Strong Start to Holiday Season,  Who’s Buying?, E-commerce Trends and Other Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know—Holiday Edition

By Rieva Lesonsky

13 Things about the Holiday Season Small Business Owners Need to Know


Holiday Weekend Kickoff Sales

1—“Outstanding” Kickoff to Holiday Season

Those are the words National Retail Federation president and CEO Matthew Shay used when describing retail results from Thanksgiving-Cyber Monday.

The stats:

  • 189.6 million shoppers (up 14%/23.8 million)—a record number
    • 142.2 million shopped online
    • 124 million shopped in-store
    • 75.7 million did both. Consumers who shopped in both channels spent an average $366.79, spending at least 25 percent more than those who shopped in only one or the other.
  • Millennials (age 25-34) were the biggest spenders, spending an average $440.46, while all shoppers spent an average about $361.90, up 16%
  • Of the total, $257.33 (71%) was spent on gifts.

Black Friday was the busiest day for in-store activity, with 84.2 million shoppers, followed by Small Business Saturday (59.9 million), Thanksgiving Day (37.8 million), Sunday (29.2 million) and Cyber Monday (21.8 million). Of those shopping on Saturday, 73% were likely to shop specifically for Small Business Saturday.

For the first time, Black Friday was the busiest day for online at 93.2 million shoppers, topping Cyber Monday with 83.3 million shoppers. Saturday followed at 58.2 million, Thanksgiving Day at 49.7 million and Sunday at 43.1 million.

Biggest factors getting people to buy: 

  • Free shipping—49%
  • Limited time sales—36%
  • Easy-to-use website or apps—21%
  • BOPIS growth (buy online, pickup in store)—20%
  • Effective marketing about deals and promotions
  • Email—39%
  • Conventional advertising circulars—38%
  • Online search—38%

Mobile devices played a significant role, used by 75 percent to research products, compare prices or make purchases, up from 66 percent last year.

Top gift purchases

  • Clothing: 58%
  • Toys: 33%
  • Electronics: 31%
  • Books/other media: 28%
  • Gift cards: 27%

You can read more about the holiday season at the NRF Winter Holiday Headquarters.


2—Small Business Saturday

New data just released shows U.S. shoppers who shopped at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday reported spending a record high total—an estimated $19.6 billion, according to the 2019 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey from American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

On this 10th anniversary of Small Business Saturday, 70% of American adults surveyed by American Express and NFIB reporting being aware of the day. Shoppers now consider the impact small businesses have in their communities and 96% of those who shopped on Small Business Saturday agree that shopping at small, independently-owned businesses supports their commitment to making purchases that have a positive social, economic and environmental impact.

Shopping small all year
According to the 2019 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, 97% of consumers who shopped on Small Business Saturday agree that small businesses are essential to their community and 95% reported the day makes them want to shop or eat at small, independently-owned businesses all year long, not just during the holiday season.


3—Online Shopping Trends

Data from the Bazaarvoice network of 6,000+ brands and retailers’ websites from Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

  • Total page views on Black Friday:573 million (14.76% increase YoY)
  • Total page views on Sunday before Cyber Monday: 405 million (19.54% increase YoY, the greatest year over year increase this holiday week which points to the fact more consumers are spending more time researching products ahead of purchase days)
  • Total page views on Cyber Monday: 491 million (13.65% increase YoY)
  • Total online shoppers on Black Friday: 160 million (19.79% increase YoY)
  • Total online shoppers on Cyber Monday:138,021,429 (18% increase YoY)
  • Percentage of product pageviews from mobile devices on Black Friday:63% (increase of 2.88% YoY)
  • Percentage of product pageviews from mobile devices on Cyber Monday:58% (increase of 3.49% YoY)
  • Total orders from Thanksgiving Day-Cyber Monday:32 million
  • Total revenuefrom Thanksgiving Day-Cyber Monday: $4,238,273,483

Bazaarvoice also tracked User Generated Content (UGC) interaction rates which represent the percent of visitors on ratings and review pages that viewed, scrolled through or clicked on UGC content (including photos, videos or Q&A):

