Christmas day appears to be a day that shoppers plan for their post-holiday spending sprees. Retailers would be wise to be ready.
Given that Christmas is an outlier in so many ways (hey, people are actually nice to each other), it should come as no surprise that the day exhibits some odd online shopping habits. What do you mean you’re surprised there is shopping at all on Christmas? This is America. In fact, you might say the digital world is bringing a whole new meaning to the term “Christmas shopping.” First, you might be relieved to know that shopping is light on December 25, according to a relevant set of BloomReach customer data. In fact, if we look at the two weeks leading up to Christmas, we see that the number of product views on Christmas is not even half (49 percent) what it is on the busiest day of the period. As for conversions, there is even less interest in buying on Christmas day. Christmas registered only 27 percent of the conversions seen on the day with the highest conversions during the two-week period. Yes, the day with the most product views and conversions was one of the miraculous Mondays — December 12, to be exact. But that doesn’t mean people weren’t looking. In fact, In the United States, e-commerce traffic started picking up just about the time folks were opening that sweater that really wasn’t their cup of tea or pulling that gift card out of their stockings. And what time was that? Time to start looking for ways to make their own Christmas wishes come true. Seriously, after a night-time lull, e-commerce traffic started to pick up at about 7 a.m. on the east coast. It moved straight up, until peaking at about 11 p.m., or 8 p.m. on the west coast. You can see the trend in the chart below. Note that the chart displays Universal Time Coordinated (UTC), which is five hours ahead of east coast time and eight hours ahead of west coast time. The data also shows that Christmas has some of the characteristics of Thanksgiving. Christmas is big on mobile, which makes sense when you think about all the visiting and socializing that is going on. Consumers are more likely to whip out their smartphones than their laptops when they’re in the midst of a present-opening frenzy or a lull in a holiday meal. When we look at product views, desktop views account for only 47 percent of the day’s total. Smartphones and tablets, on the other hand, account for more than half of visits. The story is similar for conversions, when almost half of online conversions, 47 percent, took place on smartphones and tablets. When we move on to online visits, we begin to get a hint that Christmas may well be a big day for browsing. And why not? Not that anyone wants to look a gift horse in the mouth, but there is a tendency to want to check out alternatives to that nifty tie Uncle Joe got you or that Taylor Swift CD your sister got you, somehow unaware that you don’t have a CD player. And, of course, there are those gift cards — a huge gift this year. Can you blame a recipient from turning to an ever-present smartphone to imagine the possibilities? Whatever the reasons, smartphones and tablets crushed the desktop when it came to Christmas online visits. While the desktop accounted for 37 percent of visits on Christmas day, smartphones racked up about 51 percent and tablets accounted for about 11 percent, making up 63 percent of visits. But the clincher, when it comes to discerning consumers’ intent on Christmas day, comes in the form of Datacember’s Browse vs. Buy index. The index looks at the number of product views per conversion on any given day and compares that to an average for a given period. If you look at the two weeks leading up to Christmas, you will see very consistent “buy” behavior. In other words, consumers are looking at a fewer than average number of products before buying. That’s a sign that they have an idea of what they want and are going for it. On Christmas day, however, consumers shift dramatically to looking at many more products than average per conversion. In fact, product views per conversion hit 52, 20 more than the two-week average of 32. It’s not likely that Christmas day is going to be a big day for retailers any time soon, but there are a number of lessons in consumers’ Christmas day shopping behavior. For one, it is not time for retailers to rest on their laurels. Consumers remain in a shopping mood. In fact, Christmas might be a planning day heading into the post-holiday shopping frenzy. Retailers should be ready with online promotions and relevant suggestions for those shopping for replacement gifts and gift-card purchases on Christmas day. And the Christmas day activity is also a reminder that customers are setting the agenda now. They will shop and buy how they want to and when they want to. Retailers need to do what they can to understand those habits in advance and prepare. Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.