Retailers Moderately Optimistic about Thanksgiving Weekend

Despite some early season promotions, retailers still expect consumers to be active for the official start of this year’s holiday shopping season. According to our 2013 Retail Compass Survey of CMOs, retailers anticipate a 3.1 percent increase in sales on Black Friday this year, mirroring their projections from last year. However, retailers have moderated their expectations for growth in Cyber Monday sales, predicting that sales will grow by 3.7 percent this year, down slightly from last year’s sunnier 4.3 percent growth projection.

Retailers’ expectations for Thanksgiving Weekend sales reflect the shifting character of Black Friday & Cyber Monday as more retailers plan to open stores earlier on Thanksgiving Day, and as some brands such as Wal-Mart and Amazon emphasize online deals throughout the season. Though in-store sales declined last Black Friday, retailers still posted considerable gains in online sales that day, with IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark reporting a whopping 20.7 percent increase last year. This highlights the ongoing shift in consumer preferences from brick-and-mortar to the conveniences of e-commerce, particularly on a day known for long lines and large crowds. Moreover, there were 12 days during the 2012 holiday season that saw over $1 billion in e-commerce sales, according to comScore, proving that consumers are clicking beyond Cyber Monday.

Perhaps more surprising, however, is retailers’ attitude toward early-season promotions. Though we’ve been seeing headlines about holiday promotions since September, only 13 percent of CMOs said that they would concentrate their promotional push ahead of Black Friday—this is fewer than the proportion who have no specific holiday promotions lined up at all (16 percent). Most retailers are taking a more measured approach, with half of those surveyed indicating that they would spread their promotions evenly across the season.

In terms of specific promotions, retailers are once again hoping to entice consumers to shop at their brick-and-mortar locations. A plurality (47 percent) of CMOs plan to focus the majority of their promotions in-store, a 15 percent increase over last year, outpacing those who hope to focus online (13 percent) or equally across channels (39 percent). However, consumers can expect to see a broader variety of promotions that aim to get them into stores. Last year, 66 percent of CMOs pointed to exclusive in-store deals as their favored tactic; this year, that number declined to 38 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of CMOs citing exclusive in-store brands and partnerships—such as H&M’s much-anticipated collaboration with designer Isabel Marant—doubled this year, and the proportion of retailers citing extended hours tripled.

Meanwhile, on the e-commerce side, social media engagement is on the rise. Though a plurality of CMOs (38 percent) cite free shipping as a top online sales trigger, 20 percent cite social media promotions as a favored tactic, a 43 percent increase since last year and a doubling since 2009. Email promotions are also declining in popularity, being cited by only 20 percent of CMOs, down from 31 percent last year. Email is becoming an increasingly difficult way to get in front of consumers as providers, such as Gmail, begin to filter promotional emails out of users’ primary inboxes.

Stay tuned for the next round of results from the 2013 Retail Compass Survey of CMOs, where we take a deeper dive into digital engagement this holiday season.