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Marketing Review for 2015 Holiday Season

The busy holiday season is gone, but still fresh in our memories. Did things turn out like people thought they might, or did reality turn expected trends on their head? Two major companies published their analysis of the season providing some much needed insight into what might work in 2016.

Experian and Adobe published their reports based on different sources. Each company monitors their own network of retailers and transactions, plus they approach the subject from slightly different viewpoints.

The first report I’ll look at is the Experian Marketing Services Holiday Hot Sheet. It focuses mainly on email marketing, but they’ve also begun to compare email with SMS marketing. The second report is the Adobe 2015 Holiday Shopping Report which looks at spending trends including devices used.

Experian report

The data in the Holiday Hot Sheet is from 40 major brands in the US, but the SMS data only comes from a subset of 20 brands. While that seems like a small number of companies for a general study, the size of the retailers means they likely sent many millions of messages when all added together so the data does have value. With that said, let’s see what they found.

  • 34% of SMS messages included the same offer as in their email marketing. The report doesn’t give any information on how well these 34% of messages performed. Best practices for SMS marketing is to make the SMS offers exclusive, and not to duplicate what is sent via email. This is because of the high value of an SMS subscriber – much better conversion rates than with email subscribers and a greater level of trust expected by the subscriber. Marketers tend to go a little crazy at the holiday season, so maybe these offers reflected a multichannel approach rather than business as usual. Either way I’m sure the individual retailers examined their performance to see how these same-as-email offers performed. I can’t help but notice though, that 66% of the messages weren’t duplicates, so that is probably an indication of how well that works.
  • 88% included an offer in message. Why wouldn’t they, especially at that time of year? The remaining 12% most likely consisted of order confirmations, shipping notifications, status updates, or account information. Thinking about it now, 12% seems a little low actually for these kind of informational texts during a holiday season. Perhaps many retailers don’t offer SMS confirmations or updates. Or perhaps they just sent a LOT more marketing messages! The report doesn’t offer more in-depth data.
  • The most popular offer was a percentage off sale. Other offers included free shipping or a coupon or code. The breakout of offers is in the image below taken from the report. Clearly some messages included more than one offer because the percentages don’t add up to 100%. That’s not too unusual. Many offers for percentages off, will also include a code or coupon that the consumer needs to use.

Adobe report

The Adobe report is based on the transactions that occur on the Adobe Marketing Cloud Solutions. Most of it relates to US retailers, but they do provide some insight into global sales and trends, including the UK.

One of the key data points from the study is that mobile traffic was up year-over-year (YOY). Website traffic from phones was up 9%, while desktop and tablet traffic decreased 6% and 3% respectively. What I found most interesting though is this chart showing the traffic patterns:

The lines indicate website traffic from the various devices. The Phone (and tablet to a lesser degree) almost seems to be responding to the desktop line. When desktop traffic goes down, the phone traffic goes up. Perhaps it isn’t to the magnitude of the desktop traffic, but it is in sync don’t you think? It appears to me that there is some set of people who always use their phone or desktop (where the lines are mostly flat), and then there are the people who switch from the desktop to the phone and back again with some regularity. The scale on the image isn’t enough to tell whether these dips and bumps correspond to a time of day or to certain days of the week. If I had to guess though, I’d say the desktop drops, and phone bumps, happened on weekends and the holidays when people were out going to parties or shopping.

If I’m right, these people are comfortable switching back and forth, which means retailers need to prepared for multichannel shopping. Creating a consistent experience for desktop and mobile users may become more important as additional people begin switching back and forth. Consistency doesn’t mean identical either. Mobile users may want more information via text message rather than email or on the website. But they will want to find something on their phone as easily as they find it on their desktop. They also expect the mobile website to work well – which means they don’t expect the exact same site, just a similar experience.

What mobile devices and OSes do you need support in the coming year? Well, 75% of the sales came from iOS (either phones or tablets). Only 23% came from Android devices. Notice I said sales there and not traffic. For traffic, 35% came from Android devices and 66% used iOS (some small number of “other” devices account for the remaining 1%).

The UK led Europe in total holiday sales, with only the US and China topping them. Germany wasn’t too far behind. But the UK led all countries when it came to consumers shopping from phones or tablets. Just over 40% of online sales came from either a tablet or a phone, with the highest percentage of sales made with tablets than in any other country too.

The Brits are very happy to shop via mobile devices. That’s something to take into next year’s holiday season.

These trends seem to say that the 2016 Holiday season is likely to have even more mobile shoppers. But we aren’t likely to see desktop and tablet sales disappear – yet.

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