2018 Holiday Retail Trends: ‘Tis the Season for Affiliate Marketing

Becky Doles

Consumers window shop outside a clothing retailer during the holiday season.

Photo by Anna Utochkina on Unsplash

In the affiliate marketing world, the last three months of each year are called the “golden quarter.” These months have earned this name because (you guessed it) they predictably deliver the biggest commissions, sales, and revenue of the entire year. Below, we take a look at the holiday retail trends that marketers should prepare for this year to make their last quarter of 2018 golden.

November Will Top December (Again)

Which is bigger for affiliate marketers: November or December? OK, we made that one easy with the section headline. Still, affiliate marketers might be surprised to learn that while Christmas and Hanukkah are major gift-giving holidays, December isn’t the biggest month of the year for retailers. While December remains a major shopping month, November posted bigger numbers than December for the first time in 2016. And last year, in 2017, the growth in November’s year-over-year revenue was 3X that of December.

Additional data shows that retailers are launching their shopping incentives even earlier in November, with the biggest year-over-year growth happening the Monday preceding Black Friday, rather than the big shopping weekend itself.

Focusing Beyond Black Friday

While Black Friday is famous as one of the biggest shopping days in the United States, there are several other important holidays that retailers and affiliate marketers should capitalize on, especially if they’re international.

For example, Singles Day on November 11 is a popular not-quite-holiday in China that celebrates being single. It’s actually the largest online shopping day globally, with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba offering heavily discounted merchandise for 24 hours. Similarly, in Australia, Click Frenzy on November 13 is the equivalent of Cyber Monday, offering 24 hours of online deals. Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be top of mind for affiliate marketing, but affiliate marketers could double or triple their gains by tapping into additional markets and holidays.

Affiliate marketers should also consider that while holidays are big shopping days, much of the shopping is done early. In fact, according to a December 2017 survey by Prosper Insights & Analytics, nearly two-thirds of US internet users said they planned to complete their holiday shopping after Monday, December 18, 2017, with 22% of shoppers targeting the final weekend before Christmas. And we can’t forget Cyber Monday, which eMarketer predicts to be the heaviest online shopping day of 2018.

Desktop Rules Sales … And Makes Marketers Nervous

This year, eMarketer predicts mobile commerce to jump by 32.6%, and account for approximately 45% of all holiday e-commerce. (This reason alone is why marketers should always optimize mobile campaigns — it can mean the difference between a great holiday season and a record-breaking one.) Even though consumers are increasingly shifting to mobile, affiliate marketers would be wise not to forget about desktop; smartphones send more clicks to retailers, but desktop still reigns in terms of actual sales.

This holiday retail season, affiliate marketers should be extra watchful of their e-commerce numbers due to the recent fallout from ITP 2.0. Apple’s update on Safari has disrupted traditional online tracking for marketers who rely on cookie-based methods to measure conversions. (Read our ITP 2.0 follow-up to learn more about what’s going on.) Advertisers who use a platform like HasOffers that solves for the challenges of ITP 2.0 can rest easier, but should keep a close eye on desktop results regardless.

Black Friday ≠ Cyber Monday

This retail trend is subtle, but could pay off big for marketers who play their cards right. In the past couple years, traffic to top retail sites in the U.S. has hit an annual peak on Black Friday, and then fallen 5-10% the following Cyber Monday. But even though Cyber Monday in 2017 saw less traffic, the quality of that traffic improved: bounce rates were lower and consumers clicked on more pages per visit.

Cyber Monday has traditionally made more sense as a focus for affiliate marketers, because it promotes digital traffic versus in-store sales, and most affiliate marketing is web-based. But 2018 could be the year that Black Friday rivals Cyber Monday with online sales. Marketers should prepare to capitalize on both days for their strengths, knowing one drives high quantities of traffic while the other drives high quality.

GDPR’s First Holiday Season

The 2018 holiday retail season will be the first with the General Data Protection Regulation in enforcement, which poses new challenges for brands in terms of data capture and management now and long after the holiday season. Combine GDPR regulations with persistent ad blocking and ad fraud challenges, and there has never been a more interesting time for retailers to navigate. Both affiliate marketers and retailers should do everything in their power to ensure compliance. Their teams, systems, and security should also be prepared for the seasonal increase in traffic and customers, or risk costly repercussions.  

‘Tis the Season of Giving

We’re all about giving solid advice and helpful tips when it comes to affiliate marketing and performance solutions. Tell us in the comments — do you have any predictions for this holiday season? What’s the best affiliate marketing tip you have to give?

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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