Here are some story lines that will emerge over the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend e-retail extravaganza: Thanksgiving will be strong, as will the day after Cyber Monday; Amazon will sell record amounts of products that tie shoppers to the Amazon ecosystem; and Walmart again will show up as a strong second-place finisher.

Stephen Kraus, head of digital insights, Jumpshot

Stephen Kraus, head of digital insights, Jumpshot

It’s that time of year—when visions of turning profitable dance in the heads of retailers and brands.  We’ve pulled the data, we’ve checked it twice—we’ve found out whose sales are trending in the directions of naughty or nice.

And in that spirit, here’s our preview of five ecommerce headlines you can expect from this year’s biggest retail holidays.

1. “Biggest _____ Ever” (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc.)

It would actually be big news if Black Friday and Cyber Monday of 2019 weren’t the biggest ones ever.  Consumers keep spending, despite economic anxieties.  And everything digital continues to grow, with the Commerce Department reporting 17% YOY ecommerce growth in Q3—the highest level in seven years.  For the holiday season, eMarketer projects 3.8% YOY growth in total sales (breaking one trillion dollars for the first time), and 13% growth in ecommerce.

The 38 major retailers we examined sell more online on the day after Cyber Monday than on Black Friday or Thanksgiving.

Our data also suggest a happy holiday for brands and retailers.  Baseline levels of consumer demand and ecommerce continue growing, as does the boost sites get from retail holidays.  In 2018, daily sales for top retailers during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday window were three times greater than a typical day in Q3—up from a 2.6X boost in 2017.  A bigger holiday multiplier on top of bigger baseline sales equals the biggest holiday season ever.

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2. “Thanksgiving is the new Cyber Monday”

The five days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday have been called the “Cyber 5” —an increasingly undifferentiated celebration of consumer spending.  But as retailers try to carve out days they can “own” (or at least come close), more are focusing their ecommerce efforts on Thanksgiving itself.

Consider Walmart.  In 2017, Walmart’s biggest boost in ecommerce sales came on Cyber Monday, followed by Black Friday and then Thanksgiving.  In 2018, this order reversed, and they got their biggest boost on Thanksgiving followed by Black Friday and then Cyber Monday.

3. “Retail Holidays Expand: ‘Overlooked Tuesday’ as Big as Cyber Monday”

Move over “Cyber 5” – the “Cyber 6” is here. The 38 major retailers we examined sell more online on the day after Cyber Monday than on Black Friday or Thanksgiving.

It’s an important day in need of a catchy moniker.  It’s “Overlooked Tuesday” in terms of media attention.  Some have called it “Procrastination Tuesday,” although the underlying dynamic is less about consumers falling behind or putting something off, and more about expecting that deals will still be there when they are ready to shop.

Retail holidays have been expanding for some time (such as the ever-expanding Prime Day), but there does seem to be a limit. And when it comes to this particular retail holiday, this Tuesday may be the limit. Sales on the Wednesday after “Overlooked Tuesday” dip as much as two-thirds, although they are still above Q3 baseline levels.

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4. “Amazon Sells a Record Amount of (Amazon) Stuff”

Amazon will unsurprisingly be included in headlines about record ecommerce sales.  But data about specific products sold are much less likely to make it out from Amazon’s walled garden.

The headline here?  Amazon’s top holiday products are portals into Amazon’s ecosystem, with Alexa-enabled Echo Dots and Fire Sticks leading the way.  Amazon always sells a lot of these, but their position at the top of the list solidifies at this time.

More generally, search and purchasing behavior on Amazon shift during the Cyber 5 window, toward more well-known brands and hot products. During Q3 of 2018, for example, the top 10 search terms on Amazon were mostly generic product descriptors (top three: laptop, backpack, headphones), and only included one brand name (Fitbit).  But during Cyber 5, four of top 10 terms were brands (Fitbit, joined by Nintendo Switch, Instant Pot and iPad).

5. “Amazon Still No. 1, but Walmart Gaining Ground Fast”

Across twenty major product categories, Amazon leads in digital sales of all of them; Walmart is No. 2 in about two-thirds of them.  In many categories, Walmart is closing the gap, particularly at this time of year.  In televisions, for example, Amazon sells about twice as many as Walmart throughout the year, but Walmart pulls to parity at this time (and last year, overtook Amazon on Thanksgiving day).

Expect Walmart’s rising strength to be consistently mentioned as the first example in broader stories about “Omni-Channel Retailers Shining,” “Click-and-Collect Goes Mainstream,” and “The Shipping Wars Heat Up.”

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Walmart’s growing Cyber 5 mindshare is most evident in consumer search behavior.  In 2016, the top 10 Google searches that included “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” included searches specifically for Walmart, Amazon, Target and Best Buy.  In 2018, Walmart had risen to the top of the list (the No. 1 search: “Walmart Black Friday 2018”) while Best Buy had dropped from No. 3 to No. 6, and searches with Amazon and Target fell out of the Top 10 entirely.

Jumpshot provides online shopping data to retailers and brands.

 

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