Attention Online Shoppers: DTC And E-Commerce Dominate Holidays

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The American consumer is wising up. Or, staying in, at the very least.

This year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping figures appear to confirm it: consumers aren’t as psyched to be cattle-penned through brick-and-mortar retail stores and malls as they are to drop a few thousand bucks from the comfort of their couch on this year’s holiday shopping. And it’s already showing up in social media and discount data. 

Cole Haan only has a few hundred stores globally – but it also has a near-ubiquitous presence in customers’ inboxes and a steady stream of social ads trumpeting enormous discounts of comfortable footwear.

Like plenty of other big retailers, Cole Haan boosts hiring for the holidays – but it’s getting much more attention on social media than other big retailers, lately. Recently, Cole Haan saw deals shoot up, and Facebook Talking About Count, tracked through Thinknum Alternative Data, soared. It could be a signal that even more shoppers are spending via smartphone this season, and that would go straight to Cole Haan’s bottom line as the private equity-backed shoemaker reportedly steadies for an IPO. 

There’s a great divide shaping up between retail brands that drive consumers’ attention, and those that have to effectively beg on social media. The ones that are operating from a position of strength seem to know it – and they’ve even happy to wield it over their own customers. Thinknum Alternative Data tracks discount pricing at the world’s largest brick-and-mortar stores (and, online, as well) and over the last couple of years it’s been apparent that before the holiday season kicks off, discounts at Lululemon seem to hit their peak.

In 2018, from November 25, until December 23, discounts at Lululemon plunged steadily from around 15%, to less than 5%, two days before Christmas. Excess inventory is dealt at a discount rate after the holidays, for yoga enthusiasts who can hold out for a better bargain. Early trends in 2019 show a similar pattern. 

Finally, vendors that have relied on big web retailers might have to sweat having their margin reduced as marketplaces become increasingly competitive – or, they may find themselves pitted against Jeff Bezos’ e-commerce giant, themselves. Early Amazon top sellers lists were dominated by its heavily-discounted Kindle Fire (and kids’ editions). 

As Amazon’s develops from being a marketplace for goods into a producer of them, that could be a signal that other businesses dependent on its platform may not be long for this earth – so the retail apocalypse won’t just impact brick-and-mortar businesses. And as shoppers increasingly spend on deep-discount social ads and through the apps they trust with their payment information, it’s becoming apparent that old-fashioned holiday strategies from big retailers aren’t going to have the same impact this year. 

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