In an unprecedented move, REI just announced that all of its stores will be closed on Black Friday. The #optoutside campaign page says this about the decision: “REI believes that being outside makes our lives better. That’s why this Black Friday, we’re closing all 143 of our stores and paying our employees to head outside.”
It’s a bold move, and one that’s gaining some deserved attention. The story has already generated a significant amount of buzz in the Twitterverse and has been covered by The Daily Beast, Forbes, Fortune, and many other press outlets.
We can’t speak for exactly why REI adopted this marketing strategy. Maybe it’s just a clever marketing ploy and next year they’ll be back in full-force? Or maybe REI has already seen in their own data what we saw in the data of hundreds of ecommerce stores – the holidays aren’t having quite the same revenue impact as they once did.
The research in our 2015 Ecommerce Holiday Trends Benchmark, based on data from over 200 ecommerce companies, reveals that the holiday tide is turning, and these three charts from the report shed just a bit of light on why REI might be making this bold move.
November and December still reign
Combined, November and December drive 30% more ecommerce revenue than non-holiday months.
And if you take a closer look, the real heart of the holiday shopping season is the period from Black Friday through Christmas, which pulls in 50-100% more revenue compared to shopping days throughout the rest of the year.
It’s clear that the holidays still matter and REI will likely be taking a noticeable revenue hit by closing its doors on Black Friday.
…but times are changing
The holiday season is an important time for online retailers, but the data also shows a gradual decline in overall impact. In 2014, for the first time, the holiday months accounted for less than 20% of total annual revenue. November and December are still important, generating more revenue than the average month of the year, but not at the level they were back in 2010.
What this means for you
Here are three ways you can put the information from these charts into action:
1. Recheck your own data. Is the season still as important as it once was to your business?
Not every retailer has been hit by this trend in quite the same way. In our research, we saw that Apparel/Accessories and Computers/Electronics have traditionally had the biggest holiday seasons, but they’ve also seen the biggest shift in the percentage of their revenue coming from this time period in more recent years. This may be a trend that REI spotted in their own data. The best thing for you to do is look at your data and see how your revenue stacks up against this trend.
2. Optimize your ad spend to account for your biggest shopping days
If you’re using Google AdWords and you haven’t yet tried leveraging bid multipliers, this is an excellent way to take the reins of your PPC strategy and make the most of those days that really matter. Our VP of Customer Success, Anita Garimella Andrews, walks you through how to make this strategy work in her talk from our recent San Francisco event.
3. Think about your year-round strategy
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s behind this trend, but we suspect it has something to do with ecommerce companies getting better at year-round execution. Companies like Chubbies and Casper have strong enough brands that they’re no longer forced to rely on the holidays for a majority of their revenue. REI is likely in the same boat. With a customer acquisition strategy that works year round, a retailer isn’t forced to place all their bets on the holiday season. And that’s the ultimate goal for any online retailer: strong customer acquisition and retention year-round.
What this means for the future
Traditional industry assumptions about how the holidays are “supposed to” work for ecommerce companies are starting to change, and REI’s #optoutside campaign might be the first in a trend toward companies placing decreasing emphasis on the holiday season. We’re looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.