It’s a given that on any day of the year, London’s Oxford Street is going to be full with multitudes of shoppers and the regular Londoner won’t even blink an eye. Yet every December, the sizable influx of festive punters that leaves central London nearly bursting at the seams never goes unnoticed.
Although the ways in which marketers market and shoppers shop are both rapidly morphing due to ever-fluid digital platforms, we can stay certain that every Christmas will remain a commercial peak, and a vital part of the consumer market’s state of being. So here at TSA UK we’re very much getting in to the festive spirit and – in the style of London’s own Charles Dickens and his Christmas Carol – we’re taking a look at Christmases Past, Present and Future in an attempt to learn some marketing lessons during this holiday season. What are the implications of what happened during last year’s Christmas? What can we expect this year? And how can we prepare for 2013? Hopefully we won’t leave you mumbling “Bah, humbug,” but shouting “God bless online marketers, everyone.”
So let’s take the hand of the little floaty girl ghost (I’m basing my characters on the Muppet’s Christmas Carol – the gospel in terms of A Christmas Carol adaptations, I think we’ll all agree…) and fly back to 2011.
Last year saw a major boost  in online sales in the USA on Christmas Day, more specifically a massive 173%  increase in sales via mobile and tablet traffic – sales made via the iPad alone accounted for some 7%  of the total online sales for Christmas Day 2011.
If you consider that between November 2011 and November 2012 mobile traffic has nearly doubled  from 6.95% to 13.08%, (a much larger growth of 6.13% compared to the 2010-2011 growth of 2.93%), then we can surely expect a similar increase in the amount of shopping being done via mobile devices during this holiday season. This increase in mobile traffic is key, as mobile traffic tends to have a higher  conversion rate.
Furthermore, the holiday season’s sales received a supposed boost from “drunk shopping”  as consumers get ‘merrier’ over the course of the festive season. Although actually targeting inebriated consumers is by no means a suitable practice, it seems that now more than ever before, the ubiquity and ease of handheld devices is going to lead to a record number of sales made online via mobile in 2012. As scores of consumers – half-full of mulled wine, chocolate and turkey – adjourn to lounges to lie on couches, they will browse online using the device in their pocket rather than the computer in the next room. So perhaps this combination of lazy festive behavior and an increase in better mobile browsing conversions can help Christmas 2012 experience an accelerated internet sales growth?
OK, so now we’ve looked at the past, let’s bump right back into the present with our jolly, bearded, giant ginger ghost and see what he can tell us about online Christmas activity.
Here in the UK we often find ourselves counting our blessings every year as we hear reports of frenzied Black Friday hysteria from across the pond. However, the phenomenon of Cyber Monday is failing to pass us by, and the first Monday of December has now officially become one of the busiest days (if not the busiest day) of the year for online shopping. This Cyber Monday just gone saw records smashed as 112 million visits were made to retail sites in the UK on 3rd December – a 32% increase  on last year’s Cyber Monday sales. Notably two mobile sites – eBay UK Mobile and Argos Mobile – were both within the top 10 of the most popular sites.
Most importantly, despite the success of Cyber Monday in 2011 (with 84.6 million visits), it was still substantially surpassed by last year’s Boxing Day, which saw 92.6 million visits. Therefore, it’s probably safe for us to assume that this year’s Boxing Day should similarly break the record for the second time this month. So should this be the main day to focus in on for the holidays when pushing your online marketing strategy?
Now we take the terrifying hand of the grim reaper-like ghost to step into the murky unknown of Christmas future. What does next year have in store for us in terms of search and online marketing?
2013 looks like it’s going to see the market shift wildly as the ascension of mobile devices and the convergence of social media and online marketing enter their next phases. SEO and SEM are going to have to learn the tricks of ‘inbound‘ marketing strategies as traditional mass marketing becomes a thing of the past and 2013 is set to bring customer-centric strategies to the forefront. The response rates of mass marketing campaigns have increasingly declined  in the last few years – and shall continue to do so – and it’s all due to progressively savvier users.
Aside from growing exponentially more varied and complex, the means by which advertising is being delivered to consumers is becoming wholly individual. Social media
has greatly broadened the possibilities for targeting consumers, and furthermore, the aforementioned convergence of all things digital on to mobile devices is enabling consumers to respond to marketing instantaneously and personally. In kind, the brand/consumer relationship can no longer afford to be as callous and impersonal as it was during the age of mass marketing. Therefore, as content becomes more inherently digital and mobile, and audiences subsequently become more individual, 2013’s strategies are going to have to be about fostering meaningful relationships  with customers and engaging with them personally and directly.
For PPC marketers in particular, the most detrimental development as a result of an increasingly savvy and individual online consumer is going to be the shift in how searchers value content, and how they perceive and judge its quality. Users are increasingly becoming disinterested in content that isn’t either instantly engaging or of immediate interest to them, and content that has no share-ability online is deemed to be worst of all. Social media has helped outline the paradigm for the online users’ experience, so next year is going to be the time to conquer these new marketing channels. Perhaps by Christmas 2013 we can expect to be discussing “sales made via social platforms” as a key new section of the conversion path for festive sales?
So as we draw back our four poster bed curtains and discover it was all a bad marketer’s dream, what have we learned from these spirits of Christmases Past, Present and Future? The concept of social and customer-centric inbound marketing has been hovering on the horizon for quite some time, but it has yet to be effectively and fully introduced by many, even though mobile has greatly propelled the collision of social media and online marketing throughout 2012. However, there’s still plenty of time to adapt, and it looks like the sheer growth in traffic this year is going to soften the blow of any possible approaching behavioural shifts amongst consumers away from ‘traditional’ forms of online marketing. We can at least agree that the yuletide period is inevitably a high season in general for online sales, and it’s expected to continue to remain fruitful for many years to come across all marketing platforms.
Why not turn a new leaf like Scrooge this holiday season and start reconsidering the search experience from the customer’s point of view? It may still seem like humbug in 2012, but 2013 is going to be the year to charm the imaginations of consumers and really hone your skills within the new realms of social media and viral marketing. Much like Ebenezer Scrooge we must learn to embrace the spirit of giving – providing customers with something they like and want to share with others should help to foster lasting trade.
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- The Spirits of Online Christmas Sales: Past, Present & Future  - December 19, 2012
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