2017 retail holiday outlook—insights for success this season

by | Nov 21, 2017 | Public Relations

New research from data-driven marketing tech firm Rakuten Marketing anticipates online retail revenue will grow by 12 percent year-over-year (YOY) for the 2017 holiday selling season. Driving growth this year is “early start shopping”: 24 percent of consumers have initiated gift shopping as early as summer, with another 59 percent of shoppers citing intent to begin purchasing by Halloween—a marked shift from the past holidays, where consumer spend spiked in early November.

Based on proprietary internal data combined with consumer survey insights conducted with consumer research provider Qualtrics, the firm’s new findings deliver key insights to help merchants and brands capitalize on this year’s critical holiday season.

“Consumers have started shopping earlier than ever this year, with our survey results showing that most consumers started looking for gifts before Halloween, and won’t finish shopping until December. Additionally, our data indicates that peak sales activity will start two weeks before Black Friday this year,” said Rakuten Marketing CEO Tony Zito, in a news release.

Marketers and communicators “should be prepared to capitalize on the opportunities presented by a longer sales season with strategies for promoting product discovery, new customer acquisition and re-engaging existing customers,” Zito added.

Holiday retail insights

  • U.S. retail ecommerce sales jumped an outstanding 17.8 percent during the 2016 holiday season, which then drove total retail sales up 4.8 percent, according to eMarketer.
  • For the 2017 holiday season, Rakuten expects online retail to climb approximately 12 percent.
  • Retailers should expect longer sales cycles approaching the holidays, as consumers take more time to explore multiple promotional options when considering a purchase.

Holiday device spending insights

  • Between Q4 2014 and Q4 2016, online retail desktop revenue increased by 20 percent, with an average order value (AOV) increase of 22 percent. In contrast, online retail mobile revenue expanded during this same period by an outstanding 142 percent with AOV increasing by 18 percent.
  • Between Q4 2015 and Q4 2016, desktop and mobile sales revenue increased YOY by 18 and 53 percent respectively, with sales conversion increasing by 16 and 65 percent respectively. Also, in 2016, from Q3 to Q4, revenue increased on desktop by 13 percent, mobile by 11 percent and tablet by 17 percent. Rakuten predicts continued increasing sales revenue of 61 percent on mobile, while desktop remains static for the 2017 holiday selling season.
  • AOV decreased on all platforms from Q3 2016 to Q4 2016, demonstrating consumers, although shopping more often and spending more, took advantage of holiday promotions and discounts symbolic of the holiday selling season. However, Q4 AOV is up YOY, growing 25 percent between Q4 2014 and Q4 2016. Rakuten anticipates Q4 AOV to increase during the 2017 selling season by 26 percent YOY.

Holiday peak shopping insights

  • In line with Amazon’s early release of Black Friday discounts, Rakuten anticipates the peak sales period in 2017 will start two weeks before Thanksgiving, and will continue until the week before Christmas, given added focus on shipping efficiencies and on-time delivery.
  • Top promotions for this holiday season are highly influenced by free and on-time shipping and promotional discounts that include percentage off, dollar off and loyalty offers such as cash back.

Holiday marketing insights

Highly effective marketing campaigns during the holiday selling season includes display ads, search, social campaigns, and influencer marketing.

  • Consumers who are served display ads are 21 percent more likely to purchase than not, making purchase frequency 31 percent higher than engagement without display ads.
  • Search and social marketing are most effective in acquiring new consumers where they initiate 84 percent more new customers than any other marketing strategy with search at 95 percent more and social at 64 percent more.
  • Influencer marketing creates more engaged consumers for marketers (users who come to an advertiser site from an influencer site have 7.7 page views). Also, 53 percent of influencer touchpoints are the first touchpoint in the consumer journey.

The Rakuten Marketing holiday outlook is based on YOY Rakuten Marketing data and data collected from a consumer survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted through consumer research firm Qualtrics. All Rakuten Marketing data reflects year-over-year, same-store results in the North America market. Rakuten Marketing will continue to release data and insight throughout the 2017 holiday retail season. 

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter