Our 2007 Merchandising Calendar is presented below. After the calendar itself you will find our supplemental notes, findings, and data. This includes 11 key points to help you effectively apply the merchandising calendar to your own marketing.
In addition to providing an easy-to-follow guide that will enable you to plan well in advance for upcoming promotions, we have provided access to a wealth of research and tips that will further enhance your marketing efforts.
We hope you find this useful and that you will share your experience with us. Please send any feedback on this calendar to:
Thanks for your trust,
Dr. Flint McGlaughlin
Marketing Experiments Journal
PS. For more information about our research, or to become a research partner.
Topic: Merchandising Calendars — What are the major online retail seasons and how can you take advantage of them?
Please download the 2007 MEC Annual Merchandising Calendar
This research brief will answer the following questions:
- What are the major retail seasons and how do they affect your marketing?
- How can you take advantage of seasonal fluctuations? (11 key practices)
1. What are the major retail seasons and how should they affect your marketing?
Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, not a day commemorating some historical disaster or military invasion. On Black Friday, consumers flood stores around the United States to begin their holiday shopping. Black Friday is so called because it is the typically the day that many retailers emerge out of the "red" and go into the "black" (profitability).
For years major brick-and-mortar retailers have planned their marketing efforts around traditional shopping seasons. There are dozens of different retailing seasons in the calendar year. Seasonality is one of the most important aspects of retailing.
Each season requires that the marketer offer specific products, pricing, and promotions to maximize revenue and profit. This allows the marketer to take advantage of the natural ebb and flow of retail spending that occurs throughout these periods.
The period from Thanksgiving to Christmas is typically the strongest time for most retailers:
|Top Ten Shopping Days
||Wednesday, December 13
||Monday, December 11
||Monday, December 4
||Friday, December 8
||Thursday, December 14
||Wednesday, December 6
||Thursday, December 7
||Friday, December 15
||Tuesday, December 12
||Tuesday, December 5
What You Need to UNDERSTAND: All of the top 10 online shopping days occur in December.
Online shopping mirrors these seasonal fluctuations, with slight variations due to shipping constraints. In 2004 Gift Cards were among the top-selling gift items and web retailers have never been better positioned to sell and deliver electronic gift cards
Comscore reported that in 2006, fourth-quarter online shopping was up 26% over 2005.
The International Council of Shopping Centers publishes a monthly retail mall index that tracks total revenues per square footage across many of the U.S. retail shopping centers.
|Monthly Retail Mall Index
||Dollars per Square Foot
What You Need to UNDERSTAND: The month of December, compared to any other single month, generates double the sales per square foot of retail space.
Source: ICSC.org Monthly Retail Mall Index, 2003-2004
KEY POINT: Traditional retail statistics indicate that December generates the most consumer spending.
>> Case Study: As an example of how seasonable fluctuations can impact marketing activities, costs and sale during the pre-Christmas shopping period, we looked at the experience of one of our research partners, ExteriorAccents.com. Exterior Accents serves the consumer gardening market, offering a variety of garden decorative items.
This chart illustrates variations in clickthrough rates, cost-per-click and conversion rates during various periods during the year.
|Seasonal Variations in PPC Metrics
||Click Through Rate
||Cost Per Click
What You Need To UNDERSTAND: Key Pay per Click Metrics can vary a great deal between seasons. It is essential that you keep an eye on your cost per sale and profitability – and adjust your seasonal PPC strategies accordingly.
2. How can you take advantage of seasonal fluctuations?
(11 key practices)
Many retailers are in business all year just to be in business eight weeks out of the year. We have established that retail spending skyrockets during the busy holiday gift-giving season.
However, there are other peak shopping days throughout the year. Some major retailers may have as many as two-dozen official "seasons" during which they plan for and run specific campaigns.
Given the amount of data we have as online marketers, we ought to be better at capitalizing on seasonal trends.
During the course of our research we developed our own merchandising calendar. This may be a useful tool and we suggest you use it to more efficiently plan your marketing strategy this year. If you do not have the calendar, you may download it here:
Online giant eBay has also published a merchandising calendar that allows their seller community to know of trends in advance and prepare for specific seasonal promotions:
Even if you do not sell on eBay, this may be a good resource to monitor what is selling online, and when to promote specific products.
KEY POINT: By planning specific email, search engine, and site promotion campaigns around peak consumer spending periods, you can maximize your online sales.
We've compiled 11 suggestions for optimizing natural buying trends online:
- Plan ahead. Use a merchandising calendar to help plan your marketing (see below).
- Pay attention to product-specific seasonal trends. In addition to monitoring when online sales are peaking, try to determine which types of items are selling when. Focusing your marketing efforts around what consumers are looking for can be one of the best ways to improve conversion.
eBay provides a unique snapshot of what is selling in their marketplace:
- Use "downtime" to get ready for the peak season. Often we have seen major retailers encounter site problems, customer service snafus, or major fulfillment problems during November and December. Plan ahead during your slower months to make sure you will be ready. If you want to build a new site or implement some new software plan to do it during the slower summer months. Don't wait until August to begin a major site overhaul.
- Do not forget about the general "best practices" of web marketing. Often, making just a small change to your order process or changing the text on your home page can yield significant new revenues and should always take priority over a seasonal marketing campaign. Review our research brief archives for ideas.
Be sure to review our recent 2006 Marketing Blueprint, which outlines a 15-step process for optimizing your marketing efforts all year long.
- Offer electronic Gift Cards. This will dramatically increase your ability to sell during the holiday season, even at the last minute. They can be delivered via email in seconds and are perfect for last-minute shoppers.
- Take a walk through your local shopping center during the next holiday. Notice how they are displaying sale information, getting shoppers into their stores and working to increase the average purchase amount. Many of these tactics can also be applied online.
- Diversify your offer(s) so that you always have product that is in season. Even non-retail products are subject to seasonal buying fluctuations. If all you sell is snow skiing equipment, you may be missing out on valuable purchasing activity during your off-season. For example, you might consider also carrying mountain bikes or water skiing gear.
- Update the main sale or offer on your website to match the current season. This should be done on a regular basis, perhaps monthly. Shoppers who notice that your site and offers change frequently will be encouraged to return often.
You can learn these techniques from other sites that implement them well. For example, we have been impressed by Overstock.com's ability to keep their home page promotions fresh throughout the year.
- Create a gift registry. This will ultimately spur holiday gift shopping. If you have merchandise that is suitable for a wedding registry, implement this as well. You may be able to use this registry technique to create a natural, viral sales attractor for your site.
- Watch the big online retailers. Visit their sites often and note how they adjust their product selections, promotions, and offers throughout the year.
- While retail businesses often benefit the most from holiday seasonal spikes, even service-oriented businesses can take advantage of seasonal trends by creating offers suitable for gift-giving. Tailor your own offers to meet the unique needs of your customers.
RELATED MEC REPORTS:
As part of our research, we have prepared a review of the best Internet resources on this topic.
These sites were rated for usefulness and clarity, but alas, the rating is purely subjective.
* = Decent | ** = Good | *** = Excellent | **** = Indispensable
Editor — Flint McGlaughlin
Writer — Jalali Hartman
Contributors — Michael Clowe
HTML Designer — Cliff Rainer
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