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What can retail data tell us about the forecast for this holiday season?

Rachel Wheeler

December 11, 2013

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In the retail sector, data quality is important because it helps companies learn more about sales trends and use their knowledge to predict future business. That's especially important this time of year. During the one-month window between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the retail scene is fiercely competitive, and merchants everywhere are looking to make the lion's share of their sales and rake in profits.

That being the case, they need to discern what sales trends are guiding people's decisions this holiday season. When are people making purchases? What technology are they using? How are they choosing their favorite brands?

According to a press release, marketers today are beginning to make more sense of holiday shopping data. Retail technology firm Mercent recently released its "E-Commerce Performance Index," which analyzes when people most frequently make their holiday gift purchases. One of their discoveries: It's not all about Black Friday anymore.

The shopping season may still begin on Thanksgiving, but people's purchases are fairly evenly distributed throughout the following days. At Google Shopping, for instance, 69 percent of consumers shop on Thanksgiving Day, 47 percent the Friday after, 47 percent Saturday, 40 percent Sunday and 54 percent on Cyber Monday when more discounts and deals become available.

The data shows that companies don't need to put all their eggs in the Black Friday basket. The holiday shopping season is long and continuously busy, and retail companies can drum up big business all month long.

As for where they're shopping? The numbers show that the big companies have a stranglehold on business today, and smaller sellers have their work cut out for them if they want to catch up. Eric Best, chairman and CEO of Mercent, notes that Google in particular has enjoyed a rapid rise.

"Google continues to invest in the retail sector offering more engaging shopping tools that enable consumers to efficiently research and shop through Google," Best said. "Retail sales figures show these investments are positioning Google as a formidable competitor to other leading channels including Amazon.com. We've seen modest sales shift away from what has traditionally been retail's blockbuster holiday sales day, Black Friday, now spread across both weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and following Cyber Monday."

The more that retail companies know about sales trends during this busy season, the more they can do to improve their strategies and generate more business in future years. As usual, accurate data is the cornerstone of business success.

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