Is Amazon Killing the Holiday Shopping Season?

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This post is the latest in our “Disrupting Retail” series. It’s our editorial focus for the month of July, including topics like in-store innovation and Amazon’s moves. See the rest of the series here

Long lines of shoppers snaking around retail stores used to be commonplace on the morning after Thanksgiving. So was the tradition of picking up a print newspaper for an early look at the Black Friday ads. But with retailers like Amazon, Nordstrom, Alibaba, and Flipkart creating their own shopping holidays, the frenzy around Black Friday and Cyber Monday has been tamped down. Is this a sign of the times or just a blip in retail’s evolution?

To find the answer, the mobile app marketing firm Liftoff and the mobile measurement company Adjust teamed up and took a deep dive into the consumer activity on shopping apps throughout the calendar year. In a new report, the firms found that with excuses to shop year round, traditional shopping holidays, like Black Friday and the New Year period, are waning in significance. These events are gradually becoming less vital for online and offline retailers, even if they remain important moments.

“Historically, retail app marketers are laser-focused on the holiday shopping season — from Black Friday through the New Year — to target consumers ready to spend. This year’s trends, however, suggest that more than ever consumers are shopping year round on mobile apps,” says Liftoff CEO Mark Ellis.

Compared to Liftoff’s data from 2017 and 2018, this year’s report shows that highs and lows across the cost and conversion rate curves are less extreme. This indicates that engagement with mobile shopping apps has become a more integral part of the daily routine for most consumers, and it is less impacted by seasonality.

“This could be related to the branded shopping holidays created by giant retailers happening throughout the year, but whatever the cause, consumers seem ready to spend year round,” Ellis says.

Those branded shopping holidays are on the rise. As Amazon leads the way with its annual Prime Day events, other retailers, including Walmart and Nordstrom, are launching their own initiatives. With enough marketing dollars behind them, events that would have previously been seen as one-off sales are now branded as “events” and “holidays” that shoppers can’t afford to miss.

Just this week, Target announced that it’s running its own summertime shopping event, coinciding with Amazon’s Prime Day. Target will offer significant discounts on furniture, appliances, and cookware, designed to get people in the door who might not otherwise be shopping during the hot summertime months.

eBay is also looking to cash in on the hype. The e-commerce retailer just announced that it’s running a “Crash Sale” on July 15th, in a nod to Amazon’s periodic website outages during last year’s event.

Ellis says forward-thinking retail marketers are finding innovative ways to integrate shopping apps into their larger marketing strategies, with the understanding that the best time to reach consumers is when they are actively thinking about making purchasing decisions.

“Savvy shopping app marketers are thinking about the full user experience and lifecycle, online and offline, and integrating app marketing into their holistic marketing strategy,” he says. “Whether it’s a push notification, an email with a deal, or a targeted TV commercial, marketers are thinking about how to reach the user as close to the point of conversion as possible.”

According to the data in Liftoff’s report, which draws from the company’s internal metrics from April 2018 to April 2019 and spans nearly 91 billion ad impressions, retailers aren’t seeing the spike in engagement with mobile shopping apps around traditional holiday period that they might expect. As mobile shopping becomes a part of consumers’ daily routines, it’s less impacted by traditional shopping “events.”

For retail marketers who are looking to time their own seasonal events—similar to Amazon Prime Day—Liftoff’s data shows a window of opportunity in March, when the cost to acquire a user dips to a calendar low of $29.90 and install-to-purchase rates reach their high mark for the year.

“Looking at year-over-year trends, we are seeing that users are more affordable to acquire and more apt to engage,” Ellis says. “November, a month when users are primed to make purchases for shopping holidays like Black Friday, is another month when marketers can get value for money.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.