The 5 Best Days for Online Retail During the Holiday Season

Shopper holidays like Cyber Monday and a few other key dates should be circled on online retailers' calendars this year.
October 17, 2014

As the holiday season approaches, many online retailers are preparing to compete for traffic to their web sites, and buying pay-per-click ads is one way to do that.

But retailers can spend a lot of money on clicks with few actual purchases, if they’re not careful. How can retailers ensure they're maximizing the impact of their ads? Target their ad spending to the right days.

Google Analytics recently did a large study of pay-per-click ad traffic to determine which days around the holiday season lead to conversions—meaning shoppers don’t just click on the ads, they actually buy something.

They identified five days around the holidays that saw the biggest lift in transaction volume in 2013 (starting with the best): Cyber Monday, Black Friday, the second Monday in December, the third Monday in December and the second Tuesday in December. Cyber Monday, for example, saw a 170 percent lift in transaction volume over the average day in mid-November, while Black Friday saw a 114 percent lift. The first and second Mondays of December saw a 73 and 80 percent transaction lift over the average transaction volume, respectively, while the second Tuesday of the month saw a 68 percent lift.

By knowing which days online shoppers are most ready to buy, online retailers can feel more comfortable spending more money on pay-per-click ads, according to Google's Matt Lawson on Search Engine Land:

Not only is there going to be a lot of traffic, it’s going to be good traffic. Traffic that wants to spend money with you. For these five days (and others like them during the season), it’s like the holidays are pressing everything further down your funnel.

If you can expect an 80 (percent) lift in conversion rate, you should plan on being 80 (percent) more aggressive with your bids to accommodate that change. Those are important days—take full advantage of them.

The study reaffirms that shopper "holidays" like Cyber Monday and Black Friday are key dates that online retailers need to be ready for. But it also shows that Mondays and Tuesdays are the main days that online shoppers are out looking to buy. (Surveys have shown that much online holiday shopping happens during work hours.)

Online retailers can also look at their own analytics from last year’s holiday season to identify the days that produced the best transaction volume and then plan on spending more on ads on those days. However, retailers should be aware that high-transaction volume days right before Christmas may not be worth as much as high-transaction days earlier in December, Lawson warns. That’s because online shoppers tend to spend less per transaction in the few days leading up to December 25th.

“Every day out of the first twenty in December sees a lift in expected performance — transaction volume is higher than usual from the middle of November all the way up until December 20,” he writes.

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Photo: iStockphoto