Here’s How Retailers Can Make the Most of This Year’s Shorter Holiday Shopping Season

You’ll have one less weekend to grab consumer attention

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A late Thanksgiving this year means there are five fewer shopping days and one less weekend between Black Friday and Christmas than last year. In fact, 2019 has the shortest holiday season since 2013. That year, retailers front-loaded the holiday by starting promotions in early November, opened stores on Thanksgiving for the first time ever, kept brick-and-mortar stores open 24 hours the weekend before Christmas and launched online Black Friday deals on Monday and Tuesday.

Given all of the changes to the calendar, make sure your teams—internal, agency, partners—are working from the same holiday promotional calendar. Then prioritize and execute the following strategies to drive more sales.

Pre-holiday (now through Nov. 1)

If you sell products online, consider leveraging automation and machine learning solutions, which find the placements, creative and audiences that will bring the most value to your business during a high-pressure time of the year. Complete tests of any newly adopted digital marketing solutions and ramp up your winners. If you’re planning campaigns around new product launches or brand awareness, consider starting these early in the season to ensure that consumers are considering you, even before shopping really begins.

If you have an app, consider driving mobile app signups. Garner app signups early and get customers comfortable using the app before the holiday season so when the holiday peak hits, you can take advantage of the most important device in the consumer’s holiday purchase journeys: their mobile phone.

This time can be a great opportunity to stand out and drive efficient reach and outcomes.

Finally, help build awareness of buy online pick up in-store (BOPUS). BOPUS provides more seamless shopping experiences, not to mention the added benefits of driving store traffic and upsell opportunities. Consumers are increasingly embracing BOPUS for a host of reasons, including purchase immediacy, package delivery security and gift-giving secrecy, all factors that are especially important around the holidays.

Nov. 1 through Cyber Week

Retailers will likely ramp their promotions and marketing investment earlier this year. Because there is one less weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas, every weekend between Nov. 1 and Cyber Week matters.

In years where the holiday season has been longer, retailers have sold goods at full margin in order to capture early consumer demand that drives their fourth quarter profitability. In a truncated holiday season, they have more incentive to start promotions early since December’s extended store hours and increased number of last-minute shipping orders are costly.  Veteran’s Day promotions will likely be heavier this year if retailers follow the new trend of tying them to Single’s Day.

During Cyber Week

Retailers are planning their tactics not by the day, but by the hour. It may make sense to start Cyber Week early, well before Thanksgiving. Many marketers will offer Black Tuesday or early Christmas deals starting Nov. 26 and 27, with major marketing dollars to support these programs.

After Cyber Week

Retailers are going to keep their foot on the gas to avoid the typical post-Cyber Week lull. Activate on Green Monday (Dec. 9), which is anticipated to be much larger this year. Circle Free Shipping Day (Dec. 17) on your calendar and make the needed adjustments in your budgets and systems to meet customers’ expectations that day.

Most standard last day to ship dates for Christmas delivery are around Dec. 20. After that, many retailers may extend their store hours, particularly around Super Saturday. Plus, Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, which means that procrastinators will have an additional day to shop.

All of these factors point to the importance of driving traffic in-store and BOPUS during the crucial last days of holiday. Know your BOPUS capabilities early on, and get ready for this last-minute push.


Retailers want to do two things: turn gift card purchases into sales and clear inventory to make room for spring product. They want to make both redemption and clearance happen before the end of their fiscal year (Feb. 2) for financial reporting reasons.

Some retailers refer to this time between Christmas and New Year’s as Q5. While most marketers think this is the time to relax, in an abbreviated shopping period, these weeks can actually be a perfect time to launch “New Year, New You” promotions and get your app in the hands of users who have received a new device for the holidays. In addition, with fewer advertisers competing for eyeballs after the holidays, this time can be a great opportunity to stand out and drive efficient reach and outcomes.