which we will see more sophisticated and personalized offers year round.

Skimlinks co-founder Joe Stepniewski recently gave a talk at the Founders Summit entitled “You Pay Now… 3 ways to hack the purchase funnel (slideshare)” One of the easiest ways to to do this, is by “Seizing The Impulse Buy.” According to Skimlinks data from our publisher network, the use of coupons boosts the likelihood of conversion online by 12%, so it’s critical that marketers know how to effectively deliver them. Tactics such as sending out coupon codes that expire and showing scarce product inventory will drive up impulse buys. When they are tied into the holidays that people know and love (upcoming: ‘Xmas,’ ‘New Years,’ etc.), retailers have a recipe for success.

As online competition becomes increasingly fierce, we will find that the marketers who smartly rely on the data that they’ve gathered to engage repeat buyers will win, while others will be left behind. ‘BIG DATA’ is a term that is often thrown around, but companies need to start by making sure their own customer data is in order. It can be up to five times cheaper to re-sell to an existing customer than acquire a new one. And lest we forget, the basket size from a repeat customer is on average, 67% larger than from a first time order.

Be smart with your customers and build profiles that can be used to group your customers in similar categories so you can share deals with them, and even better, on a one-off basis.

Going beyond customer profiling, retailers that pay close attention to who has visited their websites, how they got there and how they are interacting with it, can optimize their site to improve purchase flow. The web offers an extraordinary amount of information to help tailor the shopping experience for each customer. From leveraging your own site interaction data via Google Analytics, to purchasing data that reveals online browsing and shopping patterns, there is a wealth of information out there  that should not be ignored.

Mobile shopping and shopping across multiple devices isn’t the future. It’s the present.

Skimlinks’ online holiday clicks from publishers to retailers sites from mobile increased from 14% last year to 23% this year, over the Black Friday weekend. And as Mary Meeker’s latest numbers indicate, there are now one Billion smartphone users and the number is quickly rising. Even steeper growth is going to come from the tablet market. Phones and tablets are inherently personalized tools and offer an immense targeting platform to marketers, who need to catch up to the users sophistication on these platforms. When they do, they will provide users with the information they want, right when they are ready to purchase, which is a marketer’s dream. The time for emphasis on cross-platform campaigns is now: AdWeek and Google’s 2012 Digital Holidays survey revealed that “85% of shoppers will shop for a gift by starting on one device and finishing on another.”

hackers note: Skimlinks data shows that on average, mobile visitors on publisher websites take 19% fewer clicks before arriving at the purchasing page. Keep the purchase process simple and make things easy on the user. Convenience is always key, but especially in mobile.

In a recent interview with iMediaConnection.com, Tara Walpert Levy, Managing Director of Global Ads Marketing at Google, predicted that 2013 will demonstrate advertisers abilities to “catch up with consumers in the mobile space [...] and make strides in attribution so they better understand how online behavior drives offline sales.” The better marketers are able to attribute sales properly, the better they are at their jobs. Our models suggest that marketers are already on the right path to proving Ms. Levy correct.

Final word

It’s an exciting time for retailers. The ease of reaching customers and the wealth of data to make personalized and compelling offers is at an all time high. As long as retailers start by building their own customer profiles, and don’t overwhelm themselves with the data opportunities available to them, 2013  promises to be the most effective year of e-commerce marketing to date. It will also be the most exciting, as the tools for creativity are more accessible than ever, and cross-platform marketing campaigns open the door for unique innovation. Just don’t forget, retailers should always capitalize on cultural phenomenons that already exist.

We are excited for 2013. It’s going to be a great year for e-commerce.


About the Company: Founded in 2007 Skimlinks <skimlinks.com> is a leading content monetization platform that rewards publishers for the role their content plays in creating purchase intent. Skimlinks processes 230 million clicks a month on over 700,000 sites around the Web, including Gawker, AOL Europe, WordPress, Hearst Digital, Haymarket Consumer Media, Telegraph Media Group, and many more. Skimlinks is a team of 50 based in London, San Francisco, and New York. Get in touch with Skimlinks at skimlinks.com/contact.

Media Contact: Aaron Weissman | Marketing Director | direct: 415.426.5743 | Press@Skimlinks.com

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[...] To see the full report, and Skimlinks’ predictions for 2013, please visit the Skimlinks Blog. [...]

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