July 26, 2017
Whether you only ship products in the US or globally, understanding who your customers are and when they celebrate things is an important factor when planning around the holidays. In the U.S., Mother’s Day is on the second Sunday of May along with the majority of countries, but what if you cater to Spain, Romania, Portugal or Hungary? They celebrate the holiday on the first Sunday in May. The same concept goes for other commercialized holidays.
Not everyone celebrates holidays at the same time, and not everyone celebrates holidays the same way. For the biggest holiday period in the U.S., these are generally set in hard time, along much of the world, but focus, hour, messaging and shipping are entirely dependent on a person’s religious background, geography, and interest.
As a retailer, now is prime time for planning out your holiday marketing, messaging, and promotions. Let’s take a look at how internationalization can impact Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other expected micro-spikes:
Time Zones and Timing
Whether attributed to Amazon or the excess noise on the web, consumers demand personalization now. According to a study from Swirl Networks all the way back in 2015, 88% of consumers say they’re more likely to shop with retailers that deliver personalized and connected cross-channel experiences than those who don’t.
This is bigger than the Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays debate. Think timing, meeting consumer demand, and making everyone feel those warm and fuzzies when they get to your site. There is a six-hour difference between the time zones in Honolulu and New York City. More simply, between the West Coast and East Coast there is a three-hour time difference (four, if it’s daylight savings time), with even a single hour impacting when consumers buy online, when a sales email prompt may be most effective, and when it’s time to take the Christmas lights down from your site. You wouldn’t send the same exact marketing driven email to your entire list, would you? Most of this should seem like common sense these days, but it never hurts to set yourself a reminder for timing of new promotions.
There is one last, very time-sensitive focus to keep in mind during the holidays: shipping. Until every brand can acquire their own fleet of drones or self-driving trucks, we’re going to be dependent on our shipping partners. With that, it means leading up to the holidays there are very distinct timelines for when gifts and items need to be shipped in order to make it in the hands of their designated customer. Not only are shipping windows time sensitive and require geotargeting, they’re also typically the last micro-spikes for sales before the actual holidays land. Just remember to factor shipping times into your personalization plans.
The Rise of Branded Holidays
For nearly a decade, China-based Alibaba has celebrated a sort of made up holiday that has turned into a giant success. Singles Day, a holiday that occurs on November 11 due to the combination of ones (11/11), has a few origin stories, but, in terms of eCommerce, it has become Alibaba’s largest success story, with others following suit. In fact, last year the festival became the largest online shopping sales day in the world. Between Alibaba, Tmall, and Taobao (all owned by the same company) they drove $17.8 billion in sales in 2016, and the year before $14.3 billion.
If the concept sounds familiar that’s because the now popular Amazon Prime Day is an offshoot of this concept, and it too has resulted in huge gains for the company. Not only was the third annual Prime Day a huge success for Amazon, the 30-hour event became the company’s best sales day in its history, beating out both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Following suit, brands like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart also jumped into the action offering price matching and similar merchandise.
While J. Crew may not have created a sales themed holiday this year, their “National Stripes Day” did generate some brand awareness. For the occasion, the company released two new shirts and set a fashion trend for March 31 that would have people wearing stripes all around you.
Other brands also tested the water with similar approaches, especially around the holidays. The days of regular Black Friday and Cyber Monday are becoming a thing of the past, with many expanding these into week or month long sales periods. While stretching the holidays is probably good for traffic, it also reduces the urgency to drive people to make a purchase; however, revenue and sales numbers don’t lie for these brands. Starting in 2015, ModCloth mashed the two holidays into a month-long sales extravaganza with noticeable gains, as did Newegg with their “Black November” concept.
On the contrary, Patagonia saw substantial gains from an “anti-Black Friday” approach. Their mission-oriented business brought forth a new concept starting in 2014 when they launched an app designed to swap used gear rather than to buy new stuff. Then in 2015, the company helped customers repair old gear, and in 2016 they donated 100% of the sales to grassroots environmental organizations.
As more eCommerce brands realize the potential for creating their own branded holidays beyond flash sales and holiday specific sales, we’re going to see others following suit. The major benefit to these kinds of events is that they can become a global focus, rather than based on geography, giving retailers more opportunities to personalize and increase conversion.
About Elliot Volkman and Blue Acorn
Elliot is Blue Acorn's Digital Marketing Manager. He holds a master's degree in communication from Gonzaga, and holds several awards for journalism and marketing. Blue Acorn, Magento’s 2015 Partner of the Year, is an agency dedicated to maximizing client satisfaction and online revenue for leading B2C and B2B brands.