five failure points of a measurement strategy 2

Retail Season Planning

This data was originally featured in the September 13, 2023 newsletter found here:

Now that Labor Day has come and gone in the USA (for non-USA folks, it’s the end of summer and return to work for many), it’s time to start thinking about the tail end of the year. While we shared a lot of information in general about Q4 in our Data-Driven Marketing Planning Guide, let’s look at retail specifically. When is the 2024 retail season going to kick into high gear?

We run these forecasts using years and years of back data, including pre-pandemic because searches about holiday gifts are durable. Pandemic or not, people didn’t stop shopping for gifts for the people they care about, and while the methods of shopping may have changed over the years, the intent has not. We use search data around terms like “holiday gift guide” and “gift ideas” (plus about a dozen others) to build a forecast that looks ahead.

When does the holiday retail season begin?

Holiday shopping 2023

We see that searches for gift ideas and associated concepts begin in mid-October this year, around October 15. Things really kick into high gear the week before the Thanksgiving holiday (orange vertical line), and peak in the second week of December before the Christmas holiday (red vertical line). One unusual thing in this year’s forecast is that searches drop dramatically in the week before the Christmas holiday; in years past, gift idea searches continued up to the last minute. We don’t know why that would be the case, but that’s what the algorithms concluded from the search data.

So what do we do with this information? It depends on your role in your organization.

If you’re in a public relations role, NOW is the time for long-lead publications. If you want your products included in retail guides, you’re technically about a month too late, but you might be able to get listed in some shorter-lead holiday guides.

If you’re in marketing, you have about a month to get all your campaigns budgeted, staged, and ready to deploy.

If you’re in HR, you now have a roadmap for what kind of staffing needs you’ll require. If the staffing levels you have planned in September are already pushing the limits of a good customer experience, by mid to late October, you’ll be overwhelmed if you maintain the same levels.

If you’re in finance, you’d compare this year’s forecast to the previous years’ data and your actuals at the register to better assess the kind of revenue you might expect from this holiday season.

And this is the key to using data, the most important part. Data shouldn’t be siloed in one part of your organization – especially if that data is a forecast. One forecast has benefits which cross organizational functions, from HR to finance to marketing. Avoid letting valuable data get trapped within the walls of a single department – part of data governance isn’t just managing who shouldn’t have access to some data, but also who should.

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