  • Black Friday UGC Interaction Rate: 25.5%
  • Cyber Monday UGC Interaction Rate: 26.1% (the day with the highest interaction rate over the holiday weekend)


4—Black Friday Retail Sales

Love the Sales , a leading destination for online sales shopping, tracked six million products over Black Friday, across 1000+ online retailers and found:

  • More retailers than ever promoted Black Friday deals—6% more than 2018.
  • 49% of all online goods went on sale
  • Discounts were slightly higher than last year, the average discount on a Black Friday deal was 32% off (compared to 31% in 2018).
  • Before Black Friday, November saw the lowest number of deals hit the online market in three years (15% less than last year). Retailers understood the demand on the day, by offering better deals on Black Friday.
  • Retailers had higher online conversion rates this year than the previous three Black Fridays. Conversions for U.S. retailers increased 77% YoY


Other Holiday Tips & Trends

5—Make-or-Break Season for SMBs

Based on shopping data of over half a billion global shoppers, Salesforce recently uncovered some interesting data showing how this season can be a make-or-break moment for SMBs:

  • 28% of all digital sales for SMBs are made during the holiday season.
  • Throughout the holidays, SMBs offer customers an average discount of 17%.
  • 22% of all SMB site traffic is derived during the holiday season.

“This is a crucial time of year for small and mid-sized businesses. This peak in shopping activity also offers an important opportunity for SMBs to turn one-time holiday shoppers into lifelong loyal customers,” says Marie Rosecrans, SVP of SMB Marketing at Salesforce.

You can get he inside scoop of over half a billion online shoppers with the Salesforce Holiday Insights Hub along with their 2019 Holiday Predictions and the recent Connected Shopper Report.


6—Green Monday

Some retailers are holding out until Green Monday to connect with last minute shoppers. If you’re looking for marketing insight, check out this Green Monday data from Yes Marketing.
I was surprised to learn that although it’s the biggest shopping day in December, only 6.9% of the analyzed brands sent Green Monday messages last year. You still have a few days to make sure you promote your business this Monday.

Key findings from last year

  • Engagement metrics for Green Monday messages were a mixed bag. Open rates fell by 17%, while click rates saw a slight uptick, and CTO rates increased by 48% YoY.
  • The conversion rate for Green Monday messages (which occurs later in the holiday shopping season) decreased by 38% YoY.
  • When compared to open rates of other sale-centric holidays in Q4 of 2018 (Cyber Monday, Green Monday and Christmas), Black Friday’s open rate of 12.0% topped the list, followed by Green Monday at 11.8%, Cyber Monday at 10.8%, and Christmas at 10.3%.


7—Holiday Trends

Surprisingly (or not) and not all businesses are ready to face the rush of tenacious holiday shoppers. While some business owners have planned months in advance for this season of shopping, others have left the planning to the last minute.

For those who have yet to plan, California Bank & Trust has pinpointed some holiday retail trends to be on the lookout for to ensure all businesses are delivering on customer expectations. Here are some of the trends CB&T would like to share:

Shoppers to spend more than last year: Although the spend will be a modest increase from 2018, Anthony Valeri, Investment Management Director of Wealth and Fiduciary Services at CB&T says, “Consumer confidence remains near an all-time high and the job market remains strong with the unemployment rate hovering just 0.1 percent above an all-time low. Consumers remain resilient despite trade war concerns and political uncertainty.”

More shopping will happen online: Deloitte forecasts that e-commerce sales will grow by 14% to 18%, compared to an increase of 11.2% in 2018. Why? Because, according to PwC’s 2019 Holiday Outlook, consumers wants digitally enabled convenience.

Small Biz Tips to compete companies like Amazon:

  • Consider offering free expedited shipping to compete with them, even if it’s just for the duration of the season.
  • Consider a BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in store) model to capture more local sales by letting consumers purchase items online and pick them up at their convenience. This can be an ideal way for last-minute shoppers to get what they need without having to wait or pay for items to be shipped.

Shoppers will continue to buy local: According to SCORE, 90% of Americans shop at a small business at least once each week to support their local communities; find unique, customized gifts; and save on gasoline or shipping costs. Again, the key factor appears to be providing a seamless, convenient approach so that shoppers can buy the way they prefer.

