Back in the early days of the pandemic, consumers rushed to ecommerce solutions like bears to honey. And with the holiday shopping season fast approaching, the big ecommerce retailers are shaking things up with earlier sales that’ll take COVID-induced pressure off of typical Black Friday events.
Walmart, Target and Amazon have all recently announced their big events taking place in mid-October; and consumer and market intelligence supports these early holiday sales from both health and logistical standpoints.
We’ll unpack the evolving e-retail conversation surrounding the holiday season with a look into:
- Ecommerce as the ultimate social distancing to assuage consumer concerns, while saving big during the holidays.
- A tale of two Primes: Last year’s event versus today.
- An outlook on what it all means for Black Friday.
And here are some ecommerce stats that will help illuminate the conversation going forward:
- Amazon’s Q2 net sales jumped 40% this year over Q2 2019, from $63.4B to $88.9B.
- Total global ecommerce sales were $1.34T back in 2014, and are expected to reach $4.88T in 2021.
- According to Statista, holiday retail sales in the US were forecast to reach $729.3B in 2019 and ended up hitting $730.2B. This represents an overall growth of 4.1% over 2018, while online sales grew 14.6%.
Since 2020 is a whole new ballgame, let’s jump in and see what the big three are doing differently this year.
Ecommerce Combats Consumer Fears
It doesn’t take a data analyst to forecast the cataclysmic problems that would ensue trying to do holiday shopping as usual this year. Social distancing measures simply couldn’t support huge volumes of foot traffic in retail stores as in normal times – especially on Black Friday.
And not that they really have to. Even prior to the pandemic, over 60% of Americans preferred to do their holiday shopping online. Now that we’re well past the pandemic learning curve, consumers have gotten comfortable shopping from ecommerce retailers. Many of them simply had to. Either way, social sentiment is looking pretty good in the ecommerce space over the past month.
In normal times, Walmart, Target and Amazon have their ‘Black Friday in July’ retail sales events that offers consumers a mid-summer reprieve with steep discounts. However, it just wasn’t in the cards this year as the retailers adjusted their infrastructure to accommodate unprecedented online demand.
Not to mention that back in July there were still fresh social and economic concerns on consumer’s minds. Frankly, they may have found a big retail sales event a bit off-putting.
However, with consumers over the back-to-school hurdle and brands with months of experience with high shipping volumes, October seems the perfect time to kick off the deep online discounts. By starting earlier this year it’ll help spread out the holiday shipping volume while easing the minds of shoppers who don’t want to risk their health buying gifts for loved ones.
Target just announced their Deal Days that are set for Oct. 13-14. And they’re promising the deals will continue throughout the holiday season, with Black Friday-esque pricing through November. To make things easy for their customers, Target is offering contactless order pickup at stores, while many deals are made available for same-day delivery through Shipt. And to keep things competitive, they’ve extended their price-match policy while touting zero membership fees.
Walmart is not letting any of the October action pass it by. They recently announced their Big Save sales event that is set to run from the 11th through the 15th. Offering steep discounts on many of this year’s hottest items and free two-day shipping for qualifying items, the event is sure to be enticing to many. Additionally, the event requires no membership and will feature some items that are available for next-day delivery.
Below we can see the online buzz taking off this past week surrounding Walmart’s answer to Amazon’s Prime Day within the news and blogs dataset.
Amazon started its Prime Day mid-summer sales event back in 2015, inspiring the summer version of Black Friday. Rumors circulated, but the recently announced event is cued up to run Oct. 13 & 14 promising deals on more than one million items. The event is open to Amazon Prime members in 19 countries and offers a free 30-day trial so everyone can get in on the action.
Many retailers in the past have offered sales events during the much-anticipated Prime Day, and this year, although later, is no different. Positive sentiment is soaring among the top three companies by primary mentions surrounding the announcement.
These offerings from top brands are sure to be a hit with consumers looking to stay safe, save money and get a quick delivery. So, let’s zoom in on Prime Day and see what we can learn from a consumer and market intelligence standpoint.
A Tale of Two Primes
Next generation artificial intelligence (AI) affords us the luxury of going back in time to gather market intelligence from the past to help inform our future. Here we’ll look back at Prime Day 2019 and see how things are stacking up against the conversation this year.
As you can see below, a look into the summary metrics show Prime Day mentions beginning to take off about a month out from the event in mid-July.
For a consumer intelligence perspective, here is a look 2019’s Prime Day conversational volume in Quid Social which is stratified by topic clusters:
Since last year’s event was held on the 15th and 16th of July, we can see the volume really beginning to ramp up a week prior. To get a bit of a narrower view, here’s the top ten clusters filtered for sentiment:
Out of the top ten clusters, positive and neutral posts comprise 88% of the conversation, while negative posts make up only 11%. Now let’s see what things are looking like for 2020.
Amazon Prime 2020
Here is a look at the summary metrics so far this year:
The volume of mentions started its upward trend around the 20th of September and still has two weeks to go. Net sentiment is at 88% whereas the 2019 conversation ended up at 71%. So far, so good.
A look at volume in Quid Social shows the conversation is trending towards being louder than last year – by a long shot. This conversation is very young and has time to grow.
And again for 2020, here are the top ten clusters filtered for sentiment.
Positive and neutral sentiment comes in at a whopping 95% while the negative hovers below 4%. With conversational volume on track to obliterate last year and net sentiment booming, all appearances indicate that consumers are very excited to catch some deals this year.
What Does This Mean for Black Friday?
We’ve all heard the jokes about holiday decorations coming out earlier and earlier each year. This year it’s the buzz around holiday shopping. Black Friday mentions are already floating around and have been for a while. Here’s a look at the word cloud from this past month showing consumers with a mixed bag of emotions.
Most of the negative sentiment so far points to an aversion to standard in-person Black Friday events due to the coronavirus implications.
If the buzz around the Prime Day events is any indicator of things to come, successful Black Friday sales will be the ones hosted virtually. At least ones with short time frames that is.
Brick & Mortar Participating Too
Brands seeing foot traffic will take a different approach. For instance, Target has already committed to spreading out the Black Friday deals throughout the season, and we’re seeing other brands like Home Depot following suit.
Structuring in-person sales in this way allows consumers to take advantage of deals while not breaking social distancing protocols in place in their communities.
And of course, online retailers will be watching Amazon, Walmart and Target like hawks during their upcoming sales events for insights going into the holiday season.
As well they should, because the news media conversation is on the upswing early this year. Here’s a look at our Black Friday analysis in Quid Pro:
There doesn’t appear to be a good reason that this conversation is going to slow down anytime soon. Media predictions after Prime Day for Black Friday sales are sure to fuel the uptick. What’s left to be seen however is how well brands hold onto positive sentiment. In the same analysis, here are the top 15 brands filtered for sentiment. Again, it’s an eye-popping 78% positive here in the beginning of October.
It’s a pretty safe bet that ecommerce is going to capture a much higher percentage of Black Friday dollars this year. And hot on the heels of another trend, technology related items will be some of the most highly sought-after deals.
Time will surely tell though, and we’ll circle back around to this post after Black Friday to compare against how things turned out and see where the market intelligence points us for next year.
It’s an interesting season we’re preparing to enter. Is your consumer and market intelligence up to date? Don’t go into the holiday season without accurate baseline metrics and an online action plan. Be sure to reach out for a demo and we’ll help you get squared away!