Marketers Prepare For Shortened Holiday Shopping Season

This year marketers face a shorter holiday season. Hanukkah begins at sundown Nov. 27, followed by Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday all within seven days, which puts seasonal shopping into December. Some believe the shortened schedule will hurt sales, but experts from Google and others have tips to keep profits singing.

"The condensed time between Thanksgiving and Christmas means that consumers will feel more pressure to shop for the same list in less time," said Steve Arthur, head of industry for retail at Google. "This creates a huge opportunity for online retailers, which can help shoppers save time through the convenience of online shopping."

Arthur said the shortened holiday schedule also puts pressure on offline retailers to go big when it comes to savings -- specifically during key shopping days during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The condensed schedule means retailers need to become more aggressive about putting promotional plans in place.

PM Digital President Suzy Sandberg agrees. "Last year, the week of Dec. 10, fell off a cliff for almost every retail client we have," she said. "We refer to it as that lost week in December 2012. There was too much time to shop, and the urgency wasn't there."

This year's calendar eliminates the "lost week, she said. Less time between Black Friday and the holidays eliminates "suffering" from stagnant sales. "I am not sure how big of an impact that will have alone, but I do know that retailers will be pushing more and more deals early on," she said.

Last year, Black Friday turned into an online shopping event, with many retailers offering online deals that went live on Web sites Thanksgiving Day. Many also extended Cyber Monday promotions to Tuesday. Sales lasted from Thanksgiving Day through the Tuesday after Cyber Monday, overloading consumers and halting shopping during the following week.

Sandberg said online retailers making strides were those with late shipping cutoffs or ones willing to wave express shipping costs after the normal shipping cutoff. Those were some of the strongest days for PM Digital clients.

There is no way that year-on-year sales this year will in any way compare favorably to last year for November," she said. "People shouldn't read into that. They just need to 'calenderize' the top days."

Steve Beatty, senior SEO director at Covario, gives this advice to marketers who think they might have waited a bit too long. He said a short-term strategy requires marketers to quickly build out Black Friday pages, and begin running a content marketing effort now to help support organic landing pages. Focus on tips, tricks and trends, as well as services like better shipping. Leverage social and SEO teams to optimize content, and paid search teams to run promotions.

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