Small Biz Tips

  • Take advantage of the online world to get shoppers into your store.
  • Shoppers are bound to go where the prices are low, but don’t stop by just offering them a great deal. Stay visible through online and social media marketing. Use social media to get discounts in front of customers and make them want to pay you a visit.
  • Don’t discard tried-and-true offline marketing channels, such as print flyers and posters, advertising in local publications, and finding events that you can take part in or host on your own.

You can read more about it in this blog post.


8—E-commerce Trends

Consumers are evolving—and there are a number of e-commerce trends that merchants and retailers of all sizes should be aware of. Changes in consumer preferences when it comes to shopping experience, convenience, and returns are all poised to impact the e-commerce landscape this holiday season. Amit Mathradas, president and COO at Avalara, a tax automation technology company, shares some of the top trends that will impact this year’s holiday shopping season.

  1. Try before you buy will change returns: Since Amazon introduced the idea of “try before you buy,” consumers have become more accustomed to the idea of being able to try products and returning them before making a purchase. Smaller retailers will need to provide these services but find a way to do so without losing profits.
  2. Almost real-time shipping: Amazon Prime has made online shopping that much sweeter thanks to 1-day shipping in many locations. Shipping and logistics will have to become a bigger focus for e-commerce merchants so that the added cost of convenience can be taken into consideration.
  3. Customers expect product customization: Major retailers, like Converse, have taken their staple product and given customers the ability to customize it by color, shape, design, etc. to create an end product that is unique to the customer.
  4. More merchants are selling globally: According to Shopify, 57% of shoppers who buy online today have made a purchase from a seller outside of the U.S. More e-commerce merchants are expanding their market by selling across borders.
  5. Fraud is on the rise: From marketplaces to standalone e-commerce sellers, fraud will continue to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Merchants will need to put the processes in place to ensure that they’re selling to real buyers to reduce loss from fraudulent purchases.”


9—Teens Plan to Hit the Malls this Holiday Shopping Season

Are you located in a local mall? Depending on what you sell, America’s teenagers could be a welcome sight this shopping season. A new survey from Junior Achievement USA (JA) shows 35% of teens plan to make some of their holiday purchases at shopping malls this year. This, despite the ever-growing popularity of online shopping.

While, 52% plan to do shop at brick-and-mortar discount stores like Walmart and Target, 52% also will be shopping online.

The largest percentage of teens (37%) expects to spend less than $100 on holiday gifts, while about a fifth anticipate spending between $100 and $200 (21%). Far fewer (15%) think they will spend more than $200 on gifts. About a quarter (23%) either don’t know what they will spend or don’t anticipate buying presents.

The top gift idea is clothing (57%), followed by gift cards (49%), video games (41%), accessories, such as hats and shoes (39%), small electronics (35%), toys (30%), jewelry (27%), music (20%), and sporting goods/apparel (16%).


10—Taking a Holiday Break—or Not?

Are you working over the holiday? Okta just released new data which you can find here. Below I’ve called out a few key findings relevant for your reporting here:

Americans struggle to disconnect from work—even on Christmas Day: With 67% of the American workforce feeling at least an occasional degree of burnout, we all know many people are struggling to unplug. Okta’s data shows on Thanksgiving and Christmas days more workers are signing back in as they start preparing for work the next day. New Year’s Day specifically shows just how much workers aim to get a jump on the new year, with a 30% increase of logins at 5 p.m. versus 8 a.m.

People aren’t Slacking off around the Thanksgiving table—but they’re glued to email: The data shows that on and near big holiday days last year, the Office 365 app retained most of its users. On the opposite end of the scale, apps like Box, Zoom, and Slack experienced near-total drops on Christmas Day.

Travel info

Booking travel for the busiest time of the year? Tripit edges out Expedia—TripIt and Expedia’s apps have attracted significantly more customers than their competitors within Okta’s customer base. TripIt has attracted a growing number of customers as Americans increasingly turn to one-stop trip planning.

