Retail Peak 2019: Top Learnings So…

Retail Peak 2019: Top Learnings So Far

Black Friday will fall one week later this year on November 29th, compared to November 23rd last year. This calendar shift on the biggest online sales day of the year could mean three things for retailers and brands:

1/ Shoppers will delay their purchases – All markets have experienced higher online engagement in October year-on-year. A greater portion of retail traffic is coming from Print Publications, implying that shoppers are taking their time to look at comparison sites, product reviews, and retail headlines, in anticipation of greater discounts in November.  

2/ The lines between Black Friday and Christmas will get blurry Retailers and brands only have four weeks between the two peak sales days. Without the fifth week, Black Friday is likely to become an even bigger day for gift shopping. Pageviews for Advent Calendars and Christmas-themed decorations already began to grow in October.  

3/ More retailers will start early – In the past few years, top retailers from Amazon, Walmart to eBay, have edged their Black Friday sales earlier and earlier in November. With pressure to convert over the quarter, we could expect more retailers, both large and small, to do the same.    

There are nuances by market. Thanksgiving kickstarts “The Cyber Five” in the US. Online conversions peak over Christmas instead of Black Friday in the UK. Click Frenzy, on November 12th, marks the beginning of retail’s silly season in Australia.  

Hitwise launched its Retail Peak Planner tracking these nuances through product searches, purchases, and channel mix behaviors on a weekly basis. With five weeks under our belt, we recap the top headlines and analyze what this means for retailers and brands heading into November.   

US Retail Peak 2019: Top Headlines

1/ Nintendo Switch continues to draw consumer interest: The popular gaming device introduced the Switch Lite in September and has remained one of the top searches to online retail. With new game releases from popular franchises such as Mario and Pokémon, the Nintendo Switch is expected to be a big winner this year. 

2/ Industry leaders can be challenged: Google’s Pixel 4 overtook the iPhone 11 in week 3, but Apple quickly regained the upper hand by week 4. Instant Pot has been America’s go-to pressure cooker for years, but now Ninja’s Foodi is rivaling the popular appliance for new buyers this season. 

Visit our retail dashboard and interact with the data.

3/ Clicks from email are outpacing social: While social generates a higher share of clicks to retail, email’s share is growing and taking share directly from social media on web browsers. With emails generating engagement in Electronics and Fashion in October, we expect it to drive a quick response in November. 

4/ Higher engagement and rising paid search: Consumers are visiting retail more often than they did last season, especially in Beauty which matched 2018’s peak from week 8 (Black Friday week) in week 5 this year. As search remains the largest upstream channel, paid strategies are growing and paying off for advertisers.  

What does this mean for the US over the rest of the quarter?

  • Product pre-releases have become popular with consumers, especially in gaming. Track the top trending searches ahead of release, and leverage these findings to adjust your SEO strategy once the product is in market to generate higher page views.
  • Monitor which products are trending in your category to detect new rivals. Paid search can then be leveraged to conquest share back for your brand/product.
  • Higher rates of clicks from email are expected to continue growing throughout the season. Putting more support behind this channel throughout the quarter can help drive engagement as conversions begin to peak.

UK Retail Peak 2019: Top Headlines

1/ The battle between top giants sees new leaders each week: The latest iPhone 11 topped product searches in Week 1. Pixel 4 took over in Week 2. The Outer Worlds and Call of Duty were sparring in Weeks 4 and 5. Very few brands, despite their new releases, have maintained top spots over October.  

2/ Amazon is taking a loss-leader approach for new categories: Over 110K Echo Dots were sold in Week 5, thanks to their 99p offer with every new Unlimited Music sign up. These are early signs showing that Amazon is willing to slash its own prices to enter new territories, i.e. music streaming.   

3/ Paid Search is consistently higher this year: Average paid search rates have grown from 23% last year to 27% this year. This YoY difference in paid activity was greatest for Electronics, rising from 32% rate to 35% rate.   

4/ Online Print Publications are playing a greater role: Search still drives around 40% of all retail traffic but other channels are shifting. In particular, the reliance on Print Publications has risen from 2.7% last year to 3.6% this year, with differences most notable for Health & Beauty and House & Garden.  

Visit our retail dashboard and interact with the data.

What does this mean for the UK heading into Black Friday?   

  • Quantify your customers “at risk”, particularly if you are a retailer up against Amazon. Understand how many visitors are looking at both your site and Amazon’s, and for which products. Amazon will likely start their sales promotions well before Black Friday, so it’s critical to gauge these shared audiences before this date
  • Throughout October, Print Publications have become more important in the consumer’s retail journey. Review the channel mix for your own competitor set. If clicks from media sites have grown, incorporate reviews and/or advertorial content over November. 
  • Finally, search remains the dominant channel and paid search rates will only rise over November. Get ahead by identifying fast-moving searches within your category. Track shifts on a daily basis in order to tweak and optimize your campaigns.  

AU Retail Peak 2019: Top Headlines

1/ Apple is king: The latest iPhone 11 generated a halo effect on Apple’s other product searches. In Week 1 after the iPhone 11 release, 7 out of the top 10 product searches were Apple-owned. The latest iPhone has also remained in the top 3 searches each week since.  

2/ Christmas is coming early: Despite Australia experiencing its hottest October in years, people are getting into the festive spirit early. In Week 3, Amazon Beauty’s 2019 Advent Calendar garnered over 7K page views, and in Week 5, Christmas Wine Bottle Covers by AstiVita received over 15K page views.   

3/ Amazon is still considered for Electronics: Each week, 4 out of the top 5 product page views on Amazon included Kindles, video games, headsets, and gadgets. Novelties mentioned in the previous point are popping up though, but for now, Electronics take top spots on Amazon.  

4/ Email and Paid Search are growing as channels: Over the first five weeks, paid search rates have risen from 19% last year to 22% this year. This difference was greatest in Beauty and Fashion, where Search has also gained share. Email has become more important too, rising from 2.2% to 3.7%.  

What does this mean for the AU just days from Click Frenzy?  

  • Very few brands have the same brand equity and search dominance as Apple. Brands can still capitalize by growing their presence within retailers. Do so by firstly understanding which sites consumers visit after Search. Analyze this behavior for both branded and generic terms within your category. 
  • Electronics is mostly trending on Amazon, but what about JB Hi-Fi, AO and Harvey Norman? Track product demand across retailers each week to see where to position your products and through which retail partners. 
  • Finally, keep a pulse on your own channel mix, particularly as we’ve seen shifts on a category level week-on-week. If this trend is also apparent in your own competitor set, up email to generate direct response

Get Ahead of Black Friday

We’ll continue to cover search, purchase, and channel mix changes until the end of the year. Bookmark our Retail Peak Planner to keep on top of these trends. The next few weeks are critical as we edge closer to the biggest online shopping day of the year.  


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