Schizophrenic Thoughts of Santa as a Halloween Ornament

I admit it. I’m one of those whining traditionalists who scream when the red and green holiday crape paper starts running its colors atop the orange pumpkins. I cry foul when the animated Dracula guarding the store entrance is sitting astride Rudolf, and the poor deer is showing suspicious puncture wounds. I go screaming from the store if I hear “Jingle Bells Rock” on the supermarket intercom a week before I consider shopping for the Thanksgiving turkey.

That’s the sentimental me. But there’s another me. There’s the marketing guy me, the one that says you fish when the fish are hungry. And if the online holiday fish are circling around Halloween, spooky as it sounds, you’d better get ready to wet your line.

We just finished a study about 2006 online holiday shopping trends. Based on the aggregate behavior of over a million shoppers on a range of e-tailing sites, we tested some prevailing wisdom about when and how people do their online holiday shopping. We looked at traffic, sales and conversion rates week-by-week starting the last week in September and continuing through the end of the year.

As expected, holiday sales and traffic rose as expected, peaking during the weeks from December 4th through December 17th and dropping the week following. The study also showed that sales and traffic levels the week before Christmas were still higher than our base week; sales, in fact, were substantially higher.

Though not the start of the buying season, Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) lived up to expectations, marking high traffic and conversion rates and extraordinary sales levels. And, two out of three of the biggest sales days were, as predicted, Mondays.

All that’s fine and good. But the study also found that online holiday shopping season starts earlier than once believed. Traffic started rising prior to November around (gulp) Halloween, and continued until a predictable pre-Thanksgiving lull in traffic and conversions. Another surprise: while conversion rates generally followed the expected trends, peaking between December 4th and December 17th, the post-peak activity did not decline as quickly as expected. Apparently, later is better than not at all, when it comes to seasonal gifting. (Another blow to this holiday traditionalist.)

So, part of me is in mourning – this holiday creep is only going to get creepier. The hackneyed “Christmas in July” sale may no longer be a novelty promotion. Meanwhile, the marketing guy says, “Let’s get this baby on the road sooner. Let’s test during ‘Back to School’, tweak the creative and be ready to hit the ground running in time for the Sci-Fi Channel’s Freddy Krueger marathon.”

The complete study will be ready on our website, Oneupweb.com, any day now. Until then, let me be the first to wish you and yours a great Fourth of July.