Holiday 2016 looking good for Digital Marketers

The holiday shopping season is in full force, and if the headlines are any indication, things look super optimistic for digital marketers.  “Cyber Monday Sales Jump,” says a Fortune article posted on November 29th. “Black Friday Limps Toward Oblivion as Online Shopping Takes Over,” says a Bloomberg article posted the day after Turkey Day.  It’s no surprise that shoppers are getting savvier. After all, who wants to wait in long lines and fight for deals at brick-and-mortar locations? The chance to reduce the need for such inconveniences seems to be part of what’s driving the continued surge in online orders on Thanksgiving (the day before Black Friday). Some telling stats cited in the above articles include:

  • Sales on Cyber Monday were expected to finish up 10.2% from a year ago.
  • Online sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday rose about 18 percent.
  • Revenue generated from mobile devices rose to $1.2 billion on Black Friday, a 33 percent surge from a year earlier.
  • Black Friday store traffic is down 3 percent to 4 percent, while online traffic is up 20 percent -- mostly on mobile device.

Now that Cyber Monday is behind us and the dust has settled, we wanted to look at some of our own data. Specifically, we wanted to review the year-over-year (YOY) changes in data for our larger retail clients over the period covering Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. Here’s what we found.

Total Site YOY stats comparing 2016 to 2015:

  • Traffic: +8.94% YOY
  • Orders: +26.62% YOY
  • Sales: +21.48% YOY
  • Sales via Mobile Device: +41.85%

While these numbers are very positive, they don’t paint as precise a picture for marketers as we’d like to see, certainly not from a Performance Marketing perspective. To increase clarity and better understand the actionable implications, we need to drill down into the details. While we obviously can’t call out specific clients, we can share that the following stats are based on analysis of more than 900 million impressions and 23 million visits over the largest shopping weekend of the year.*

Paid Search:

  • Impressions: +0.91%
  • Traffic: +4.71%
  • CPCs: +3.39%
  • Orders: +8.08%
  • Sales: +0.88%

Product Listing Ads:

  • Impressions: +55.15%
  • Traffic: +22.5%
  • CPCs: +77.96%
  • Orders: +5.87%
  • Sales: +8.81%

Paid Social:

  • Impressions: +43.82%
  • Traffic: +80.17%
  • CPCs: -37.83%
  • Orders: +737.82%
  • Sales: +337.18%


  • Impressions: +25.94
  • Traffic: +2.07


  • Traffic: -16.88%
  • Orders: -0.83%
  • Sales: -2.84%


  • Traffic: +15.01%
  • Orders: +48.78%
  • Sales: +69.33% 

The big news here is the increase that retailers are seeing in mobile sales and conversion rates. Adobe has quoted seeing YOY increases of 34% for the same reporting period; and our data shows increases even higher than that. As brick-and-mortar sales continue to decline, it appears that the digital increases will definitely be picking up the slack.

While some are reporting slower digital sales for “specialty shops”, that doesn’t seem to be consistent across the board. While some of our specialty retail clients saw more downstream traffic going to sites like Amazon and Target (according to Hitwise), strong PLA campaigns seemed to limit any negative impact from a search perspective.

Overall, YOY figures show that search performance remained strong and spend was consistent. CPCs for PLAs spiked sharply over this period, but on-going optimization across the other channels saw costs decrease or remain flat. Social continues to mature as spend continues to rise in the retail space. While SEO saw decreases in the three reporting metrics that we looked at, that channel actually had higher conversion rates than all others.

Some of the other trends and issues that we saw collectively across the teams include the following:

  • Most retailers were promoting Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials weeks before the Thanksgiving break.
  • In some cases we had to pause marketing efforts as inventory ran out on Black Friday, and then restart campaigns on Cyber Monday.
  • Thanksgiving Day was strong, however in most cases we still saw best performance on Black Friday & Cyber Monday.
  • Black Friday had huge amounts of spend, but conversions didn’t come through until Cyber Monday.

The holiday shopping season is far from over, and retailers will continue to optimize their campaigns holistically throughout the month. We’ll be keeping an eye on all the numbers and doing additional analysis over the season. Make sure to come back for updates on post-holiday trends.

* We compared Thanksgiving Day thru Cyber Monday YoY (specifically, November 24 – 28, 2016 to November 26 – 30, 2015).