American Airlines soars above the competition: After a surge in summer customers, the airline’s app usage now shows that it’s the carrier of choice ranking above Southwest, United, Delta, JetBlue and more

Marriott Bonvoy emerges after its merger as a crowd favorite for travelers: Marriott and Starwood merged, becoming the brand new Marriott Bonvoy in 2019. This consolidation has put the incumbent hotel chains back in the front of the pack, despite the fact that more and more Okta customers are opting to use Airbnb.

What are the favorite business travel apps of 2019? TripIt for travel planning, American Airlines for air travel and Marriott Bonvoy for hotels, followed by Airbnb for Work.

Read more about it on Okta’s blog and be sure to check out the full report.


11—Porch Pirates

It’s the time of year when “porch pirates” come out in force. But package theft is a problem all year long—36% of Americans have dealt with package theft within the last year. And now during the holidays, that number is sure to rise.

C+R research recently surveyed consumers to see who’s being affected by package theft this holiday season. Here’s what they found:

  • 92% of consumers expect to get at least one online order delivered this holiday season.
  • 54% of consumers are fearful of packages being stolen when making online purchases, 42% avoid buying certain items due to theft
  • 36% of consumers have reported having a package stolen at least once within the last year (This number is up slightly from 31% from a separate 2017 study on package theft)
  • 44% of those impacted installed a camera or a doorbell camera after having a package stolen (82% believe this provides “peace of mind”)

Take a look at the whole Package Theft Statistics Report.


12—Employee’s Quick Guide to Surviving Office Parties

Guest post by Angela Civitella, a certified business management coach and founder of INTINDE.

Behave yourself. Don’t laugh. You wouldn’t believe how many people forget themselves when staring down a bowl of eggnog. Let’s ration the levels of alcohol consumed in an environment where you can’t afford to lose your mind, or your manners. Oh, and don’t forget to dress like presence matters to you. After all, Coco Chanel said it best, “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”

Make the first move. Here’s your moment. Here’s where you make it count. Just a little liquid courage (very little) and off you go to introduce yourself to the person who signs your paycheck. Make sure your drink is in your left hand because you don’t want to extend a clammy cold hand to your boss and have that be your first contact with him or her.

Remember to clearly state first and last name and do not forget to mention which department you work in. This is very important. Remember, less is more. Don’t be like a bull in a china shop. Be smooth, light and quick. You have eight seconds to make a lasting impression, not eight minutes.

Be social. It is a party after all. You certainly don’t want to be seen as a wall flower or as someone who goes to the bathroom all the time because you don’t know how else to circulate the room, right? And don’t talk about work with the boss. Pick any other subject to engage the boss in conversation with. It is considered poor form to discuss at a holiday event something that can be discussed at the office any day of the week.

Include their plus one. You would give yourself away as a corporate climber if you do not pay attention to the person accompanying your boss at the event. Be inclusive, ask them questions and show interest in wanting to get to know them. If your boss brought someone to the office holiday party, chances are this person is important to know and to include.

Make an easy and quick exit. Do not overstay your welcome. You are not the only person who should hold the boss’s attention. They need to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves. Be open, be friendly and be on your way.


13—Holiday Season Tips for Spas & Salons

Guest post by Guy Weismantel, SVP at Zenoti

Here are four tools spa and salon owners can use to boost sales and elevate the customer experience during the busy holiday season:

Seasonal marketing email templatesHoliday-ready email templates can help you easily and quickly market your business and update customers on holiday offers and promotions. When done right, email campaigns are an especially effective tool if used in conjunction with text-based notifications.

Bonus gift card promotion. Configuring a BOGO or “buy 3 get 1 free” style gift card promotion is a great way to increase gift card sales and offer your customers an amazing value.

Membership introductory pricing. If you offer memberships, consider offering new customers discounted introductory pricing. Coupled with a seasonal promotion, this new feature can help you entice new customers by offering excellent value and exclusive rates at one or multiple locations.

Wait time updates. If you offer walk-in services, an integrative spa and salon technology that updates customers on changes to their wait time, or their position in line with an automated text or email is a game-changer. Time is of the essence during the holidays, so turn wait time into productive time for walk-in clients by letting them know exactly how much time they have before their service.

Holiday shopping stock photo by nito/Shutterstock