With billions of dollars on the line, retailers’ Peak Week game plans must go well beyond scheduling activities day-by-day, rather they should be planned out by the hour or even by the minute based on shopper trends. A custom analysis of Hitwise data from the 2015 holiday season gives us new insight into what retailers should expect each hour during the critical upcoming period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. Retailers could use this insight to align their display ads, emails, text or push notifications to the hours when consumers are most likely to be shopping as well as identify the most appropriate channels to drive traffic by time of day.
On Thanksgiving Day last year—the busiest online shopping day of the year as of 2015—Hitwise saw that the hour-by-hour distribution of visits to the top shopping sites was not terribly dissimilar to what retailers typically register on a normal weekday. Two dayparts did, however, stand out. First, retail sites received a greater than average share of their daily visits between 9 AM and 11 AM, suggesting an increased propensity by consumers to squeeze in some shopping before getting down to business in the kitchen. After the table was cleared, many consumers went back online as evidenced by the steady rise in visit share after 5 PM.
This late Thanksgiving Day shopping surge continued through the night and into the morning with shopping sites not only registering a record numbers of visits but also a greater than average share of daily traffic. Among those that went to bed, shoppers were quicker to rise and shop on the morning of Black Friday with visit rates to retail sites shooting up more sharply than usual as day broke. This trend continued through 4PM on Black Friday, but by mid-afternoon Americans began showing signs of fatigue and eased up. Interestingly, while the busiest online shopping hours of a normal day are between 8 PM and 10 PM, the busiest period on Black Friday was between noon and 1 PM with visits declining steadily during the rest of the day.
After a couple days of rest, Americans were ready to go at it again on Cyber Monday. As with Black Friday, shoppers were online earlier than usual to get the best deals. Work day hours received an above average share of visits on Cyber Monday as well as the 9 to 5 set shopped while looking over their shoulder should they get caught by management. The greatest number of visits on Cyber Monday, however, was still registered between 8 PM and 9 PM, but from then on out, traffic declined sharply, even more so than on a typical day.
Differences by Sector
The hourly analysis of Hitwise custom data also revealed some interesting differences by sector. On Thanksgiving Day, for instance, Sporting Goods and Home Improvement sites registered a greater share of daily visits than average before noon. Sporting Goods sites, were also among those registering the highest share of their daily visits during the evening hours. Drug Store sites were more active in the morning as well, but sites in this sector continued to see a greater share of visits until 5 PM.
Black Friday saw Electronic sites, like Bestbuy.com and Newegg.com, receiving the highest share of visits overnight and early morning hours while Sporting Good and Home Improvement sites received above average share of visits between 7 AM until noon. Evening hours on Black Friday is when Hitwise observed Department Stores, Discount Stores, Apparel Stores and Toys R Us receiving their busiest traffic figures of the day.
On Cyber Monday, electronics sites once again registered a greater share of their daily visits overnight and lower than average visit share during the “evening rush.” Discount stores like Walmart.com and Target.com saw a spike in visit share well above what other industries received during lunchtime. And after a long day of shopping while at work, consumers settled in at home and pivoted to Sporting Goods, Department Stores and Apparel sites again.
On each of the three Peak Week shopping days, Hitwise observed email sites driving the most traffic during the morning hours as consumers woke up, checked their inbox and went shopping. Search and Social Media, meantime, drive more visits in the afternoon and evening hours. On Thanksgiving Day, email, was especially effective the morning of Thanksgiving.
Social Media sites, meantime, drove more visits in the afternoon and evening hours. The evening hours on Cyber Monday were especially strong for Social Media as was the afternoon of Black Friday when many shoppers were likely checking Facebook while waiting on long lines in stores.
Like Social Media, Search Engines also drive their greatest share of visits to shopping sites during the afternoon and evening hours. The evenings of Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday were especially strong periods for Search. On Black Friday, Search Engines drove a pretty steady share of visits all day long making the last morning and early afternoon period a busier time than observed on the other two key shopping days.