Lessons from the Online Holiday Season Past

If you waited until Thanksgiving to begin promoting your holiday offerings online, you waited about a month too long. According to a study from Oneupweb based on data from more than a million consumers, the online holiday shopping season started in October.

For its white paper, “2006 Holiday Online Retail Buying Trends,” search marketing services firm Oneupweb evaluated traffic, sales, and conversion rates week by week from the last week in September through the end of the year. Though Cyber Monday—the Monday after Thanksgiving—lived up to expectations, with high traffic and conversion rates, it did not mark the launch of the holiday shopping season online, according to the study. Instead, Halloween is a more appropriate marker of the holiday season launch date, although the study noted that some retailers may see increased activity or interest in holiday items earlier in October.

Web traffic, conversion rates, and sales began increasing concurrently during the final full week of October (Oct. 23-29). That week saw a 14.2% increase in traffic, a 15.7% increase in conversion rates, and a 9.8% increase in total sales.

Holiday traffic, sales, and conversion rates were expected to continue to rise throughout November and December, peaking during the weeks from Dec. 4 through Dec. 17 and dropping the week prior to Christmas. The study showed, however, that sales and traffic levels the week before Christmas were still higher than for the base week—sales, in fact, were substantially higher.

Oneupweb attributed the strong sales for the week of Dec. 17 to the need for consumers who hadn’t found what they wanted in bricks-and-mortar locations to go directly to the brands they desire online.

What’s more, there was a 36% decline in conversion rates the week of Thanksgiving. According to Oneupweb, this may be indicative of an increase in online comparison shopping in preparation Thanksgiving weekend trips to the malls as well as for Cyber Monday. What’s more, many people who shop at work were busy completing business before Thanksgiving or out of the office that week, and some shoppers suspected that prices would be lower after Thanksgiving.

The week of Nov. 27-Dec. 3, however, showed a 35.6% increase in traffic, conversion rates up 28.7%, and total sales up 63.1% from the week of Thanksgiving. And the week of Dec. 4-Dec. 10 saw traffic rise another 81%, conversion rates up 94.2%, and total sales up 198.6%.

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