There used to be an unspoken rule about the Christmas retail season that any ads would only begin after Bonfire Night was over. After that, the deluge began.

Unusually for today’s society, this particular season is getting longer not shorter, as advertisers and retailers inculcate in consumers the idea that Halloween is now the time when the floodwaters are unleashed.

Christmas now begins on November 1st, Hark the Herald Angels Sing! But for online retailers it comes even earlier because of the seasonal gravity of that time of year.

A bad Christmas in the age of algorithms and customer acquisition extends beyond revenues and margins; it probably spells the end.

Recent research from Ometria bears this out on data it accumulated from comparing last year’s Christmas with the first ten months of this year.

Focusing on fashion retailers and using the aforesaid post-Halloween time as ‘Christmas’ it found that customers acquired at this time have an average order value 4.1% higher than those acquired outside of Christmas and an average lifetime value to the retailer 3.5% higher over a similar time. 

Moreover, people acquired at Christmas have an average order size (number of items in the order) 7.3% lower than those acquired outside of the festive season, and a higher average repeat customer percentage (3.7%). 

While at first glance this figures seem unspectacular, this data suggests that Christmas shoppers spend more money over their lifetime than other shoppers, and they have a higher propensity to order more than once and that they prefer more expensive items. 

But the real meat in this research is the finding that customers acquired at Christmas time are 59% more likely to purchase again the next year, when compared to those who are acquired at some other point in the year.

Christmas time therefore is a great time to acquire top-end customers, not just one-off seasonal purchasers.

They aren't just shoppers who only purchase again the following Christmas (gift buyers), so it's important that retailers begin smart campaigns which target them straight AFTER the festive period to convert as many of them as possible into repeat customers. 

Econsultancy research from last Christmas highlights the growth of ecommerce for Christmas shopping. In the UK, 61% of regular web users completed more than half of their shopping online. 

Ometria CEO Ivan Mazour: 

As we enter the pre-Christmas period, and especially for fashion retailers, it becomes even more important to target their customers at this time. The results of our research show a clear difference between pre-Christmas shoppers, and typical year-round ones, and a significant opportunity for retailers to increase revenues by activating a focused marketing strategy.  

The research is supported by social shopping site Styloko:

At Styloko we also see an increase of customers purchasing higher value items that they have added to their boutiques during the year. Our data indicates that, while the number of items per basket is smaller the overall basket values are higher in the pre-Christmas period with the accessories and jewellery categories seeing the highest increases in attention. 

Whether pre-Christmas starts on Halloween or Bonfire Night, the data is clear enough.

Save plenty of your marketing budget for November and December to acquire the best type of customers, then start targeted campaigns in January to convert them... something that Jesus from the traditional Christmas would no doubt endorse wholeheartedly.

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Published 5 November, 2014 by Monty Munford

Monty Munford is Founder at Mob76 and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter,  Google+ or connect via LinkedIn.  

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